January 25, 2012
This month, we celebrated what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 84th birthday, were he alive today. In honor of this occasion, I’d like to first highlight this short video, produced by journalist Barrie Zwicker, which provides a clear, concise overview of the realities regarding the assassination of this national civil rights and anti-war icon on April 4, 1968. (The book mentioned in the video is An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King.)
As explained in the video, decades after King’s death, there now exists a large body of evidence indicating that his assassination was not the work of “lone gunman” James Earl Ray, but a conspiracy involving multiple governmental agencies, including the FBI and Memphis Police Department. From March 13, 1969, until the day of his death in 1998, Ray had always maintained that he was an innocent patsy, or scapegoat, who had been duped at the very last minute by the conniving lawyer who had offered to represent him into entering a guilty plea instead of going to trial as planned. (This guilty plea is often misleadingly referred to as a “confession.”)
It took Dr. William F. Pepper until 1988, twenty years after King’s death, to decide fully and conclusively that Ray was telling the truth.
Pepper had been a close colleague and friend of Dr. King in the final year before his assassination. The two met in early 1967, after King had seen a series of disturbing and heart-breaking photographs in Ramparts magazine which were taken by Pepper the previous year during a visit to Vietnam. They depicted some of the countless thousands of children who had been killed, maimed, or left homeless by American weapons of war, including napalm and white phosphorus. These and other photos (and anecdotes) shared with him by Pepper deeply moved and disturbed Dr. King, and ultimately had a serious influence on his decision to come out strongly against the war a short time later.
Even before joining the anti-war movement, King had already been a major target of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, which engaged in a “no holds barred” covert operation to surveil, intimidate, “completely discredit,” and “destroy” him as a leader of the civil rights movement by any means necessary, as documented in great detail years later by the Church Committee in its Final Report. However, when he came out against the Vietnam War, this caused even more concern by “the powers that be.” As revealed by the Church Committee (Volume 7, Book III, pp. 173-174):
Dr. King publicly announced his opposition to American involvement in the war in Vietnam in a speech at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967. Six days later, Charles Brennan of the [FBI's] Domestic Intelligence Division recommended the circulation of an updated draft of the King monograph to the White House. Brennan’s memorandum states that the revised monograph contained allegations about communist influence over Dr. King as well as personally derogatory allegations.
Director Hoover approved and copies of the revised monograph were sent to the White House, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the Secret Service, and the Attorney General. A copy was subsequently sent to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, who had been interested in “King’s activities in the civil rights movement but recently had become quite concerned as to whether there are any subversive influences which have caused King to link the civil rights movement with the anti-Vietnam War movement.”
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 — the one year anniversary of his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at the Riverside Church.
For years after King’s death, Pepper assumed, as most people did, that Ray was guilty. But, in late 1977, he was asked by prominent civil rights leader Ralph Abarnathy to accompany him to Ray’s prison to interrogate him. Pepper (a lawyer) agreed, but said he needed time to get up to speed with the case. The following summer, the two did travel to the prison, and Pepper spent five hours questioning the man accused of murdering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I put him really through a rather rigorous, painful time.”
“After the interview… Abernathy and I became convinced that he was not the shooter,” Pepper would later explain. “We didn’t know what other role he might have played. But it was clear he was not the assassin of Martin Luther King. This guy couldn’t have done that. But he raised so many questions that I had never heard raised before, that had never been answered, that I decided I would begin to go into Memphis and talk to some people, become familiar with the terrain and the crime scene and see if I could get some answers to those questions.”
For the next decade, James Earl Ray attempted to convince Pepper to represent him in his quest to finally get a trial, but Pepper refused. “He kept asking me to represent him. And I said no. … I had to be convinced that he not only wasn’t the shooter, but that he had no knowing role. And it took me ten years to be convinced of that.”
Finally, in 1988, after ten years of investigation and many trips to Memphis (and occasionally New Orleans), Pepper was convinced, and he agreed to be Ray’s lawyer. In 1995, he published the book Orders to Kill, which detailed the large body of evidence he had accumulated pointing to a conspiracy, and to James Earl Ray’s innocence. (This was years before he wrote An Act of State.)
While the book was deliberately ignored by most in the media, it was not ignored by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s family. They had a long-held policy of not weighing in on the issue one way or the other, but James Earl Ray’s health was deteriorating, and after reading Orders To Kill, studying the evidence, and discussing the case with Pepper, they became convinced not only that Ray was innocent and that the conspirators who really killed Martin were still at large, but also of their own need to get involved.
MLK’s son, Dexter Scott King, met with James Earl Ray at the Lois DeBerry Special Needs Facility in March of 1997. He asked Mr. Ray, for the record, “Did you kill my father?” Ray replied, “No, no I didn’t. No.”
