Environmentalists Against War & Coretta Scott King et al – 2019-01-20 19:37:04
The Hidden History of MLK’s Murder Conspiracy Trial
Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War
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.
— Coretta Scott King
In 1976, lawyer William Pepper began an investigation of the 1968 assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Pepper’s research uncovered a conspiracy that involved US government, military and intelligence operatives. The alleged assassin, James Earl Ray, insisted on his innocence and claimed he had been set up as a “patsy.”
In 1999, at the behest of the King family, Pepper embarked on a historic four-week trial that presented jurors with reams of documentation and the sworn testimony of 70 individuals, including several who confessed to peripheral roles in the conspiracy to murder Dr. King.
It was claimed that King was targeted because his growing criticism of the Vietnam War and his campaign to challenge the powerful military-industrial complex in turn the country’s attention — and financial resources — towards curing the problems of racial inequality, poverty, and injustice.
It took a jury of 12 only an hour to render its verdict, finding that James Earl Ray was innocent and that the actual agents of Dr. King’s murder remained to be publicly identified and held accountable. An appeal to the US Department of Justice to follow up on the disclosures of this historic trail has gone unanswered for 50 years.
Here is an edited version of the transcript of the public statements made by William Pepper and members of Dr. King’s family following the conclusion of the trial. For more information on the trial, click here.
Transcription of the King Family Press Conference
On the MLK Assassination Trial Verdict
Coretta Scott King et al
ATLANTA, Georgia (December 9, 1999) — CORETTA SCOTT KING: 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.
As we pursued this case, some wondered why we would spend the time and energy addressing such a painful part of the past. For both our family and the nation, the short answer is that we had to get involved because the system did not work. Those who are responsible for the assassination were not held to account for their involvement.
This verdict, therefore, is a great victory for justice and truth. It has been a difficult and painful experience to revisit this tragedy, but we felt we had an obligation to do everything in our power to seek the truth. Not only for the peace of mind of our family but to also bring closure and healing to the nation. We have done what we can to reveal the truth, and we now urge you as members of the media, and we call upon elected officials, and other persons of influence to do what they can to share the revelation of this case to the widest possible audience.
I know that this has been a difficult case for everyone involved. I thank the jury and Judge Swearington for their commitment to reach a just verdict, I want to also thank our attorneys, Dr. William Pepper and his associates for their hard work and tireless dedication in bringing this case to justice. Dr. Pepper has put many years of his life, as well as his financial resources, into this case. He has made significant personal sacrifices to pursue the search for the truth about my husband’s assassination.
I want to thank my son Dexter, who showed great courage and perseverance and who took a lot of unmerited and personal attacks so we could get to the truth about the assassination. And I want to thank my other children, Yolanda, Martin and Bernice who have kept the faith, refused to become embittered and have remained steadfast in their efforts to pursue the truth of their father’s assassination.
My husband once said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Today, almost 32 years after my husband and the father of my four children was assassinated, I feel that the jury’s verdict clearly affirms this principle. With this faith, we can begin the 21st century and the new millennium with a new spirit of hope and healing.
* * *
DEXTER KING: 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 12 individual jurors to bear 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 12. I want to make a special thanks to Dr. William Pepper, for really if it were not for his efforts, we would not have known about this. We really would not have gotten involved. 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.
And I just want to state for the record for once and for all, that those of you in the media who may innocently be reporting that inaccuracy, you know, because you may be legitimately ignorant about the facts, I want to clear that up now. Those of you who may be a part of the media manipulation, you too can hear this. The word that always comes forth first, that James Earl Ray confessed, is not true. He never confessed. He plea-bargained. Any of you that understand the legal process understand that plea bargain is no t the same as a confession. Why? Essentially it is put forth in an effort to get a lenient sentence. Also, it is an admission to having committed the crime.
