[dropcap size=small]M[/dropcap]artin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was staying at the Lorraine Motel in Room 306. Around 6PM, he stepped out on the balcony to speak with colleagues before going out to have dinner at a local minister’s home. He was shot and killed.
Shock and distress over the news of King’s death, rioting erupted in more than 100 cities around the country, including burning and looting. Amid a wave of national mourning, President Lyndon B. Johnson urged Americans to “reject the blind violence” that had killed King, whom he called the “apostle of nonviolence.” He also called on Congress to speedily pass the civil rights legislation then entering the House of Representatives for debate, calling it a fitting legacy to King and his life’s work. On April 11, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act.
Shortly after the assassination, a policeman discovered a bundle containing a 30.06 Remington riﬂe next door to the boarding house. The largest investigation in Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) history led its agents to an apartment in Atlanta. Fingerprints uncovered in the apartment matched those of James Earl Ray, a fugitive who had escaped from a Missouri prison in April 1967. FBI agents and police in Memphis produced further evidence that Ray had registered on 4 April at the South Main Street roominghouse and that he had taken a second-ﬂoor room near a common bathroom with a view of the Lorraine Motel.
The identiﬁcation of Ray as a suspect led to an international manhunt. On 19 July 1968, Ray was extradited to the United States from Britain to stand trial. In a plea bargain, Tennessee prosecutors agreed in March 1969 to forgo seeking the death penalty when Ray pled guilty to murder charges. The circumstances leading to the plea later became a source of controversy, when Ray recanted his confession soon after being sentenced to a 99-year term in prison.
During the years following King’s assassination, doubts about the adequacy of the case against Ray were fueled by revelations of the extensive surveillance of King by the FBI and other government agencies. Even after Ray’s death, conspiracy allegations continued to surface. In 1999, on behalf of King’s widow and children, Pepper won a token civil verdict of wrongful death against Lloyd Jowers, owner of Jim’s Grill, a restaurant across the street from the Lorraine Motel. Although the trial produced considerable testimony that contradicted the original case against Ray, the Justice Department announced in 2000 that its own internal investigation, launched in 1998 at the King family’s request, had failed to ﬁnd sufﬁcient evidence to warrant a further investigation.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s family and personal friend/attorney, William F. Pepper, won a civil trial that found US government agencies guilty of assassination/wrongful death. The 1999 trial, King Family versus Jowers and Other Unknown Co-Conspirators, is the only trial ever conducted on the assassination of Dr. King. The King Center fully documents the case, with full trial transcript.
The following are excerpts of information providing the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate Martin Luther King Jr.:
- US 111th Military Intelligence Group were at Dr. King’s location during the assassination.
- 20th Special Forces Group had an 8-man sniper team at the assassination location on that day.
- Usual Memphis Police special body guards were advised they “weren’t needed” on the day of the assassination.
- Regular and constant police protection for Dr. King was removed from protecting Dr. King an hour before the assassination.
- Military Intelligence set-up photographers on the roof of a fire station with clear view to Dr. King’s balcony.
- Dr. King’s room was changed from a secure 1st-floor room to an exposed balcony room.
- Memphis police ordered the scene where multiple witnesses reported as the source of shooting cut down of their bushes that would have hid a sniper.
- Along with sanitizing a crime scene, police abandoned investigative procedure to interview witnesses who lived by the scene of the shooting.
- The rifle Mr. Ray delivered was not matched to the bullet that killed Dr. King, and was not sighted to accurately shoot.
- Also, the FBI acted to cause Dr. King’s death by suicide. The FBI illegally spied on Dr. King, used data in attempt to split leadership, and sent Dr. King a letter promising to expose alleged sexual misconduct. This was part of the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO program.
The King family’s attempts for a criminal trial were always denied by state and federal government. Claimed suspect, James Ray, said that his government-appointed attorney told him to sign a guilty plea to prevent the death penalty and threatened arrests of his father and brother as co-conspirators for his only part in the assassination plot: delivering a rifle. Mr. Ray produced a letter from his attorney stating the promise that Mr. Ray would receive a trial. When Mr. Ray discovered that he was solely blamed for Dr. King’s assassination and would never receive a trial, Mr. Ray’s subsequent recants of his guilty plea and requests for trial were denied.
