Trove of Unseen Documents Reveal How Jack Ruby Got the Death Penalty

Dallas Observer, September 29, 2017

When now Dallas County District Judge Brandon Birmingham started working in the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office’s cold case unit, one set of files that was forbidden fruit, even for the highest ranking members of the office.

“There, in the warehouse of the DA’s office in a corner, was the file that we were never allowed to touch, the file of Jack Ruby,” Birmingham said Wednesday night at Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum. “I was always very curious about why that was, what was in there. There was just this mystique about it.”

Birmingham, with another former high-ranking member of the DA’s office, Toby Shook, worked with Dallas County to donate its contents to the Sixth Floor Museum. On Wednesday night the treasure trove of Ruby, Oswald and John F. Kennedy assassination artifacts were on full display at the museum as Birmingham and Shook gave a walk-through of a trial they labeled the “biggest in Texas history.”

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Moving Ken Paxton’s trials away from friendly turf a rare outcome seen in few famous cases

Dallas Morning News, April 1, 2017

AUSTIN — It’s rare for a judge in Texas to move a criminal trial, and even less common to move it because the jury might be biased in favor of the accused.

That’s what makes the decision to move Ken Paxton’s upcoming trials out of Collin County so unusual. He joins the ranks of a handful of others who lost the chance to be tried in their backyard because of a real or perceived home-field advantage.

“The famous one was Bernie,” said criminal defense attorney Toby Shook, referring to convicted murderer Bernie Tiede. Well-liked at home in the small East Texas town of Carthage and lionized in Richard Linklater’s 2011 film Bernie, Tiede saw his second murder trial moved after prosecutors argued the jury pool could be tainted in his favor.

“It’s hard to get a change of venue granted if the other side’s opposing it,” Shook said, noting the decision is entirely up to the presiding judge. “Having the prosecution ask for a change of venue is even more rare.”

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History made with new Dallas County DA appointment (News8)

Lauren Zakalik, WFAA

“And I thought God, I can do this, and I can serve Dallas County in a magnificent way,” says Faith Johnson. They were some of her very first words Johnson shared publicly since being announced as Dallas County’s new district attorney.

“I’ll put my hat in the ring because it was important for Dallas County,” Johnson says. “I saw the history of what was happening in Dallas County from DA to DA to DA.”

The former judge and prosecutor is taking the reins of a department in need. The Dallas County DA’s office has had some tumultuous years lately. Most recently, former District Attorney Susan Hawk stepped down after a very public battle with depression.

“She needs to restore stability,” says attorney Toby Shook.

Shook has known Johnson since the 80s, when they worked together in the district attorney’s office. Shook says one of the first items of business Johnson will face is restoring morale.

“They’re in desperate need of leadership, someone… they can follow, and I think Faith Johnson is the type of person that can do that,” Shook says.

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Flag burning case began with incident during Republican Convention in Dallas

James Rose, FOX4News

The court case that wound up protecting the right to burn an American began with an incident in Dallas during the 1984 Republican National Convention.

A protester named Gregory Lee Johnson burned the American flag in front of city hall and was arrested. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in 1989 that flag burning was a protected form of free speech under the constitution.

But on Tuesday, president-elect Donald Trump ignited another controversy by calling for consequences for the act. He tweeted “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

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Former Ellis County fireman avoids jail in sex assault of colleague; deal called ‘terrible message’

Naheed Rajwani, Staff writer / Dallas Morning News / November 10, 2016

A former Ellis County fireman pleaded guilty Thursday to his role in the sexual assault of a male colleague at a firehouse last year.

But advocates for sexual assault victims say the plea deal, which proposed that he get two years’ probation and that charges for seven other suspects be dropped, is unusual and unsettling.

“We look toward firefighters, even if they’re volunteer firefighters, as heroes and people who really help us in need,” said Bobbie Villareal, a former Dallas County prosecutor and former head of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center. “And for them to victimize a colleague like that is extremely disturbing.”

She said she believes that the deal is outrageous and would send a “terrible message.”

Keith Edward Wisakowsky originally faced felony sex assault charges in the case, which generated local and national headlines.

Under the deal, Wisakowsky plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in exchange for two years’ probation. Charges against four other firemen accused of participating in the assault, a woman accused of filming it and the two fire chiefs accused of an attempted cover-up will be dropped as part of the deal.

Toby Shook, Wisakowsky’s attorney, said he didn’t find the plea offer surprising based on what he knew of the case.

He said it appeared that prosecutors offered the deal “based on the totality of the facts and what they knew of their victim and his credibility.” He didn’t elaborate.

Click here for the complete story at the Dallas Morning News (paywall)