Online Collection

Image of Ruby's lawyers Tonahill and Belli besieged by reporters

Object Number: 2004.058.0359.0001
Category: Photographs
Photographer: Bill Winfrey
Type of Object: Negative (b&w)
Dimensions: 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. (5.7 x 5.7 cm)
Medium: Film
Original black and white negative on Kodak Safety Film taken by Dallas Morning News photographer Bill Winfrey. The image shows Ruby's lawyers Melvin Belli and Joe Tonahill surrounded by reporters shortly after jurors returned a verdict of "guilty" and sentenced Ruby to death.

Curator's Notes

Defense attorney Phil Burleson stands behind Belli.  The news photographer in the lower left corner is Jimmy Darnell and the man directly above his camera is photographer Bob Welch, both of WBAP-TV. It is interesting to note the number of school-aged children in the crowd.  - Gary Mack, Curator

Lawyers Melvin Belli and Joe Tonahill began expressing colorful opinions of the Ruby verdict from the moment it was handed down.  Members of the press sought comments from them while in the courtroom, walking down the courthouse hallways and out into the street, as this photograph shows.  From the Museum's KRLD-TV collection:

Belli:  I hope the people of Dallas are proud of this jury that was shoved down our throats…. Every Texas jurist knows this thing was the greatest railroading kangaroo court disgrace in the history of American law…. Why in a civilized country in the heart of darkest Africa you wouldn’t argue a man’s life starting at twelve o’clock in the morning. When I think that we’re coming into holy week and Good Friday, to have a sacrifice like this, I think we’re back 2,000 years. And the blight that’s on Dallas with those twelve people who announced the death penalty in this case, they’ll make this a city of shame forevermore.

Journalists then asked Texas native Tonahill his opinion.  Tonahill pronounced: It's a violent miscarriage of justice.  (pause)  I'm about to throw up.

Stephen Fagin, Curator


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