The Truth about the Assassination of MLK

(Excerpted from Monumental Myths) I was about 2½ months old when it happened. On April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) was assassinated. The official story is that a single “lone nut” bumbling petty crook, James Earl Ray, was staying at a rooming house located at 422 South Main Street. In the back of this rooming house was a shared bathroom with a window that looked out onto the swimming pool of the Lorraine Motel.

Since the window in the bathroom was over his head, Ray stood on a bathtub and fired the shot that killed MLK. He then ran from the bathroom into the bedroom, bundled up the rifle and a bizarre collection of personal belongings into a blanket (ensuring that the rifle and belongings but not the bathroom door or the bedroom door had his fingerprints on them), ran the length of the rooming house (down a flight of stairs), dumped the bundle in the street, walked calmly to his waiting Mustang and drove away within the 90 seconds it took uniformed officers to reach the same location.

He drove off in his white Mustang and single-handedly evaded a police dragnet in Memphis, drove a conspicuous white Mustang all the way to Atlanta, then left the country and journeyed as far as Portugal before finally being apprehended in London’s Heathrow Airport on June 8, 1968 and charged with the assassination of MLK.  Or so the “official story” goes…


In 1968, there were already a large number of people who didn’t believe the official story that Lee Harvey Oswald had been the “lone nut assassin” of JFK. The previous chapter should have provided you with lots of “food” to chew on concerning the anomalies with the assassination of JFK. Not surprisingly, in light of the inquisitive atmosphere of the 1960s coupled with the incredulity concerning the official JFK story, public suspicions over the investigation of MLK’s death surfaced almost immediately.

Truth be told, there is no physical evidence to prove that James Earl Ray shot MLK, and Ray spent his life in prison based solely on a coerced confession which he immediately retracted. None of the ballistics tests, which were performed on the rifle Ray allegedly used, were able to link that rifle to the actual bullet that killed MLK. In addition to these facts, there is a long list of “odd” events surrounding the shooting.

As you read through this article, here are several questions to ponder.

  • How had so many police arrived so quickly on the scene (within moments of the shot being fired) yet failed to spot the assassin either arriving or departing?
  • If, as the police claimed, the shot had come from the bathroom window, why did several people claim to have seen a gunman in the bushes across the street?
  • Why were the bushes cut down the next morning?
  • What about the role of Lloyd Jowers (owner of Jim’s Grill)?
  • Did you know that there were army photographers on the roof of the fire station that photographed the entire assassination?
  • Did you know that the photographs are currently buried in the archives at the Department of Defense?

And you know why you did not know? Because there was never a police investigation of the MLK assassination. No house-to-house investigation. Neighbors as late as two weeks later stated “they never knocked on my door.” In thirty years, they never talked to the Captain who ran the fire station across the street.  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. Right next to the 86 FBI videos of what really hit the Pentagon on 9/11. Right next to Jimmy Hoffa.

Should the US government be allowed to assassinate its own citizens? April 4, 1968 is an excellent day to examine, since on that day, the US government was part of a successful conspiracy to assassinate MLK. That’s not just some kooky, wing-nut-job conspiracy theory. It’s not a theory at all. It is a fact, according to our legal system.

I bet you didn’t know that, did you?

That’s right. In 1999, in Shelby County, Tennessee, Lloyd Jowers was tried before a jury of his peers (made up equally of white and black citizens, if it matters) on the charge of conspiring to kill MLK. The jury heard testimony for a full month. On the last day of the trial, the attorney for the MLK family (which brought suit against Lloyd Jowers) concluded by saying: “We’re dealing in conspiracy with agents of the City of Memphis and the governments of the State of Tennessee and the United States of America. We ask you to find that conspiracy existed.”  It took the jury only 2½ hours to reach the verdict: Jowers and “others, including governmental agencies, were parties to this conspiracy.”

So let’s backtrack and take a few minutes to explore several facets of the assassination and see if we can determine why the 1999 jury ruled that Ray was not guilty and that the government (amongst others) was responsible for the murder of MLK.