“As awkward as it may seem, I believe you and my family believes you,” King said a moment later, “and we will do everything in our power to see you prevail.”
One pressing order of business was getting Ray a liver transplant, which, due to his terminal condition, he desperately needed in order to stay alive long enough to go to trial. Despite the fact that he now had Martin Luther King, Jr.’s own family in his corner, requests to allow Ray to travel to Pittsburgh for the transplant were repeatedly denied.
- Assassin Denied Liver Test, New York Times, May 25, 1997
- James Earl Ray Denied Medical Furlough, Chicago Tribune, June 10, 1997
- James Earl Ray Denied Medical Leave, Chicago Tribune, Sept 19, 1997
“Even though it wasn’t going to cost the state anything, they nevertheless decided they didn’t want to let James Earl Ray have that liver transplant,” Pepper has said. “That was equivalent to signing his death warrant.” Just a few months later, in March 11, 1998 Ray went into a coma, and he died on April 23, 1998.
In 1999, the King Family filed a civil action against Lloyd Jowers, a Memphis restaurant owner who had by then admitted his own complicity in the assassination, and “other unknown co-conspirators.” The list of plaintiffs included MLK’s wife-turned-widow Coretta Scott King, and his four children, Martin Luther King III, Bernice King, Dexter Scott King, Yolanda King.
To show that their goal was not obtaining money, but establishing the truth, the family asked for only one hundred dollars in damages, which were to be donated to charity. As William Pepper, serving as the family’s lawyer, explained:
“…in terms of the spirit in which the family has approached these proceedings from the beginning. Yes, we want a verdict of liability, a verdict of a finding of conspiracy, but the family is not interested to benefit financially from these proceedings. There has to be damages in civil litigation of this sort. It is a wrongful death action. So the request is that there be an award of one hundred dollars to offset funeral expenses at the time. And that one hundred dollars the family has decided to contribute, along with other contributions, to a welfare fund of the sanitation workers in this city, because that is the reason that Dr. King came here in the first place.”
The trial commenced in Memphis, Tennessee on November 15, 1999, and court was in session until December 8, 1999. After hearing testimony from over 70 witnesses, it took the jury just one hour to find that Dr. King was in fact murdered as a result of a “conspiracy” involving Lloyde Jowers and “others, including governmental agencies,” which were named in the trial to include the FBI, Memphis Police Department, and others. Even the New York Times had to report (cache):
Memphis Jury Sees Conspiracy in Martin Luther King’s Killing
By EMILY YELLIN
Published: December 09, 1999
A jury in a civil suit brought by the family of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. decided today that a retired Memphis cafe owner was part of a conspiracy in the 1968 killing of Dr. King.
The jury’s decision means it did not believe that James Earl Ray, who was convicted of the crime, fired the shot that killed Dr. King.
After four weeks of testimony and one hour of deliberation, the jury in the wrongful-death case found that Loyd Jowers as well as ”others, including governmental agencies” had been part of a conspiracy. The jury awarded the King family the damages they had sought: $100, which the family says it will donate to charity.
The family has long questioned Mr. Ray’s conviction and hoped the suit would change the legal and historical record of the assassination.
”This is a vindication for us,” said Dexter King, the youngest son of Dr. King.
He said he hoped history books would be rewritten to reflect this version of the assassination.
The day after the verdict was given, the King family gave a press conference in Atlanta (a transcript of which can be found on the official website of The King Center [cache of page, cache of pdf (left click)] or Ratical.com). At the press conference, Coretta Scott King, said:
There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the civil court’s unanimous verdict has validated our belief. I wholeheartedly applaud the verdict of the jury and I feel that justice has been well served in their deliberations. This verdict is not only a great victory for my family, but also a great victory for America. It is a great victory for truth itself.
It is important to know that this was a SWIFT verdict, delivered after about an hour of jury deliberation. The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband. The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.
I want to make it clear that my family has no interest in retribution. Instead, our sole concern has been that the full truth of the assassination has been revealed and adjudicated in a court of law
She went on to speak about how her son Dexter had endured, “unmerited and personal attacks so we could get to the truth about the assassination.” Once she concluded her remarks, Dexter Scott King himself then spoke. He began his remarks:
I would just like to say that this is such a heavy moment for me. Yet while my heart is heavy, and this is a bittersweet occasion, bitter because we are dealing with tragedy, a tragedy that occurred some 32 years ago, but, yet today, we are still dealing with it. It is sweet because finally we know what happened. Sweet because this family has been vindicated, sweet because we can say that we are truly free at last. We can now move on with our lives. I want to give a real thanks to my mother, for her leadership and her tireless effort in carrying this burden all this time. You know we as children at that time were so young that we did not really understand what was going on. To my siblings, who have been here and been steadfast, to my aunt, we as a family have been unified around this effort. We finally got what we have been asking for, the opportunity to present evidence that we always felt would bring the truth out in a court of law. To have had twelve individual jurors to hear what we have been saying, that if the American public were allowed to really hear, they too would conclude what has now been concluded by those twelve.
