On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered a passionate speech at Riverside Church in New York staking out his opposition to the war in Vietnam.
KING: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
One year later to the day, he was assassinated.
Now, 50 years after that fateful day, the truth about the assassination of Dr. King can finally be told.
THE STAGE IS SET
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, rose to national attention in 1955 by leading a boycott of the racial segregation of the public transit system in Montgomery, Alabama. Seeing the boycott through to a victory in the Supreme Court, where segregated buses were ruled unconstitutional, Dr. King, still just 28 years old, became in 1957 the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Leading nonviolent protests in Birmingham in 1963, King was arrested and penned his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” outlining his strategy of nonviolent opposition to racism and cementing his place as the leader of the national civil rights movement.
But by 1967, that movement was fracturing. Many activists were becoming restless and were enticed away from King’s nonviolent strategy by fiery speakers like Malcolm X who were advocating violent revolution. The Vietnam war had become a key focus for political activists, and a point of division for those in the civil rights movement, with many seeing opposition to the war as a distraction from the movement and its goals.
Up to that point Dr. King had made passing references to the war, but he had never connected the anti-war effort to his civil rights advocacy. That changed in January, 1967, when Ramparts Magazine published “The Children of Vietnam” by William F. Pepper, a freelance correspondent who spent six weeks in the country documenting the effects of the war.
WILLIAM PEPPER: Well I was a journalist in Vietnam, and I did an article for Rampartsmagazine—which was a progressive magazine at the time—and Martin King was a subscriber to the magazine. And when I came back from Vietnam, I did an article called “The Children of Vietnam,” which described the war crimes that America was committing in that country and the horrific loss of life, and particularly the effect on the children.
So Martin was on his way to the Caribbean on a holiday, and he was stopped at the Atlanta Airport from where he was flying. And he started going through his mail and there was Ramparts from January of ’67. And he didn’t read the article, but he opened it. He opened it, and he started to look at the photographs which I had taken. I kept all the photographs to myself when I was in the country and I also did not do anything with the recordings I made. So he looked at the photographs of the wounded and maimed and dead civilians, particularly children. And Bernard Lee, his bodyguard, had gone up to get something to eat and came back with some food, and he put it on the table and Martin just pushed it away and said, “I don’t think I’m ever going to enjoy a meal again until we end this wretched war.” And that was his introduction to my work.
Anyway, then when he came back from his trip in the Caribbean he asked to meet with me, and we met. And during the last year of his life we were quite close and we strategized a lot about how to change things in America. And that was the birth of the idea that he had had about a poor people’s march in Washington. So I came close to him during that last year.
I spoke on April 15th  to a large rally in front of the UN and suggested to that crowd that there be a third party led by Martin Luther King and Benjamin Spock, and the crowd obviously rose in acceptance. And when Martin came up to speak he indicated that if he did such a thing it would really only be for the purpose of highlighting the horror of the war and ending it. And he delivered a speech at the Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. And there was a powerful anti-war speech that he delivered. So he was very much in the fold then.
And I met him for the first time in—I guess it was late January or February when we met at Brown University where he delivered a speech, and I was to meet him there. And we were to go together to Harvard where we opened Vietnam summer. And I showed him in that trip all of the files that I had readily available and he wept. He openly wept. He was a man of great compassion and feeling and he knew that he had to do something about this war.
MLK: I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns, this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people?” they ask. And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment, or my calling.
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. [sustained applause]
SOURCE: “Beyond Vietnam“
If Dr. King was looking to create a bridge linking the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, he didn’t get it.
The opposition he faced from the general public was to be expected. With King having spent his entire public career campaigning for broad changes to society—and having achieved many successes in both the court of law and the court of public opinion—many thought this new stance was a bridge too far. “Won’t Dr. King ever be happy? Why is he always asking for more?”
The opposition from the media was also to be expected, but even King was surprised by the viciousness of the attacks. Calling his attempt to align the civil rights movement and the peace movement “disastrous” and accusing him of seeking publicity, King spent the first few days after the speech defending himself from a particularly rabid press.
The opposition Dr. King faced from within his own circles was more immediately painful. Just four years after delivering his “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and reigning as the uncrowned king of the civil rights movement, King was now forced to defend himself from the very same black academics, grassroots media, politicians and everyday working-class people who had once formed the core of his support. Even Dr. Ralph Bunche, a board member of the NAACP and, like King, a Nobel laureate, called the effort to merge the civil rights and peace movements a “serious tactical mistake.”