The Bullet & Rifle

Within minutes after the shooting of MLK, a local police officer discovered a Remington 30-06 rifle, several unused bullets, and other effects that belonged to James Earl Ray, wrapped inside a blanket, outside Canipe’s Amusement store. The owner of the store recalled someone dropping the package at his door before the time of the assassination. Despite this evidence, it would be months before the FBI and police agencies began looking for escaped convict James Earl Ray as the alleged assassin of MLK.

The FBI told many dubious and inconsistent stories about their ballistics work in this case. They claimed that the rifle was not tested on retrieval to see if it had been fired that day, a simple and standard procedure, the omission of which strains credulity. I’d guess that it’s more likely that the test was done and the rifle was found not to have been fired. But that’s just my opinion.

Judge Joe Brown, who presided over two years of hearings on the rifle, testified that “…67% of the bullets from my tests did not match the Ray rifle.” He added that the unfired bullets found wrapped with it in a blanket were metallurgically different from the bullet taken from MLK’s body, and therefore were from a different lot of ammunition. And because the rifle’s scope had not been sited, Brown said, “this weapon literally could not have hit the broadside of a barn.” Holding up the Remington 30-06 rifle, Judge Brown told the jury, “It is my opinion that this is not the murder weapon.”

Perhaps the most telling evidence was the bullet fragment removed from the spine of MLK during an inadequate autopsy. The FBI tested this bullet fragment, along with the alleged murder weapon, in 1968, as did the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1976, with the same result. The fatal bullet could not be conclusively linked to the Remington 30-06 rifle purchased by James Earl Ray. Yet the evidence presented at Ray’s “trial” gave the impression that the bullet was proven to have been fired from the rifle.

The Eyewitnesses

There was much eyewitness evidence, at the time of the shooting, to suggest that the fatal shot that struck MLK did not come from the direction of a nearby rooming house bathroom window, thus James Earl Ray was not the killer.

Solomon Jones was MLK’s chauffeur in Memphis. The FBI document, dated April 13, 1968, says that after MLK was shot, when Jones looked across Mulberry Street into the brushy area, “he got a quick glimpse of a person with his back toward Mulberry Street. … This person was moving rather fast, and he recalls that he believed he was wearing some sort of light-colored jacket with some sort of a hood or parka.” When he was interviewed by the police at 11:30 PM on the day of the murder, Jones provided the same basic information concerning a person leaving the brushy area in a hurry.

Olivia Catling lived a block away from the Lorraine Motel on Mulberry Street.  Catling had planned to walk down the street the evening of April 4th in the hope of catching a glimpse of MLK at the motel. She testified that when she heard the shot a little after six o’clock, she said, “Oh, my God, Dr. King is at that hotel!” She ran with her two children to the corner of Mulberry and Huling streets, just north of the Lorraine. She saw a man in a checkered shirt come running out of the alley beside a building across from the Lorraine. The man jumped into a green 1965 Chevrolet just as a police car drove up behind him. He gunned the Chevrolet around the corner and up Mulberry past Catling’s house moving her to exclaim, “It’s going to take us six months to pay for the rubber he’s burning up!!”

The police, she said, ignored the man and blocked off a street, leaving his car free to go the opposite way. Catling later said that the man was definitely not James Earl Ray. She also testified that from her vantage point (the corner of Mulberry and Huling) she could see a fireman standing alone across from the motel when the police drove up. She heard him say to the police, “The shot came from that clump of bushes,” indicating the heavily overgrown brushy area facing the Lorraine and adjacent to the fire station.

Earl Caldwell was a New York Times reporter in his room at the Lorraine Motel the evening of April 4th. In videotaped testimony, Caldwell said he heard what he thought was a bomb blast at 6:00 PM. When he ran to the door and looked out, he saw a man crouched in the heavy part of the bushes across the street. The man was looking over at the Lorraine’s balcony. Caldwell wrote an article about the figure in the bushes but was never questioned about what he had seen by any authorities.