The US government also denied the King family’s requests for independent investigation of the assassination, despite the overwhelming evidence produced at the 1999 civil trial. Dr. King’s wife, Coretta, spent more than twice the number of years she was married to Martin working to get a criminal trial for her husband’s assassination.
Importantly, the US government has never presented any evidence subject to challenge that substantiates their claim that Mr. Ray assassinated Dr. King.
The King family believes the government’s motivation to murder Dr. King was to prevent his imminent camp-in/Occupy at Washington, D.C. until the Vietnam War was ended and those resources directed to end poverty and invest in US hard and soft infrastructure.
US corporate media did not cover the civil trial, interview the King family, and textbooks omit this information. This is crucial evidence of a controlled corporate media rejecting coverage of a game-changing story. Journalist and author, James Douglass:
“I can hardly believe the fact that, apart from the courtroom participants, only Memphis TV reporter Wendell Stacy and I attended from beginning to end this historic three-and-one-half week trial. Because of journalistic neglect scarcely anyone else in this land of ours even knows what went on in it. After critical testimony was given in the trial’s second week before an almost empty gallery, Barbara Reis, U.S. correspondent for the Lisbon daily Publico who was there several days, turned to me and said, ‘Everything in the U.S. is the trial of the century. O.J. Simpson’s trial was the trial of the century. Clinton’s trial was the trial of the century. But this is the trial of the century, and who’s here?’ ”
Coretta Scott King was certain of the evidence after 30 years of consideration from the 1968 assassination to the 1999 trial:
“For a quarter of a century, Bill Pepper conducted an independent investigation of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He opened his files to our family, encouraged us to speak with the witnesses, and represented our family in the civil trial against the conspirators. The jury affirmed his findings, providing our family with a long-sought sense of closure and peace, which had been denied by official disinformation and cover-ups. Now the findings of his exhaustive investigation and additional revelations from the trial are presented in the pages of this important book. We recommend it highly to everyone who seeks the truth about Dr. King’s assassination.” — Coretta Scott King.
The US Department of Justice issued a report in 2000 that explained their claimed investigation into their own possible guilt in the assassination. They concluded that they found no evidence to warrant further investigation. Dr. King’s son issued the following statement rebuking the “self-study” rather than independent investigation:
“We learned only hours before the Justice Department press conference that they were releasing the report of their results of their ‘limited investigation,’ which covered only two areas of new evidence concerning the assassination of Dr. King. We had requested that we be given a copy of the report a few days in advance so that we might have had the opportunity to review it in detail. Since that courtesy was not extended to us, we are only able at this time to state the following:
1. We initially requested that a comprehensive investigation be conducted by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, independent of the government, because we do not believe that, in such a politically-sensitive matter, the government is capable of investigating itself.
2. The type of independent investigation we sought was denied by the federal government. But in our view, it was carried out, in a Memphis courtroom, during a month-long trial by a jury of 12 American citizens who had no interest other than ascertaining the truth. (Kings v. Jowers)
3. After hearing and reviewing the extensive testimony and evidence, which had never before been tested under oath in a court of law, it took the Memphis jury only one (1) hour to find that a conspiracy to kill Dr. King did exist. Most significantly, this conspiracy involved agents of the governments of the City of Memphis, the state of Tennessee and the United States of America. The overwhelming weight of the evidence also indicated that James Earl Ray was not the triggerman and, in fact, was an unknowing patsy.
4. We stand by that verdict and have no doubt that the truth about this terrible event has finally been revealed.
5. We urge all interested Americans to read the transcript of the trial on the King Center website and consider the evidence, so they can form their own unbiased conclusions.
Although we cooperated fully with this limited investigation, we never really expected that the government report would be any more objective than that which has resulted from any previous official investigation.”
After hearing no evidence from the government, and only testimony and pleadings cooperatively submitted by the plaintiffs and Jowers, the jury—six blacks and six whytes—found that King had been the victim of assassination by a conspiracy involving the Memphis police as well as federal agencies. Local assistant district attorney John Campell, who was not involved in the case, commented that the case was flawed and “overlooked so much contradictory evidence that never was presented”. This civil verdict against Jowers has been claimed by some persons to have established Ray’s criminal innocence, which the King family has always maintained, but it has no bearing on his having pleaded guilty. The family said it had requested only $100 in damages to demonstrate they were not seeking financial gain.