But it was the opposition that King faced from the entrenched powers of government, the intelligence agencies and the military-industrial complex that was to be his undoing. They saw the merging of the civil rights movement with the anti-war movement and King’s promise of a poor people’s march on Washington in 1968 as a threat to their very existence. A threat that had to be dealt with.
THE OFFICIAL STORY
This is the story of the assassination of Dr. King as it has come to be known by the public:
In 1967, James Earl Ray, a convicted felon serving 20 years for armed robbery, escaped from Missouri State Penitentiary by jumping in the back of a bread truck. Somehow evading the police dragnet that was on his trail, Ray lived on the run, first traveling throughout the US, then into Canada, then into Mexico where he tried to establish himself as a pornographer under the alias “Eric Stavro Galt.”
Fueled by his hatred of black people in general and Martin Luther King in particular, Ray hatched a cold, calculating plot to assassinate the civil rights icon. After some quick facial reconstruction surgery that the escaped felon somehow managed to procure with funds of unknown origin, Ray headed for Alabama, where he stalked King. Learning that King would be going to Memphis on April 1, 1968, Ray followed along, checking into a rooming house right across from the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was staying.
On the afternoon of April 4, 1968, Ray staked out the hotel, waiting patiently with the Remington Model 760 Gamemaster rifle he had purchased for the occasion. King came out onto the balcony of his second-floor room at around 6 PM and at precisely 6:01 PM Ray aimed and fired, shooting King in the head.
Ray fled the rooming house, dumping a bundle of equipment—including his rifle and binoculars—nearby. He escaped just before police arrived and, just like in 1967, once again managed to evade the police dragnet that was deployed to find King’s killer. Driving to Atlanta, Ray then fled to Canada, where he stayed for over a month, even acquiring a passport under another alias, Ramon George Sneyd. Fleeing to London, Ray was eventually nabbed at Heathrow Airport trying to board a plane to Brussels on his false Canadian passport.
Pleading guilty to the killing of Dr. King, Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
This is the story we have been told about the assassination, and it is the story that most of the public knows. But it is just that, a story. Most do not know that Ray never actually confessed to the killing, or that the decades-long legal struggle to prove his innocence led to a 1999 civil trial where a jury determined that Ray did not, in fact, fire a shot that day, and that instead Dr. King was assassinated as part of a criminal conspiracy.
So who was involved in this conspiracy? If James Earl Ray was not the killer of Martin Luther King, who was?
THE REAL STORY
Dr. King was no stranger to the prospect of death. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956, his house was bombed while his wife, Coretta Scott King, and their daughter were at home, narrowly escaping injury. When a crowd of his supporters rallied at the bomb scene seeking vengeance, King responded in typical fashion: He pleaded for nonviolence and got the angry mob to disperse. From that point on, the threats to Dr. King’s life were so frequent that they became merely a part of his everyday existence. Security precautions were taken. Police escorts and bodyguards were employed. But King had long since resigned himself to the idea that he might have to die for his cause.
Even so, the package that arrived on November 24, 1964 was different. It contained a tape recording along with an ominous letter. “King, look into your heart. You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all of us Negroes. […] King, like all frauds your end is approaching. […] King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. […] You are done. There is but one way out for you.”
The tape recording allegedly contained evidence of King’s sexual infidelities. The letter was clearly an encouragement to suicide, and King assumed it was from the FBI. His suspicion was not without reason. As early as December 1963, the FBI had been holding meetings dedicated to the question of how the Bureau could “neutralize” him, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover—who detested King and had set up the COINTELPRO program to demonize, disrupt and discredit the leaders of the civil rights movement— had just days earlier called King “the most notorious liar in the country.” And, unknown at the time but revealed in recent years, Hoover had just days earlier drafted a letter to William C. Sullivan, the agent in charge of COINTELPRO, opining that King’s “exposure is long overdue” and stating that “It is grand to know that I have the support and goodwill of my close associates in the Bureau.” Years later, it was confirmed that the suicide letter had indeed come from the FBI, likely drafted by Sullivan himself.