And the only person to ever identify James Earl Ray as having been at the rooming house (never mind shooting) at the time of the murder was Charlie Stephens, a man so drunk a cab driver even refused to take him anywhere that day. Imagine how drunk you’d have to be for a cab driver to refuse service!  Oh yes, did I mention that Stephens couldn’t identify Ray when he was later shown a photograph?  Did I mention that Stephens was the government’s “star witness” in a trial that resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of Ray in March 1969? Oh yeah. Put the pieces together folks.

Didn’t Ray Plead Guilty?

Yes, he did. The so-called trial took place suddenly on March 10, 1968 and, following a lengthy list of charges the state would have tried to prove, Ray pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99 years. He immediately petitioned for a new trial, which was denied. He eventually died in jail in 1998.

Since he’s dead, we can only speculate why James Earl Ray plead guilty, but certain anomalies stand out. Ray’s lawyers were Percy Foreman and Hugh Stanton (the Shelby County Public Defender). It is interesting to note that earlier Stanton had acted as lawyer to Charlie Stephens. Yep, the same Charlie Stephens that was the “star witness” for the prosecution. You know… the fellow who was too drunk to stand but then saw Ray running down the hallway, but then didn’t recognize Ray in a photograph. Apparently no one thought that Stanton representing the prosecution’s chief witness and the defendant was a “conflict of interest.”

In December 1967, Foreman proposed to prosecutor Phil Canale that Ray could be convinced to plead guilty in exchange for a slightly reduced sentence and no death penalty. But Ray would have none of it. And it took more than two months for him to cave in, despite all manner of tactics employed to pressure him and his family into agreeing. Notwithstanding the fact that most of the evidence was in Ray’s favor, Foreman told him there was a 100% chance he was going to be convicted and a 99% chance that he would get the death penalty.

Memphis Police Department “Weirdness”

Remember the Secret Service stand down with JFK? Despite the presence of numerous people engaged in the surveillance of MLK, apparently not one of them spotted the assassin arriving, shooting him, or escaping the scene. Given that the Memphis Police Department had in the past provided extensive security for MLK on previous visits and was aware of the vulnerability of the Lorraine Motel, it seems incredible that a contingent of police bodyguards assigned to MLK on his arrival should have been removed the day of the shooting, apparently without the knowledge of the police chief, Frank Holloman.

Just two hours before the assassination the MPD’s patrolling “TAC Units” (each comprising three cars) were pulled back five blocks from the vicinity of the Lorraine Motel. Police chief Holloman claimed that he did not know of that decision until afterwards. Furthermore, immediately after the shooting, no “All Points Bulletin” was issued. This would have ensured that the major escape routes out of Memphis were sealed. No satisfactory explanation has ever been provided for that failure.

In another bizarre incident, on the day of the assassination, an erroneous message was delivered by a Secret Service agent to the Memphis Police headquarters stating that there had been a death threat against a black police detective. The detective, Ed Redditt, was stationed at a surveillance post next to the Lorraine Motel. Shortly after the first message, a corrected message arrived saying that the threat was a hoax but the police intelligence officer who received it nevertheless, went to where Detective Redditt was stationed and ordered him to go home. This was two hours before the assassination. Why did the intelligence officer send Redditt home even though he knew the threat to be false?

The Pre-Crime, Crime Scene, and Clean Up

Leon Cohen, a retired New York City police officer, testified that in 1968 he had become friendly with the Lorraine Motel’s owner and manager, Walter Bailey (now deceased). On the morning after MLK’s murder, Cohen spoke with a visibly upset Bailey outside his office at the motel. Bailey told Cohen about a strange request that had forced him to change King’s room to the location where he was shot. Bailey explained that the night before MLK’s arrival he had received a call “from a member of Dr. King’s group in Atlanta.” The caller wanted the motel owner to change MLK’s room. Bailey said he was adamantly opposed to moving MLK, as instructed, from an inner court room behind the motel office (which had better security) to an outside balcony room exposed to public view.