The second thing, is that 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 patsy. That Lloyd Jowers, along with his coconspirators, that the jury also concluded involved state, local and federal agencies. I want to be clear about that, because you keep hearing duplicitous reports. I also want to put to rest for once and for all, that no one is qualified to speak on this case except the people who were there, the jurors, the family and, of course, the legal team. Just because someone says they marched with Dr. King does not make them an authority on this subject, whether they are political conduits or government publicists who continue to recycle these lies and continue to discredit this family. This is what happened to my father.
There is a very distinct process or protocol that happens when there is an issue of national security. First, there is an attempt to discredit ones 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.
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 thank God for democracy. There is still in America a system, even with all of its shortcomings, that in some cases justice can be achieved. So we believe that this verdict speaks to that last bastion of this democracy. Where 12 independent people could hear something and that you and I am also given the opportunity to hear and to know. So in that regard we celebrate.
Finally, we know that because this has occurred after 32 years, we can finally move on with our lives. 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 12 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 fat her?” I have been hearing that all of my life. No, I don’t. This is the end of it. Thank you.
* * *
WILLIAM PEPPER: Ladies and Gentlemen, this great republic has throughout it’s history, has been afraid to face the issues that Martin Luther King tried to confront at the end of his life. Dexter King said quite frankly, that Martin King opposed the war in Vietnam, and sought to bring the poor to Washington to rally for their cause in the halls of Congress. They took up tents in the shadow of the Washington Memorial to remind the lawmakers that forces of power in this land that do exist, and they have rights which were being denied to them.
Because he took on those forces, powerful economic forces that dominated politics in this land, they killed him. He was killed because he could not be stopped. He was killed because they feared that half a million people would rise in revolution in the capitol of this country, and do what Mr. Jefferson said needed to be done every 20 years, to cleanse this land. This land has not been cleansed. This nation has not faced the problems that Martin Luther King, Jr. died trying to face and confront. They still exist today, the forces of evil, the powerful economic forces that dominate the government of this land and make money on war and deprive the poor of what is their right, their birthright. They still abound and they rule.
The jury heard the background of Dr. King’s crust. They understood, finally, the reason why he was stained. He was not a civil rights leader when he was stained. He was an international figure of great stature. He had a moral banner that he was waving and it was heard and seen all over the land. Here and in Europe, Southeast Asia. He had that kind of compelling presence. He was a danger and a threat to the status quo. So he was eliminated.
What the jury also heard, from all of those witnesses for almost four weeks, was that he was assassinated because of the removal of the all police protection when he was in the city of Memphis. Even Black Firemen were taken away. His body guard staff were removed. Attack forces were moved back. On and on it went. And then the Mafia involvement with Jowers was put forth in excruciating detail of how this was planned and who was behind this.
The man who controlled James Earl Ray was identified by independent witnesses from spreads of photographs they had seen. Like a British journalist showed a photograph of this man to his daughter and she said anybody could get this photo of my father identifying him heading others. A Portuguese journalist met with the family and was told how the government of the United States was protecting this man. Now, in their homes protecting their phones. Who is this person? Who is this person that the government continues to protect? Against what kind of assault?
Then the proof goes into the broader conspiracy. The fact that had you known that there were photographers on the roof of the fire station. Had you known that two army photographers were on the roof of the fire station photographing everything. Two cameras, one on the balcony and one whisking around the driveway and into the brush area. Did you know ladies and gentlemen that the assassination was photographed? That there were photographs buried in the archives at the Department of Defense? No you did not know. And you know why you did not know? Because there was no police investigation in this case. No house to house investigation.
Neighbors as late as two weeks later stated “they never knocked on my door, now let me tell you what I saw.” And she takes the stand and she tells what she saw. She tells that she saw a fireman tell the police that the shot came from those bushes there, and the police ignored him. Seeing a man run from an alley and get into a car and is whipped away right in front of the police. And the police not bothering a t all to stop him.