But if the FBI’s intention was to get King to do their dirty work for them, they were disappointed. Having lived with the threat of death every day for the better part of a decade, Dr. King had no interest in letting yet another death threat—even one from the FBI itself—get the better of him.
Clearly, if Hoover and his like-minded colleagues were going to get rid of Dr. King, they were going to have to find another opportunity. That opportunity came in the form of James Earl Ray.
The official story relies on a picture of James Earl Ray as an arch criminal mastermind, determined to kill Martin Luther King and capable of accomplishing that task with precision. But in reality, Ray was more of a bumbling burglar than a calculating killer. After one of his attempts at armed robbery, Ray managed to shoot himself in the foot while running away from the scene of the crime. In another, he fell out of his own getaway car while making his escape. Even if he had been competent enough to pull off such a plot, the official story was never able to explain how he funded his trans-continental activities after his miraculous escape from the Missouri State Penitentiary.
But even Ray’s escape from prison itself, long taken at face value, has since been shown to have been part of a larger plot instigated by the FBI.
Dr. William F. Pepper, who became Ray’s attorney after meeting with him in prison in the late 1970s and later went on to represent the King family in a civil suit and write the definitive book on the case, “The Plot to Kill King,” explains:
PEPPER: He was always trying to escape when he was in prison, and we thought that that was par for the course and that he lucked out and he was able to get into this bread truck that was delivering bread to the prison and get away. And that’s what I thought for all of those years. And it was only within really the last four or five years, following a deposition of a critical witness, that we learned that in fact the government had profiled James Earl Ray and they had effectively organized his escape. And I learned that because the head of the Dixie Mafia family who was working with the FBI on the killing drove to the prison and in the car was his son and they carried twenty-five thousand dollars which they gave to the warden to organize James’s escape. And the son was my witness for that mission with his father.
The FBI, having profiled Ray and identified him as a potential scapegoat that could be easily manipulated, bribed the warden with $25,000 delivered from Director Hoover to his right-hand man, Clyde Tolson, and taken to the prison by the Bureau’s Dixie Mafia collaborator, Russell Adkins, Sr. From there, it was a question of directing Ray, now an escaped convict, in a way that he could be framed for their ultimate strike against King.
Enter Raul Coelho, a gun-runner and drug-smuggler who Ray met in a saloon in Montreal when he escaped to Canada after his prison break. Raul had a proposition for Ray: If Ray would follow Raul’s instructions and help him with some criminal activities, Raul would provide Ray with the travel documents that he was seeking to allow him to reach Africa, where he believed he would be safe.
According to Ray, it was Raul who gave him the money he needed during this time, including the two thousand dollars for the white Ford Mustang, a purchase that subsequent investigations into Ray’s movements could never explain.
INTERVIEWER: When you met Raul, you…did you…didn’t know any other name for him? That’s the name that he said was his. And that’s all you ever knew?
INTERVIEWER: And you met him where?
INTERVIEWER: Up in Canada. And you just met in a saloon?
RAY: It was a saloon in a waterfront area of Montreal.
INTERVIEWER: He never became good friends, then?
RAY: No, I wouldn’t say ‘good friend.’ Just business.
SOURCE: James Earl Ray Interview
It was Raul who directed Ray’s movements in the months leading up to the assassination. And it was during this time that Ray was supplied with the aliases he used during his movements, including “Eric S. Galt.” As it turns out, “Eric S. Galt” was not a fictional name but the name of a real man living in Scarborough, Ontario. A man who, incredibly, not only bore some resemblance to Ray, but also had top security clearance with the American intelligence establishment.
PEPPER: Well, as a part of his movement around—of course he went into Canada—he was given the Galt identity. He was given it by a man he would never reveal, but he was clearly a government agent. James, in fact, was given the identity of “Eric S. Galt” because Eric S. Galt worked in an arms factory in Canada and he had security clearance from the United States government. And he had a physical resemblance to James which was interesting—not dead on, but definitely a physical resemblance to James. So it was a very good a very good identity for James to have. If James ever was picked up for anything with the “Galt” identification, they would run it, and they would immediately be instructed to let him go. So they had that well thought out. James was given that identity for that purpose.