Within hours of MLK’s assassination, the crime scene that witnesses were identifying to the Memphis police as a cover for the shooter had been “sanitized” by orders of the police. That’s right, much like the thousands of tons of steel at the 9/11 crime scene were quickly exported to China, so the crime scene at MLK’s murder was quickly cleaned up. In a 1993 affidavit from former SCLC official James Orange that was read into the record, Orange said that he “… noticed, quite early the next morning around 8 or 9 o’clock, that all of the bushes and brush on the hill were cut down and cleaned up. It was as though the entire area of the bushes from behind the rooming house had been cleared.”

Maynard Stiles, who in 1968 was a senior official in the Memphis Sanitation Department, confirmed that the bushes near the rooming house were cut down. At about 7:00 AM on April 5th, Stiles told the jury that he received a call from Memphis Police Department Inspector Sam Evans “requesting assistance in clearing brush and debris from a vacant lot in the vicinity of the assassination. … They went to that site, and under the direction of the police department, whoever was in charge there, proceeded with the clean-up in a slow, methodical, meticulous manner.” Within hours of MLK’s assassination, following orders from the Memphis Police, the crime scene that eyewitnesses were identifying as a cover for the shooter had been “sanitized.”

What happened to the rifle? William Hamblin tells a story he was told many times by his friend James McCraw, now deceased. McCraw was the taxi driver who arrived at the motel to pick up Charlie Stephens shortly before 6:00 PM on the day of the shooting. In a deposition read earlier to the jury, McCraw said he found Stephens in his room lying on his bed too drunk to get up, so he turned out the light and left without him. Amazingly, only a few minutes later (according the official myth), Stephens identified Ray as he was passing down the hall from the bathroom. McCraw also said the bathroom door next to Stephen’s room was standing wide open, and there was no one in the bathroom. Why is this important?  Because that was the bathroom where James Earl Ray was supposedly balancing on the tub as he was preparing to squeeze the trigger and kill MLK.

At the trial, Hamblin told the jury that he and McCraw were close friends for about 25 years. Hamblin said he probably heard McCraw tell the same rifle story 50 times, but only when McCraw had been drinking and had his defenses down. In that story, McCraw said that Loyd Jowers (the owner of Jim’s Grill in Memphis) had given him the rifle right after the shooting. According to Hamblin, “Jowers told him to get the [rifle] and get it out of here now. (McCraw) said that he grabbed his beer and snatched it out. He had the rifle rolled up in an oil cloth, and he leapt out the door and did away with it.” McCraw told Hamblin that he threw the rifle off a bridge into the Mississippi River.

Lloyd Jowers and the Mafia

In 1993, Lloyd Jowers told his story to Sam Donaldson on Prime Time Live. He said he had been asked to help in the murder of MLK and was told there would be a decoy (Ray) in the plot. He was also told that the police “wouldn’t be there that night.” Jowers said the man who asked him to help in the murder was a Mafia-connected produce dealer named Frank Liberto (now deceased) who had a courier deliver $100,000 for Jowers to hold at his restaurant (Jim’s Grill), the back door of which opened onto the dense bushes across from the Lorraine Motel. Jowers said he was visited the day before the murder by a man named Raul, who brought a rifle in a box.

Other witnesses testified to their knowledge of Liberto’s involvement in MLK’s murder.  Store-owner John McFerren said he arrived around 5:15 pm, April 4, 1968, for a produce pick-up at Frank Liberto’s warehouse in Memphis. When he approached the warehouse office, McFerren overheard Liberto on the phone inside saying, “Shoot the son-of-a-bitch on the balcony.”  Café-owner, Lavada Addison, a friend of Liberto’s in the late 1970s, testified that Liberto had told her he “had Martin Luther King killed.”

Addison’s son, Nathan Whitlock, when he learned of this conversation, asked Liberto point-blank if he had killed MLK. According to Whitlock, “(Liberto) said, ‘I didn’t kill the n*gger but I had it done.’ I said, ‘What about that other son-of-a-bitch taking credit for it?’ He says, ‘Ahh, he wasn’t nothing but a troublemaker from Missouri. He was a front man … a setup man.’”