He again clarified what the jury had, and had not, found:
…this verdict was not, as has been reported, a conspiracy that said others were involved other than James Earl Ray. That is not what that jury voted on. I want to be clear about that. They clearly voted on evidence that stated that James Earl Ray was not the shooter, that he was set up, that he was an unknown [unwitting] patsy. That Lloyd Jowers, along with his co-conspirators, that the jury also concluded involved state, local and federal agencies. I want to be clear about that, because you keep hearing duplicitous reports.”
He discussed the “very distinct process or protocol” that is followed by the “powers that be” when someone like Martin Luther King, Jr. arises:
First, there is an attempt to discredit one’s credibility. Second, there is harassment. And finally, if that does not work, termination or elimination. That is what happened to our loved one, because he challenged the establishment. He spoke out against the war in Vietnam. He talked about dealing with poverty, by taking poor people to Washington. There was also an interest in the political process. He became too powerful.
He also issued a warning about governments’ tendency to cover-up their own crimes, the utter folly of expecting them to properly investigate themselves, and the vital need for private citizens to take investigative matters into their own hands when suspicious crimes with serious political implications occur, lest a monstrous conspiracy becomes whitewashed:
Let us not forget, as my mother said, that it was the failure of the system to do the right thing by its citizens, who first and foremost caused and created a Martin Luther King Jr. and others to get out on the front line and be beaten, brutalized and even killed. And now, it is the failure of the system to do the right thing, which is now to find out who killed this man. Because they themselves will have to show bloody hands. So it is left up to our efforts as private citizens, as he was a private citizen who had to seek other means through private regress.[...] We don’t care what the justice department does. This is another misnomer. We did not do this to force their hand. I doubt seriously that they will indict themselves, for who polices the police? That is up to the American public. We, [the King family] have done our part. Those of you, if you find it in your hearts to get the “powers that be” to officialize what twelve independent people have already done, that is your business. We know what happened. This is the period at the end of the sentence. Please, after today, we do not want questions like; “do you believe that James Earl Ray killed your father?” I have been hearing that all of my life. No, I don’t. This is the end of it. Thank you.
Finally, he spoke again of the conclusiveness of the evidence presented in the case:
We can say that because of the evidence and information obtained in Memphis we believe that this case is over. This is a period in the chapter. We constantly hear reports, which troubles me, that this verdict creates more questions than answers. That is totally false. Anyone who sat in on almost four weeks of testimony, with over seventy witnesses, credible witnesses I might add, from several judges to other very credible witnesses, would know that the truth is here. The question now is, “What will you do with that?” We as a family have done our part. We have carried this mantle for as long as we can carry it. We know what happened. It is on public record. The transcripts will be available; we will make them available on the Web at some point. Any serious researcher who wants to know what happened can find out.
During a Q&A after the family’s remarks:
Q: There are many people out there who feel that as long as these conspirators remain nameless and faceless there is no true closure, and no justice.
DEXTER KING: No, he named the shooter. The shooter was the Memphis Police Department Officer, Lt. Earl Clark who he named as the killer. Once again, beyond that you had credible witnesses that named members of a Special Forces team who didn’t have to act because the contract killer succeeded, with plausible denial, a Mafia contracted killer.
Q: I’m sorry, my question goes to the family’s feelings. There are those who feel that as long as this greater conspiracy that has remained faceless and nameless and until there are faces and names attached to that conspiracy that justice will not be served. The family doesn’t share that view?
DEXTER KING: Well no, because we know. I guess I am not making myself clear. There is an institutional framework on how these things happen. So if you want to go back and do the research for those who want to know who gives an order. I do know certain things about the military, and the commander in chief has to make certain commitments for certain troops to be committed domestically. In this instance, there was denial that the troops were not there, Special Forces were not there. But in fact, with [Carthel Weeden] the Captain of the Firehouse, which Attorney Pepper had on the stand, said he put the Army Special Ops. photographers on the roof.
There was another witness that talked about all the Army Officers, a Memphis Police Officer [Eli Arkin], an inspector who talked about all the army brass that was there. He said that he had never seen that much Army Brass in his office ever before.
So all of this information is there. It’s just that no one has really looked. This is the most incredible coverup of the century. I can’t even believe it. It is mindboggling. But again, if anybody wants to go do the research, and we do live in an age of microwave society and everybody wants things like that (very quickly), but if anyone is serious about sitting down and going through this, they will come up with the same conclusions as we did and 12 other people did as well.