With his alias in place, Ray traveled unimpeded from Canada back into the US, to Mexico and back to the US; a series of movements that would be inexplicable for an escaped convict with no stable source of income. Directed and funded by Raul, Ray ended up in Alabama where he was directed to purchase a rifle with a scope and some ammunition. Ray went to the Aeromarine Supply store in Birmingham as instructed and purchased a rifle, but when he delivered it to Raul he was incensed. Ray had bought the wrong gun. Raul forced Ray to exchange the rifle for a Remington 760 Gamemaster 30.06, the same rifle that the official story tells us Ray dropped off in a convenient bundle in front of a nearby shop just moments after the shooting.
NARRATOR: If the assassin had fired the shot from the bathroom window, he would then have had to get out of the bath, put the rifle in its box, run to his room to pick up the bundle, then run 85 feet across the hallway, go down the stairs, and drop the bundle in the shop entrance before walking to his car and driving away. All rather implausible.
It would have required split-second timing before the first policeman arrived at the scene.
Veteran assassinations investigator Harold Weisberg has obtained more FBI documents on the King case than anyone else. He was one of the first people to cast doubts on the state’s case against Ray in his book, “The Cover Up” [sic].
HAROLD WEISBERG: That’s ridiculous. He’s required to have gone to his room in the flophouse and picked up the widest collection of junk. Bobby pins. Bobby pins! Cans of beer that hadn’t been opened. You know, a guy’s has done a crime like that, he’s fleeing for his life and he’s gonna pick up a couple cans of beer or a bobby pin? The box didn’t hold the rifle, he had to put the rifle in that. All sorts of other junk, I mean a ridiculous collection of it. The one thing that that bundle served to do was to point a finger at Ray.
Even more damning for the official story of the assassination is that this carefully planted “murder weapon” was, in reality, not the murder weapon at all, a fact now conclusively determined through modern forensic science.
JUDGE JOE BROWN: I wound up being the last judge hearing the James Earl Ray matter: Did he in fact assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King? And had he not died and his local attorney not died in close succession, it would have been my finding that he was not the gunman. That Remington 760 Gamemaster they’ve got in the Civil Rights Museum is not the murder weapon. It’s not even close.
The thing the state relied upon was the rifle, but modern scientific methodology excluded that rifle from being the murder weapon. The bullet they pulled out of King’s body has a rate of rifling twist of one turn in every eleven and a quarter inches. The rifle that Ray had had a rate of rifling twist of one turn in every ten inches, and a bad manufacturing defect that is not apparent on the death slug. He was shot with an XM-21, it’s a 7.62 by 51 millimeter NATO caliber weapon with a special stainless steel barrel. 3:9 telescopic sight modified by a company known as Netherwood. It was a red field site, and they used special subsonic ammunition with a suppressor on the end to reduce the velocity of the bullet to below supersonic to confuse the sound signature.
So if Ray’s rifle was not the murder weapon, and if Ray was, as he maintained for decades, blocks away from the scene at the time of the shooting getting the spare tire on the Mustang replaced, then who did fire the shot?
After decades of investigation, Dr. Pepper has uncovered the man he believes pulled the trigger that day.
PEPPER: MLK was shot by a man called Frank Strausser. He was the best shot of the Memphis Police Department. And we know it was Strausser because he was assigned to the rifle range—the shooting range of the Memphis Police Department. And a man who was a janitor in that Police Department saw a rifle being brought in, and he was actually even shown the rifle as a “special rifle” they called it. And Strausser was given that rifle and he practiced with it all day the day of the killing. He practiced shooting all day with it. And around about three o’clock he packed up, took the rifle, and got in a car—a car of a colleague of his who was a fireman—and drove down to the to the area of the rooming house. And this man, this witness we had, indicated very clearly that there was no doubt in his mind that he was the shooter and he was he was going to effect the assassination.
Strausser was not alone in this operation. The scene in Memphis that day had been carefully prepared, and the area of the Lorraine Motel was teeming with deep state operatives. As Dr. Pepper’s decades-long investigation has exhaustively documented, there was a police surveillance detail keeping watch on the scene from the fire station across the street, a military intelligence unit on top of the fire station photographing the event (and even taking pictures of the real shooter lowering his rifle immediately after the shot), and a Special Forces back-up sniper unit called Alpha 184 which was connected to the 902nd Military Intelligence Group.
Meanwhile, the police security detail which had been assigned to King on his previous visits to the city were withdrawn without explanation the day before the assassination.
