Was James Earl Ray Martin Luther King's Killer? Doubts Remain

Was James Earl Ray Martin Luther King's Killer? Doubts Remain

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, 40 years ago on 4 April 1968.

A year later, James Earl Ray admitted to being the assassin. Because of that guilty plea there was no full trial. But Ray changed his story almost at once and until his death in 1998 insisted he did not murder Dr King. So was he the killer? And if so, did he work alone?

Who was James Earl Ray? When he died in 1998, CNN posted a series of biographical information and interviews with Ray's attorney William Pepper.

He died of liver failure at 10:36 a.m. CDT (11:36 a.m. EDT) at Columbia Nashville Memorial Hospital, a statement from the Tennessee Department of Correction said.

Ray, who fought without success to have his name cleared, spent his last days in a coma at a Nashville hospital. He had been in and out of intensive care for more than a year with cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease.

Martin Luther King's family believed Ray
was not the killer. In 1997 Ray met with King's son, Dexter to talk about the murder:

Ray came as close as he ever would to being absolved in King's assassination in a March 1997 meeting with one of the civil rights leader's sons, Dexter King.

"I had nothing to do with shooting your father," Ray told King.

Later, King asked Ray directly, "I want to ask for the record: did you kill my father?"

"No, I didn't, no, no," Ray said.

"I believe you, and my family believes you, and we will do everything in our power to see you prevail," King replied.

Many believe King's assassination was a government conspiracy. Crime Library collects the theories.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson says it's a plot: "I have always believed that the government was part of a conspiracy, either directly or indirectly, to assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," he wrote in the forward to James Earl Ray's autobiography Who Killed Martin Luther King Jr.? Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young believes the government was responsible for King's death, as well. "I've always thought the FBI might be involved in some way," he said. "You have to remember this was a time when the politics of assassination was acceptable in this country. It was during the period just before Allende's murder. I think it's naïve to assume these institutions were not capable of doing the same thing at home or to say each of these deaths (King and the two Kennedys) was an isolated incident by 'a single assassin.' It was government policy."

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