Consider Myron Billett’s story. If the name sounds familiar, yes, this is the same Myron Billett (aka Paul Bucilli) that was present at the meeting the night before the assassination of JFK at the Carousel Club in Dallas. And yes, his boss, Mafia chief Sam Giancana, was also at the meeting, along with Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald. According to a June 1989 interview with Myron Billett, in early 1968, Sam Giancana asked Billett (his chauffeur) to drive him, and fellow mobster Carlos Gambino, to a meeting at a motel in upstate New York.

Other major Mafia figures from New York were there as well as three men who were introduced as representatives from the CIA and FBI. There were a number of subjects on the agenda, including Castro’s Cuba. According to Billett, one of the government agents offered the mobsters a million dollars for the assassination of MLK. Billett stated that Sam Giancana replied, “Hell no, not after you screwed up the Kennedy deal like that.” As far as Billett knows, no one took up the offer.

Billett relayed this information in an interview conducted just weeks before he died of emphysema. Given his condition, there appears to be no particular reason for him to lie. While his allegations are mentioned in the HSCA’s final report, it makes no judgment as to their validity – the HSCA report simply states that is was unable to corroborate his story.

The 1999 Trial

According to a Memphis jury’s verdict on December 8, 1999, in the wrongful death lawsuit of the King family versus Loyd Jowers “and other unknown co-conspirators,” MLK was assassinated by a conspiracy that included agencies of his own government. Almost 32 years after MLK’s murder at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968, a court extended the circle of responsibility for the assassination beyond the late scapegoat James Earl Ray to the United States government.

The trial took 30 days with 70 witnesses and 4,000 pages of transcript. During the trial, the jurors heard a tape recording of a two-hour-long confession Lloyd Jowers made at a fall 1998 meeting with MLK’s son (Dexter), former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, and Dr. William Pepper.  Jowers said that meetings to plan the assassination occurred at Jim’s Grill. He said planners included undercover Memphis Police Department officer Marrell McCollough (who now works for the CIA), Memphis Police Department Lieutentant Earl Clark (who died in 1987), a third police officer, and two men Jowers did not know but thought were federal agents. Jowers said that right after the shot was fired he received a smoking rifle at the rear door of Jim’s Grill from Clark. He broke the rifle down into two pieces and wrapped it in a tablecloth. A man named Raul picked it up the next day. Jowers said he didn’t actually see who fired the shot that killed MLK, but thought it was Clark, the MPD’s best marksman.

Who was Raul? One of the most significant developments in the Memphis trial was the emergence of the mysterious “Raul” through the testimony of a series of witnesses.  In a 1995 deposition by James Earl Ray that was read to the jury, Ray told of meeting Raul in Montreal in the summer of 1967, three months after Ray had escaped from a Missouri prison. According to Ray, Raul guided Ray’s movements, gave him money for the Mustang car and the rifle, and used both to set him up in Memphis. In other words, Raul was Ray’s “handler.” Andrew Young and Dexter King described their 1998 meeting with Jowers at which Dr. William Pepper had shown Jowers a spread of photographs, and Jowers picked out one as the person named “Raul” who brought him the rifle to hold at Jim’s Grill. Pepper displayed the same spread of photos in court, and Young and King pointed out the photo Jowers had identified as Raul. There were several other witnesses at the trial that identified Raul.

Testimony which juror David Morphy later described as “awesome” was that of former CIA operative Jack Terrell, a whistle-blower in the Iran-Contra scandal. Terrell, who was dying of liver cancer in Florida, testified by videotape that his close friend J.D. Hill had confessed to him that he had been a member of an Army sniper team in Memphis assigned to shoot “an unknown target” on April 4, 1968. After training for a triangular shooting, the snipers were on their way into Memphis to take up positions in a water tower and two buildings when their mission was suddenly cancelled. Hill said he realized, when he learned of MLK’s assassination the next day, that the team must have been part of a contingency plan to kill King if another shooter failed.