Another mysterious actor in the day’s events is the unidentified man claiming to be with Dr. King’s party who had called the Lorraine Motel the day before and requested that his room be changed from the more secure courtyard room to an unsecure balcony room overlooking the swimming pool, in full sight of the fire station and rooming house.
And the iconic photograph of King’s bloodied body on the balcony reveals yet another deep state operative: Marrell McCollough, supposedly part of the local black power movement but in fact an undercover cop and military intelligence agent working as a provocateur, cradling the slain civil rights leader in his arms.
But these were not the only traps that had been set for Dr. King that fateful day. Remarkably, as Dr. Pepper’s investigation has also uncovered, there is evidence to suggest that it was not the assassin’s bullet that actually killed Martin Luther King.
PEPPER: Oh, the shot did not kill him. We all believed that Martin King was killed by that shot by Strausser. He was still alive when he was taken to the hospital. He was being worked on in the emergency room at the hospital and I think the emergency staff were trying to do their best to keep him alive. And he was still breathing and alive when the head of neurosurgery of the hospital, Dr. Breen Bland, came in to the emergency room with two other men in suits and he said to the people in the emergency room: “Stop working on that nigger and let him die.” And then he said, after a pause, “Now get out of here, all of you. Leave this room, get out!” and he emptied the room. And as he was emptying the room a surgical nurse was the last one out and she heard them do this [makes sucking sound]. Like picking up water in their mouths. And that caught her attention. And she turned and she saw them spit on the body of Dr. King, the three men. Then she saw a blond doctor blonde take a pillow and put it over his face and suffocate him, and that’s how Martin King was killed.
THE COVER UP
The cover up of the assassination was as meticulously planned as the event itself. The scene of the crime was immediately cordoned off, and the convenient bundle of incriminating evidence was found in the nearby shop doorway. One witness even indicated the bundle had been dropped before the shot was fired.
We now know that the crime scene itself was being tampered with even as the sun was setting on Memphis that evening, and key witnesses with inconvenient testimony were being ignored.
ANDREW YOUNG: I started pointing to the rooming house. That’s the only place that it looked like it could’ve come from.
INTERVIEWER: Not that you heard the shot from there?
YOUNG: No, I didn’t know where the shot came from. Now it could have also come from the bushes.
NARRATOR: But strangely, the next morning the bushes were all cut down.
YOUNG: Somebody gave an order in the middle of the night to go out and cut down that underbrush, so that when the sun came up on the fifth of April, the bushes were no longer there.
NARRATOR: To Young it smacks of cover up. But the Memphis Police say they cut the brush away to help not hurt the investigation. Still, the motel area was not properly sealed off to protect evidence and at least some key witnesses were never interviewed.
EARL CALDWELL: And then I see this figure directly at eye length coming out of a crouched position in the bushes. When you look directly across from my doorway, you were looking at thicket.
NARRATOR: Dr. King’s driver, Solomon Jones, later told Caldwell and another reporter he, too, saw someone in the bushes.
EARL CALDWELL: He said he saw this figure it’s in the bushes, but he actually saw even the puff of smoke from the shot being fired from there. I quoted him in my story that was in the New York Times the next day.
NARRATOR: The two reporters interviewed others who also said they saw something.
INTERVIEWER: How many people saw somebody in the bushes?
EARL CALDWELL: At least a half a dozen.
INTERVIEWER: And some of them say they saw a rifle?
EARL CALDWELL: Yes.
INTERVIEWER: And do you believe that’s where the shot came from?
EARL CALDWELL: Absolutely.
Soon, police had followed the cookie crumb trail from Ray’s rifle, to his various aliases, to his fake passport, and eventually, to London’s Heathrow Airport where he was caught trying to board a plane to Brussels. The history books, to the extent they cover this at all, now merely note that Ray pled guilty to the killing and consider the case closed.
But in reality, Ray’s guilty plea was done under duress from a deeply conflicted attorney, and Ray himself maintained that he was not the killer for his entire life.
NARRATOR: Two months later, after leaving a trail of false identities, small-time crook James Earl Ray was arrested at Heathrow Airport in London. He was brought back to the States and sentenced to 99 years after pleading guilty to King’s murder. With a trial that lasted only two and a half hours, suspicions were raised. Was the verdict rushed through to cover up a conspiracy?
PERCY FOREMAN: I don’t give a continental damn whether there was a conspiracy or not.