No, no, no, you did not know about any of this did you? They didn’t talk to the Captain who ran the fire station. No one talked to that man in thirty years. He put the photographers up there. He took the stand and stated, “yeah I put them up there. They showed me credentials saying they wanted to take pictures.” Where are those pictures? That proof has existed for all of these years.
It’s there. It has been buried.
The tragedy of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. is a tragedy for this family here. This family in my view is America’s first family because of their struggle and for what they have stood for, going back for generations, going back to 1917, the first world war period, this family was under surveillance by military intelligence back then. Up to the present time they have been feared. So that is a tragedy for this family. It is a tragedy for this nation and to the world that this man was taken from us when he was.
The third tragedy was the failure of representative democracy to deal with this as a political act. This type of act which was covered up. How was it covered up? Well, the jury heard evidence as to how it was covered up for 31 years. And ladies and gentlemen, the evidence they heard ranged from murder, murder of a poor innocent cab driver who was putting luggage into a taxi cab in the driveway of the
Loraine Motel and who saw the shooter come down over the wall, run down Mulberry Street and get into a waiting Memphis Police traffic car to be driven away.
He told his dispatcher, “Oh, they got the killer. I saw him being driven away in a Memphis Police Department traffic car.” What happened to that poor taxi cab driver? He was interviewed by the police that night and they found his body the next morning.
NO record of that death exists. NO record exists. If we had not found people whom he had told that story, who heard him on the very night, we would have never known about this.
Then we have to go to the directories and find out who was his wife and who he was. To see his listings in the directories in 66 and 67, and then in 68, see “Betty” his widow. He is dead, he is gone and he is history. So it goes from murder, down through bribery. James Earl Ray was offered large sums of money on two occasions: when he was in prison and a pardon if he would plead guilty. He did not do it.
There was evidence of attempted assassination of James when he was in prison. Evidence was produced of how they tried to get rid of James, how they tried to kill him when he was in prison. We went all through all of that.
Then, ladies and gentlemen, the media. Because this could not have been covered up without the help of the media. This is not a condemnation of the good works of journalists who come and write stories and put them through to your editors and watch them publish, or television cameramen who do your jobs as you are supposed to do it. It has to do with forces that ultimately decide what gets on the air, what gets in print and what the slant is.
So we put Bill Shat who is one of the leading experts on media this information and propaganda used by government on the stand, and he explained in detail how governments have done this historically and how they have done it down to the present time. He explained how they took this family on when they decided they were going to come out for a trial for James Earl Ray. And how they took Martin King on when he came out against the war in Vietnam.
And remember, when Dr. King came out against that war, it made everyone come out against him. The media attacked him like there was no tomorrow. Just like the media attacked his family like there is no tomorrow when they did what was right. It is the job of the media to disclose. Not the job to hide.
This has been covered up, it has been hidden all of these years. Now the jury has spoken. And what did the verdict say? And they are going to be trotted out and here comes the spins, “Oh the Judge was asleep during a lot of the trial and he didn’t hear a lot of the evidence. Oh there was a lot of hearsay there.” Not mentioning the admissions against interest are omitted if there is hearsay.
One thing after another like this by people who have never seen him, who have never heard him, who are not interested in the efforts, but who have got a locked in position that says that there was a lone assassin and that is always the way it is going t o be. Well let us hope that together we can somehow make a step so that we can end this nonsense. We can end this nonsense. We can end this cover up. We can say for once and for all that a jury has spoken. They heard everything. If there is any decency left in this system, it is the fact that you can get 12 people who can hear what other people have to say, they can review documents, there are about 50 exhibits that they were able to review, and they can make up their own minds.
The defense tried several times to have the case dismissed. The Judge refused. So it did go to a jury and that jury has spoken. Let’s hope this is a forum, which we can say, is healing. We have reached the truth. The family is satisfied. What the government does, the government can do.