Terrell said Hill was shot to death. His wife was charged with shooting Hill (in response to his drinking), but she was not indicted. From the details of Hill’s death, Terrell thought the story about Hill’s wife shooting him was a cover, and that his friend had been assassinated. In an interview, Terrell said the CIA’s heavy censorship of his book Disposable Patriot included changing the paragraph on J.D. Hill’s death, so that it read as if Terrell thought Hill’s wife was responsible. Wow. That’s pretty damning evidence, if you ask me!

Another witness was Walter Fauntroy, MLK’s colleague and a 20-year member of Congress. In an April 4, 1997 article printed in the Atlanta Constitution, Fauntroy had said that he believed “Ray did not fire the shot that killed King and was part of a larger conspiracy that possibly involved federal law enforcement agencies.” Later on, when Fauntroy talked about his decision to write a book about what he’d uncovered since the assassination committee closed down, he was promptly investigated and charged by the Department of Justice (DoJ) with having violated his financial reports as a member of Congress. His lawyer told him that he could not understand why the DoJ would bring up a charge on the technicality of one misdated check. Fauntroy said he interpreted the DoJ’s action to mean: “Look, we’ll get you on something if you continue this way … I just thought: I’ll tell them I won’t go and finish the book, because it’s surely not worth it.”

At the conclusion of his testimony, Fauntroy also spoke about his fear of an FBI attempt to kill James Earl Ray when he escaped from Tennessee’s Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in June 1977. Congressman Fauntroy had heard reports about an FBI SWAT team having been sent into the area around the prison to shoot Ray and prevent his testifying at the HSCA hearings. Fauntroy asked HSCA chair Louis Stokes to alert Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton to the danger to the HSCA’s star witness and Blanton’s most famous prisoner. When Stokes did, Blanton called off the FBI SWAT team, Ray was caught safely by local authorities, and in Fauntroy’s words, “we all breathed a sigh of relief.”

The 1999 trial (of course) was not covered, with very few exceptions. As a matter of fact, you’ve probably never even heard of it. But there was a narrow window of about 12 hours where there was some minor reporting. And then it just all went away and has never been heard of again. Except wherever it was raised, critics would start attacking, even though none of them had actually been there at the trial. In typical fashion, the critics attacked the judge. They attacked the defense counsel. They attacked the jury. They attacked the King family. They name-called. They mocked. They buried the story. Edwin Bernays would have been proud…

Drawing Some Conclusions

Perhaps the lesson of the MLK assassination is that our government understands the power of nonviolence better than we do, or better than we want to. In the spring of 1968, when MLK was marching, he was determined that massive, nonviolent civil disobedience would end the domination of democracy by corporate and military power. The “powers that be” took MLK seriously. They dealt with him in Memphis.

According to Dr. William Pepper who wrote the amazing book, An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King: “The assassination of Martin King was a part of what amounted to an on-going covert program in which they tried to suppress dissent and disruption in America.” Much of the information in this chapter was gleaned from Pepper’s book. I also obtained copious amounts of information from The Murder of Martin Luther King Jr. by John Edginton and John Sergeant.
A plethora of this chapter’s contents came from an article by Jim Douglass in the Spring 2000 issue of Probe Magazine, entitled “The Martin Luther King Conspiracy Exposed in Memphis.” Douglass was one of only two reporters who attended the 1999 trial in Memphis from start to finish.  Writing in the spring of 2000, he stated, “Thirty-two years after Memphis, we know that the government that now honors Dr. King with a national holiday also killed him.

Let’s summarize: Under US Civil Law, covert US government agencies were found guilty of the assassination of MLK, who was the leading figure of the Civil Rights Movement, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest speakers for what it means to be human. The King family’s conclusion as to motive was to prevent MLK from ending the Vietnam War because the government wanted to continue its ongoing covert and overt military operations to control foreign governments and their resources.

It is therefore a factual statement that under US Civil Law, the US government assassinated MLK.