REPORTER: Well, Mr. Foreman, did you ever ask your client whether he was a part of a conspiracy, whether he’d been hired?
FOREMAN: No, I never asked him that but I asked him enough other questions to convince me that he was not.
REPORTER: Did you ever feel that you could ever do more than save his life?
FOREMAN: Never at any time, and so told him from the day I came here.
JOE BROWN: He didn’t get convicted. He pled guilty. You have to understand that though the news media puts it out as “He was the self-confessed killer of King!” that’s not true. All through the transcripts, the entirety of the record, he never confessed and often he said “I never said I killed King. I didn’t kill him. I’m pleading cause of Alford.” That’s A-l-f-o-r-d. It’s a moderately old US Supreme Court case, and it says even if you are not actually guilty and you are pristinely innocent, you may plead guilty to the charge if you think that doing so is in your best interest under all of the circumstances as you know them to be, and you’re doing so freely, voluntarily, understandingly,knowingly, advisedly and intelligently. So Ray had gone through all of these.
JAMES EARL RAY: When Foreman came in the case he was all for a trial, at least he pretended to be. And everything went OK up until sometime in February of 1969. We was going to trial up until then. And one time he came in with a paper he wanted me to sign saying that, you know, we would enter a guilty plea. He gave me a list of reasons why we should enter a plea. He also said the newspapers done convicted me by pretrial publicity. So I told him I didn’t think that was grounds for enter[ing] a guilty plea, ’cause I thought we could overcome some of this adverse publicity going to trial. His next gambit was that if I didn’t enter a guilty plea they might put my brother Jerry Ray in prison as a co-conspirator. He also indicated that if I forced them to trial he wouldn’t put forth his best efforts.
JUDGE: Are you actually stating that you didn’t never recommend it to Mr. ray that he plead guilty?
FOREMAN: I have so stated, I state again: I never have recommended to any client. I did tell him the facts as I saw them. I told him I thought he would be convicted. I told him I thought he would be executed, and I had to tell him that because that was the truth.
NARRATOR: Foreman’s assertion that he didn’t coerce Ray into a guilty plea is belied by the letter he wrote to him on the eve of the trial. Foreman’s fee was coming from a book contract. Ray asked for $500 so that his brother could hire a new lawyer. Foreman agreed “contingent on the plea of ‘guilty’ going through without any unseemly conduct on your part in court.
PROSECUTOR: So Mr. Foreman came to see me and we discussed it in and I told him that I would, as in every case where appropriate, accept a guilty plea on the basis of a 99-year sentence. I talked to the to the Governor of Tennessee, the United States Attorney General, the Department of Justice. I did this as a matter of courtesy that they did not ever interfere with the way I conducted the prosecution of the case.
NARRATOR: It’s only recently become apparent that there was a conflict of interest in the courts appointment of Hugh Stanton, Sr., to assist Ray’s lawyer, Percy Foreman, in Ray’s defense. Stanton had also acted as lawyer for the state’s chief witness against Ray, Charles Stevens.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever consider that Hugh Stanton was in a conflict of interest because he’d also represented Charlie Stevens? Was that was that ever considered?
PROSECUTOR: No, as a matter of fact, I believe you’re right that Mr. Stanton did—I believe Mr. Stevens finally got somebody else. I don’t know. But, no, we didn’t consider any uh—any uh—. You’re telling me something that I— If that’s a fact I had forgotten about it, but whatever it was, nothing came up to to bother us about it.
Slow and incremental progress in uncovering the clues that would help to unravel the plot were collected through the diligent efforts of a number of researchers over the years, including Harold Weisberg and Philip Melanson and, of course, William Pepper, who took up the case not only as a researcher, but as Ray’s attorney.
By the 1990s, Dr. Pepper—running out of legal avenues to prove the innocence of his client—arranged for an unscripted, televised “mock trial” providing James Earl Ray with the chance to defend himself that the penal system never afforded him. The trial, which featured real evidence, witnesses, a judge, and a counsel before an independent jury—for the first time presented to the public the many holes in the official story and the evidence pointing to a larger conspiracy. It ended with the independent jury acquitting Ray of King’s murder.
The well-publicized trial and acquittal of Ray opened the floodgates as new witnesses stepped forward with new pieces of information. One of those stepping forward was not just a witness, but an actual party to the conspiracy: Loyd Jowers.