The government may do now what it has never done before. If they want to take it up now, let them take it up. The real, real ongoing, almost criminal aspect of the case that still exists, is the fact that this family privately had to do what the government has not done and would not do.
Make no mistake about it, all the evidence that was heard in that court over the course of the last 30 days has been available for 32 years. It has been there right in front of them. All they had to do was look, ask questions, believe credible people who were willing to talk to them, and not further go away because there were black shop owners and they didn’t know what they heard when he heard the man say, shoot the son of a B when he comes on the balcony. . . .
We have at last obtained justice. Martin King was always fond of saying in moments of trial, that truth crushed to earth, no matter how much it is crushed, will always rise again. Ladies and Gentlemen, in that courtroom yesterday in Memphis, Tennessee, finally that truth crushed to earth rose again. Today we acknowledge that truth.
* * *
DEXTER KING: I want to thank all of you for being so patient and for coming out to cover this. At this moment, we have now ended our formal statements and would now like to open it up for questions. . . .
Answer to Question: No, no, Mr. Jowers did name names. That is another misnomer. Why is there so much misinformation. The only thing I can say is that if anybody wants to really take time they should read these transcripts.
Ironically, I happen to get a call from Mr. Jowers on my way over here on my cell phone. He called to basically say that he wanted the family to know and to express to you, Mother Dear, that he never wanted nor intended any harm to us and that he is glad this is off of his chest. He is glad the jury ruled the way they did. He said that his attorney does not even know that I am talking to you, and I don’t care. I don’t have much longer and I don’t care what is going to happen to me now. He is very afraid of an indictment. That is the reason he was never willing to come forward. Dr. Pepper kept telling him that he did not have to worry, because they do not want the truth, so you are not going to get indicted. If they indict you, that will throw away all the “official” story, which we now know is not.
Question: 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 t here 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 the Captain of the Firehouse, which Atty. 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, 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 t his information is there. It’s just that no one has really looked. This is the most incredible cover up of the century. I can’t even believe it. It is mindboggling. But again, if anybody wants to go do the research . . . they will come up with the same conclusions as we did and 12 other people did as well.
Question: So the family doesn’t necessarily want to see those people spend time in jail?
Dexter King: No, we were never in this for a retribution of justice. We follow the spirit of our loved one. He forgave the woman who almost took his life, if you recall, when he was stabbed. . . .
We are never looking to put people in jail. What we are looking to do is cleanse the society because these ills still exist. Just as my sister stated so eloquently, it is not who killed Martin Luther King, Jr., but what killed him and why was he killed. He was killed because he was addressing injustices that today still have not been addressed.
So once again, we want to thank each and every one of you for coming out. We are hopeful about whatever the powers that be decide, but that is on them. But we caution you, be wary. You will be hearing attacks that the family is in this for money. I can tell you and I can show you the receipts. We have spent a lot of money. And we have lost a lot of money because of this. There is no gain. As you know, the verdict rendered a small, nominal sum. We requested a hundred dollars because there had to be some damages, because it was a wrongful death suit. We did that because we were never in this for money. We spent money. We had to pay for some 70 odd witnesses to appear and all their expenses. . . .
Question: Can you tell us something from your conversation this morning with Mr. Jowers?
Dexter King: He simply stated that he wanted me to know, as well as my family and my mother he asked me about my mother), that he is sorry for all of this. But he said that he is glad that it turned out the way it did. He said what happens, happens. That he does not know what will happen to him as he gets to his age. He is still fearful as a result of all of this that he is going to go to prison.
The first time I met with him, that was the first thing he was concerned about. He said, “I don’t want to go to jail. I am an old man and I am so afraid.” Even though the Justice Department granted him federal immunity, he is concerned and worried about the issue of state immunity, the state of Tennessee. We assured him that if that were the case, we would certainly make a stand to grant immunity. We would support that kind of thing.
Question: Did he say anything in this conversation about his role in the assassination?
Dexter King: Well not in this conversation, but on several other occasions. At least two occasions that I met with him.