His brother, Martin Luther King III, said in part:
Certainly this has been a very, very long time coming. It essentially says that the truth can in fact come through. It essentially says that if you keep working forward, sometimes for some, even in the twilight, that one day you will reach the conclusion of truth. This could not have happened without a lot of people. I too, want to thank Dr. [William] Pepper and his team, who have been working on this for almost 20 plus years. I too, must thank my brother, who basically sat us down and had the courage to encourage us to take on this issue that we knew was going to be a process of maybe, attempting to discredit this family. Some people have said that we are crazy. Some have stated that we were trying to do other things. The only thing we have ever tried to do was to seek that which is true.
For a much more thorough overview of what really happened to Dr. Martin Luther King and who was behind his assassination, I highly recommend setting aside 70 minutes to watch the following speech by Dr. William F. Pepper. It is one of the most interesting speeches I’ve ever heard on any subject.(A transcript of a similar lecture can be read here if you’d prefer.)
Other key resources include:
- Complete Transcript of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassination Conspiracy Trial, November 15 to December 8, 1999, Memphis, Tennessee. Also mirrored The King Center (link at bottom of page), with a backup copy here (left click and “save as”).
- An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King – William F. Pepper’s 2003 follow-up to Orders to Kill
- “The Martin Luther King Conspiracy Exposed in Memphis” by Jim Douglass – Article originally published in the May-June 2000 issue of Probe magazine. Contains a good summary of the evidence with hyperlinks to sections of the trial transcript.
- Evidence of Revision – Part 6 of this series is a two hour documentary about King’s assassination. It contains many enlightening interviews and loads amazing archival footage. Also available on YouTube.
Why have most people never heard about this? In the conclusion of the video at the beginning of this article, Zwicker gives us the answer:
The trial, in effect, [was] boycotted by the media. That’s why you didn’t know about it. That’s why I didn’t know about it until three months ago through James Douglass. King recognized that powerful economic interests stunt history and kill hope. It’s important to understand that these powerful forces now include the ‘mainstream’ media.
Here are some recent examples of how the media has attempted to tell lies by omission about this case, and often leaves key information completely “down the memory hole”:
- Just last week, CNN published a fact sheet on MLK, which includes a timeline. Even though they themselves reported on the Dexter King/James Earl Ray meeting and aired it live on TV at the time, calling it “extraordinary,” this event is completely omitted from the timeline. So is any reference to William Pepper, the 1999 trial, Lloyd Jowers being found guilty of conspiring with “governmental agencies” to murder King and frame Ray, the King family’s statements, or any of the 70+ witnesses who the jury heard at the trial. Instead they flatly state that King was “assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, by James Earl Ray,” that James Earl Ray was “King’s assassin,” and that the Justice Department says that there is “no reliable evidence to support a conspiracy behind King’s murder.”
- Searching the New York Times website with Google reveals only one reference to the name Lloyd Jowers from 2000-2013, and that article does not even mention the trial at all, let alone his conviction, or that of other local and federal government agencies.
- CBS News has repeatedly run articles naming James Earl Ray as King’s killer and making key omissions about the trial. The omissions actually seem to be getting more and more egregious as time goes on. See for example:
1. “The MLK Case: A Timeline” (2009) – Mentions Jowers, the trial, and the King family’s support for Ray, yet says that the Jury ruled that “King was the victim of a murder conspiracy,” omitting the fact that it specifically named “governmental agencies” as being among the guilty parties — agencies which were listed by name throughout the trial, with evidence presented substantiating their involvement.
2. “James Earl Ray: Timeline”, (2009) – Mentions that James Earl Ray was acquitted in 1993 by a mock jury during an HBO special, but completely fails to mention that he was found innocent by a real jury in 1999.
3. “New Photos of King’s Killer Emerge” (2011) – Dubs Ray “King’s Killer” and completely omits any mention of the trial.
4. “Retracing the hunt for MLK’s killer” (2011) – Admits that Ray pled guilty to “avoid the death penalty” and spent his entire time in prison professing his innocence, yet completely fails to mention the trial or any of the evidence supporting his claim, and instead quotes “experts” calling him a liar.
- Last year, Fox News ran an entire article about Ray, “Ray doubted jury would believe an MLK conspiracy”. The article paints Ray as guilty, attempts to discredit his claims that he was duped into entering a guilty plea (which is mischaracterized as a “confession”), and attempts to discredit his claims of innocence. It is not until the very last sentence that they briefly allude to the fact that King’s own family is convinced of Ray’s innocence. No mention at all of Jowers, the trial, or any of the voluminous evidence and witness testimony pointing to a conspiracy involving the governmental agencies like the FBI & Memphis PD and Ray’s innocence.
This article was originally published on TheEndRun.com on January 25, 2013. If you appreciate the hard work that went into its production, please consider making a donation to The End Run today. Now on social media: Facebook, Twitter.
This post is tagged MLK