As owner of Jim’s Grill, located across Mulberry Street from the Lorraine Motel, Jowers claimed that he had been paid $100,000 by Frank Liberto, a member of the Dixie Mafia, to arrange the hit on King. He even—according to Jim’s Grill waitress Betty Spates—had been seen running from the brushes behind the building into the kitchen where he stowed a rifle directly after King was shot.
Jowers’ admission, which he repeated on national television, formed the basis for the next battle in the legal odyssey of Dr. King’s assassination. In 1998, the King family filed a wrongful death suit against Jowers. The trial stretched into 1999 and presented the testimony of over 70 witnesses and thousands of new pages of evidence that had never before been seen by the public.
And then, remarkably, on December 8, 1999, a jury found Jowers guilty of a plot to kill Dr. King that, they found, involved a “high-level conspiracy” that included the federal government.
PEPPER: Today a jury of 12 men and women, having heard the proof for nearly a month, decided that there was a conspiracy to kill Martin Luther King that involved Loyd Jowers, a local man, as well as other unknown co-conspirators associated with the Memphis Police Department, the state of Tennessee, and the government of the United States. That’s what the jury actually held that’s what they actually known today
One might expect that this startling finding would bleed out of the 24-hour news cycle and into the pages of the history books. But one would be wrong.
The government’s reaction was perfectly predictable. Years later, it was shown that the FBI never even investigated Loyd Jowers, the man who confessed to, and was convicted of, his role in the conspiracy to assassinate King.
Even more galling, though, has been the steadfast refusal of the media to cover any aspect of Dr. Pepper’s investigation or to hold any governmental agents or entities’ feet to the fire with regards to the assassination.
PEPPER: The media has covered up all aspects of the truth about this case, and this horrific killing of this great prophet. The mainstream media has been totally controlled by the owning corporate rulers, and it has never revealed this. When we held the trial, the media was present when Coretta King took the stand or any member of the King family took the stand, Andy Young took the stand, testified. They were present for that. But then they were absent for the evidence. They walked out for when it came time for the evidence under instructions. Court TV was supposed to cover the trial and they said, “This is the trial of the century. We definitely need to cover this trial.” And they didn’t at the last minute. They refused.
And it’s not only the killing of King or Kennedy or Malcolm or Robert Kennedy—and I’ve also been involved in the Robert Kennedy assassination—it’s not only those critical assassinations in the 60s, but it’s anything to do that will shake the core of credibility in the institutions and the agencies of the American government and how they actually function. You have to remember Carl Sulzberger gave Allen Dulles twelve slots on the New York Times back in 1959. Those twelve slots in my view have probably been rotated right to the present day. They are agents who will deal with the most sensitive matters.
I have been blacklisted by the New York Times forever. Forever. They won’t use my name and virtually anything. I think they slipped once—one report on the trial that they had to do, they quoted a witness and the witness said “Mr. Pepper showed us…” and they were quoting him. They put that in. But other than that I may be recognized as the attorney for the King family, but never named, and I am I am not to be named in that newspaper. And it’s as simple as that. I’ve had to live with this as have many other progressive journalists in areas of very delicate strategic issues. They don’t want this out and they won’t allow it out. That’s the basis of corporate control over the media.
TRUTH AT LAST
KING: All we say to America is to be true to what you said on paper. [Applause] If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they haven’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read (Yes) of the freedom of speech. (Yes) Somewhere I read (All right) of the freedom of press. (Yes) Somewhere I read (Yes) that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. [Applause]
SOURCE: I Have Been To The Mountaintop
50 years. 50 years of investigation. 50 years of lies. 50 years of cover up.
Half a century later, key pieces of the MLK assassination puzzle have been lost to the sands of time. But the picture that has emerged through the tireless efforts of those who have dedicated their lives to the truth is unmistakable. James Earl Ray was not a lone nut acting on the spur of the moment. He was one cog in a much larger plot, one that involved the federal government, military intelligence, local mafia and local officials. A plot that converged on one point: Memphis, April 4, 1968.
The details of that plot, including hundreds of pages of elaboration and hundreds more pages of depositions, testimony and evidence have been compiled by Dr. Pepper in The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But history is written by the winners, and the media, the textbooks and the historians have largely ignored this investigation.
The truth is there. In black and white. All we have to do is look.