At another time, he actually called names. It was somewhat of a confessional thing, because he would call me sometimes late into the evening just to talk. You could tell it was a cleansing process. Why does a person who is almost, you know, terminal in a sense . . . even James Earl Ray was offered a liver transplant he would’ve just said that he did it. Why would someone take that to their graves? Especially if they had a chance to have a little more life?
Question: This is to Mr. Pepper. Was there anything that came out in the trial that you didn’t know about?
William Pepper: Lydia Cayton came forward when the trial was about to begin. She lived just down the street from the Lorraine Motel. On the afternoon of the shooting, she heard the shots and grabbed her two children and ran down to the corner, about 8 minutes after the shooting.
One of her neighbors stood with her. She was the one who saw a man run from an alley that connected to a building of the rooming house, and get into a Chevrolet Corvair and drive around the corner, while the police stood there on the corner of Mulberry. She also saw a fireman screaming at the police that a shot came from the bushes.
Ms. Cayton’s evidence and courage is very important. The courage of the Fire Department Captain to come forward and talk about putting the photographers up on the roof. These people were concerned and frightened. That I think was significant.
The testimony of the main witness who talked to the cab driver who was killed, Louis Ward. And the taxi driver who talked about the network television team, who drove to the airport after they had given Mr. Jowers a lie detector test. This was very important. They gave Mr. Jowers a lie detector test at one point, and you will hear that Mr. Jowers failed the lie detector test . . . .
Another cab driver and security guard, who lived another 15 years, a man called James McGraw, came forward and he tried not to testify, but eventually he did. He said, that a close friend of Mr. Jowers got drunk and every time he was intoxicated over a period of 15 years, and they lived together, he would always go back to one thing he did, that he, McGraw, after the assassination, was told by Jowers to take this rifle and get rid of it.
He threw it off of the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge into the Mississippi River. That is where the murder weapon has lain for 32 years. McGraw said he would never talk about it when he was sober, always when he got drunk and the details were always the same. Always the same. He found him credible and McGraw was very close with Jowers.
That is the kind of evidence that emerged as the trial went on. The jury found all of this persuasive . . . .
The man who headed the Protective Unit for Dr. King was never informed of the last visit. He stated that they were told to protect him every time he came in early, but not the last time. The man who learned about the change in Dr. King’s [location]. that he was supposed to be in room 201, a courtyard room. That was then changed to room 206, which was an exposed balcony room.
Then there is the whole thing about the bushes . . . the bushes. So many witnesses saw figures in the bushes and the shooter coming down over the bushes and running. You know the next morning at 7 o’clock, Inspector Sam Evans, from the Memphis Police Department pulled Maynard Styles, the Administrator of the Public Works Department and told Mr. Styles to get a team out there and cut those bushes down. At seven a.m., on the 5th of April, a team is sent to cut down the bushes.
Now what does that mean in police terms? It means that you have totally devastated and changed the scene of a crime so that it is never the same. If there are no bushes, there can be no sniper. So that is the kind of thing that they did. This unfolded throughout.
The most moving testimony was probably that of a former government operative, a very credible guy of the National Security Council, who is now dying of liver cancer. His best friend was on the sniper unit, 20 Special Forces team there. He told how he learned about that unit and how they were assigned and what they were to do from his buddy back in the seventies. His testimony was riveting, even though it was on a screen, because he was dying from liver cancer and could not attend.
There is so much evidence that emerged in the court about a whole range of activity that, if I summarize, I am going to leave something out. I encourage anyone who is interested to go and review the records, to digest the records and look over them, and the exhibits that are all available. There are certain military documents and certain names in there, even some of my working papers are available . . . .
We have come to the end of a long road. I encourage you to go and put questions to whoever you want to in government, for it is now in the hands of the government to do whatever they will do. Hopefully, it will not be to continue covering this up. But I would have to be skeptical of any other result.
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