A Brief History
On March 10, 1969, James Earl Ray pled guilty to the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., he claimed he did not commit only 3 days later!
Digging deeper, we find the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. shot to death by a sniper on April 4, 1968 while standing on the balcony of his Memphis hotel.
In the ensuing frantic search for the perpetrator, a rifle owned by Ray was found across the street and Ray was quickly identified as a suspect. A convicted armed robber, Ray was an escapee from prison in 1967 with a 20 year prison sentence. Ray traveled to Toronto, got a Canadian passport under an alias, and flew to London. Trying to get a flight out of London, Ray was arrested on June 8, 1968 after 2 months on the lam. When arrested, Ray was found to have a second false passport under yet another alias.
Returned to Tennessee for the murder of MLK, Ray pled guilty on March 10, 1969 purportedly on the advice of his attorney to avoid a death by electrocution sentence.
Since Ray had 12 of his 20 year robbery sentence to serve anyway, and then whatever additional time he would get for escape, as well as whatever other crimes he committed buying the rifle and during his fleeing Memphis, he was looking at spending virtually all of his usable life in prison anyway. With the uproar, riots and outrage in the US over the MLK assassination, Ray or his attorney may well have felt a fair trial was impossible.
Although the evidence was overwhelming that Ray had at least something to do with the murder, Ray recanted his confession 3 days later and continued to profess his innocence until his death in 1998 from hepatitis C. Although never given a retrial, Ray had convinced the King family that there was a bigger conspiracy and he was the fall guy.
King’s family sued a Memphis restaurateur (Lloyd Jowers) for wrongful death for his alleged complicity in the conspiracy to murder MLK and won a verdict against Jowers!
Jowers had previously spoken publicly that there was a conspiracy to murder King and that a Memphis police officer fired the fatal shot!
Ballistics tests of the rifle owned by Ray recovered that fateful night did not prove that it was the murder weapon (or that it was not), and despite the obvious implications that Ray virtually had to have had assistance in making his flight from the scene (all the money spent, etc.) a congressional committee investigating the assassination found no conspiracy and that Ray had acted alone.
Another cracked aspect to the investigation of MLK’s murder is that the FBI was the investigating agency, even though it was well known that J. Edgar Hoover (FBI director) felt MLK was an enemy of the US and had maintained tight surveillance of him!
Some of the conspiracy theories about this incident center on the obvious bias of the FBI.
So, with ample reason to fear a death penalty and the prospect of spending most of his life in jail anyway, Ray had a logical reason to plead guilty even if he was not guilty.
Many factors point to Ray being only part of a bigger conspiracy and the government has sealed the records until 2027! Why??? What are they hiding?
Question for students (and subscribers): Would you plead guilty to a crime you did not commit? Who killed Martin Luther King, Jr.? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please read…
Barsten, Lyndon and John Larry Ray. Truth At Last: The Untold Story Behind James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Lyons Press, 2008.
Posner, Gerald. Killing the Dream : James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Random House, 1998.