Mike Stone/Reuters

Craig Watkins, the district attorney in Dallas, at a news conference announcing the release of a collection of documents and items related to the Kennedy assassination.

Published: February 18, 2008
DALLAS — After more than 40 years under lock and key, a large collection of documents and items related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was released by the Dallas County district attorney on Monday.The district attorney, Craig Watkins, officially unveiled 15 boxes that had been stored in a walk-in safe on the 10th floor of the Dallas County Courthouse. The boxes held a grab bag of memorabilia, from Lee Harvey Oswald’s clothing to a tooled leather holster used to carry a gun by Oswald’s killer, Jack Ruby.

“We decided that this information is too important to keep secret,” Mr. Watkins said.

Mr. Watkins said he learned of the documents soon after taking office a year ago. Although his predecessors had chosen to keep the material secret, Mr. Watkins said he saw no reason to do so. The material is now being scanned and will eventually be donated to a museum that can make it public, he said. Mr. Watkins said a museum had not yet been selected, but he mentioned the Smithsonian, in Washington, or the Sixth Floor Museum, in Dallas, as two possibilities.

No outside experts have examined the trove, Mr. Watkins said, and even his staff has not reviewed much of the contents of the files, though most of the documents have been scanned.

That makes it almost impossible to evaluate how much new information is included among the memorabilia, said Nicola J. Longford, executive director of the Sixth Floor Museum, which is in the former Texas School Book Depository from which Oswald shot President Kennedy.

“We don’t know how much is original, copied, or previously available,” Ms. Longford said in an interview. As for the purported transcript of a meeting between Oswald and Ruby, she said, “It’s speculation as to whether is a real conversation or not or part of a movie script.”

The district attorney at the time of the assassination, Henry M. Wade, signed a contract for a movie deal, Mr. Watkins said, although the film was never made. Mr. Wade, who served as district attorney until 1987, died in 2001.

The items were stored in a 6-foot by 6-foot safe in the district attorney’s offices in the county courthouse. The purported transcript claims the conversation took place at Mr. Ruby’s nightclub, the Carousel Club, before the assassination and describes the two men discussing the murder of President Kennedy. In a press release accompanying the unveiling of the boxes, Mr. Watkins said the transcript was believed to be bogus.

Also included in the boxes were brass knuckles that Mr. Ruby carried at the time he shot Oswald.

After being taken into custody in the killing a police officer in a Dallas theater, Oswald was arrested for fatally shooting the president on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Two days later, Ruby shot Oswald to death while he was in police custody. He was convicted of murder, but that conviction was overturned when an appeals court in Texas found the Ruby had been unfairly denied a chance to have the case tried in another area. Ruby died of cancer while awaiting retrial for the killing.

Leslie Eaton reported from Dallas and John Sullivan from New York.(Article courtesy of The New York Times: )

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