Nearly 45 years ago, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee. James Earl Ray, a fugitive on the run, was arrested in London and extradited to Tennessee. He confessed to MLK's murder and was sentenced to 99 years in Tennessee state penitentiary where he died in 1998.

Three days after his confession he recanted, spending the rest of his life trying to clear his name and obtain a retrial.

Martin Luther King's son, Dexter King met with James Earl Ray and publicly supported his efforts to obtain retrial.

The King family and others believe that the assassination was carried out by a conspiracy involving the US government, and that James Earl Ray was a scapegoat. This conclusion was affirmed by a jury in a 1999 civil trial.

Jesse Jackson, who was with King at the time of his death noted:

…I will never believe that James Earl Ray had the motive, the money and the mobility to have done it himself. Our government was very involved in setting the stage for and I think the escape route for James Earl Ray.

King's wife made a similar claim:

At a 1999 press conference following the verdict, Coretta Scott King stated that "there is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr... 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."

Loyd Jowers, a business owner close to the Lorraine Motel, made a similar claim:

In December 1993, Loyd Jowers appeared on ABC's Prime Time Live and related the details of an alleged conspiracy involving the Mafia and the U.S. government to kill King. According to Jowers, James Earl Ray was a scapegoat, and not involved in the assassination. Jowers believed that Memphis police officer Lieutenant Earl Clark fired the fatal shot.

Following statements by Dexter King and other family members, Dexter was subsequently asked by a reporter, "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." He replied:

"No, he [Mr. Lloyd Jowers] 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".

Everyone (Ray, the King family, witnesses and those close-by) claims James Earl Ray was a scapegoat. Most point to government (police or special forces) or mafia (hitman) involvement, and possibly both.

So who actually killed MLK?

  • 2
    All the reports I've seen point to Ray, petty criminal, prison escapee, racist, gun owner, frequent liar. E.g.. I think it would be a better question if you edit it to provide a reference to a specific notable claim of which you are skeptical. – RedGrittyBrick Feb 22 '13 at 11:29
  • The plumbers handled that... – Chad Feb 22 '13 at 18:07
  • @RedGrittyBrick I've added additional counter claims from the King family and witnesses. – Coomie Feb 25 '13 at 0:57
  • 4
    Can this really be answered here? – vikki Feb 26 '13 at 17:57
  • I think this question is too broad. – Einenlum Oct 8 '15 at 21:48

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