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HERE'S THE ACTUAL TRANSCRIPT OF THAT TRIAL IN THE
FOR THE THIRTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT AT
CORETTA SCOTT KING, et al,
Vs. Case No. 97242
LOYD JOWERS, et al,
EXCERPT OF PROCEEDINGS
December 8th, 1999
Before the Honorable James E. Swearengen,
Division 4, judge presiding.
DANIEL, DILLINGER, DOMINSKI, RICHBERGER, WEATHERFORD COURT REPORTERS
Suite 2200, One Commerce Square
21 Memphis, Tennessee 38103
For the Plaintiff:
DR. WILLIAM PEPPER
Attorney at Law
New York City, New York
For the Defendant:
MR. LEWIS GARRISON
attorney at Law
Court Reported by:
MR. BRIAN F. DOMINSKI
Certificate of Merit
Registered Professional Reporter
Daniel, Dillinger, Dominski, Richberger & Weatherford 22nd Floor
One Commerce Square
Memphis, Tennessee 38103
THE COURT: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We've got two
more depositions that we're going to -- no. As I promised you, we're going into
the arguments of counsel, and then you'll get your instructions.
As I indicated to you earlier, the plaintiff would give his summary first.
The defendant then would give his version, and then the plaintiff is allowed an
opportunity to respond to the defendant's arguments.
Mr. Pepper, you may proceed.
MR. PEPPER: Thank you, Your Honor. Good morning, ladies and
gentlemen. Let me right at the out set thank you for your attention throughout
these proceedings, long and sometimes tedious though they may have been. We're
very grateful for your sitting here and listening to the variety of evidence
that you have heard.
Your Honor will charge you on the various aspects of evidence that you heard.
You know you've heard a great deal of testimony here. You also have available to
you a great number of exhibits that are attached to the testimony that you have
We urge you to at any point require these exhibits to be brought to you so
that you can read them and consider them at length. All the testimony, the
various levels of credibility that you describe, his Honor will charge you with
that, but it is really down to you at the end of the day as to how much you
believe the various people who sat in that chair there and who told you things.
The media is very quick and prompt to say and yell out that such and such is
hearsay, second-hand accounts, third-hand accounts. But the media is unable to
tell you, ever course, what the law is with respect to hearsay evidence.
They think because something is hearsay, a person is saying what another
person has said, that it is not to be regarded, it is to be dismissed. In actual
fact, ladies and gentlemen, if a witness is giving you hearsay but the hearsay
statement is from a person who is speaking against his own interest, saying
something that could put him in jail in the case of the defendant here, could
have him indicted, then that is to be taken very seriously. It is admissible
because of that exception. There are a range of other exceptions why you can
Now, it is my job, my role here this morning, to summarize the plaintiffs'
case. It is a case that is divided really into nine sections. In the course of
presenting that case to you, we've taken witnesses out of order simply because
they have come from various parts of the country and the world.
We've had problems with schedules. So at one time you would hear a witness
talking to you about a rifle, a murder weapon in evidence, then another time you
would hear a witness talking about a crime scene, and we had already gone over
that. So it is difficult for you sometimes perhaps to put all those pieces
together in an orderly fashion. That's really what I have to do. I have to try
to do that. I have to set it out so that you can see how this case folds
together. I'm going to try to work with you on that this morning and try to help
you understand it as best I can. Plaintiffs' case began with a section that
dealt with the background, the background of all of this, why you are here, why
Martin King was assassinated, why he came to
before he was assassinated. So it dealt with the background.
Then we moved with a second area concerned which was local conspiracy we
called it, what was happening here in
, what events were going on that constituted conspiracy, legally civil
conspiracy under the law. Because that's really what we are asking you to find
is that there was a conspiracy here.
Thirdly, we dealt with the crime scene. What was this crime scene all about.
Where was the crime scene? What happened there?
Fourthly, we went into the rifle. This is the murder weapon. We discussed the
murder weapon and asked you to consider all the evidence with respect to the
murder weapon. We move next to a shadowy figure called Raoul. Who is this man
who was claimed to have been James Earl Ray's controller and the role that he
played in this case?
Then we move beyond that to what we have called a broader conspiracy beyond
that reached into the higher levels of the government of the
and some of its agents and officials. We moved through that with you. We went
beyond that, then, into really what amounts to a cover up. What was the cover-up
activity and why was it important and why have these events been shielded
from public view so that only you, you twelve, fourteen,
here day after day, and his Honor, alone perhaps in this broad land, have heard
How could that be, a case as important as this? How could that be? But it has
been the case. Then we considered the defendant's admissions, the defendant --
the named defendant in this case, his actual admissions, against his own
interest and what is in evidence with respect to that.
We moved lastly really to the area of damages. And there was a fair amount of
testimony on damages from the members of the family with respect to what they
were looking for and what their perspective was in terms of any kind of
remuneration for the loss that they have suffered.
So that's the outline. Now let's look at each of those sections, if we can.
First the background. Martin King, as you know, for many years was a Baptist
preacher in the southern part of this country, and he was thrust into leadership
of the civil rights movement at a historic moment in the civil rights movement
and social change movement in this part of the country. That's where he was.
That's where he has been locked in time, locked in a media image, locked as an
icon in the brains of the people of this country.
But Martin King had moved well beyond that. When he was awarded the Noble
Peace Prize he became in the mid-1960's an international figure, a person of
serious stature whose voice, his opinions, on other issues than just the plight
of black people in the South became very significant world-wide. He commanded
world-wide attention as few had before him. As a successor, if you will, to
Mahatmas Gandhi in terms of the movement for social change through civil
disobedience. So that's where he was moving. Then in 1967, April 4, 1967, one
year to the day before he was killed, he delivered the momentous speech at
where he opposed the war.
Now, he thought carefully about this war. He had been inclined to oppose it
for quite a long period of time. Prior to that, two, three years prior to that
he had uneasy feelings.
I remember vividly, I was a journalist in Vietnam, when I came back he asked
to meet with me, and when I opened my files to him, which were devastating in
terms of the effects upon the civilian population of that country, he
I knew at that point really that the die was cast. This was in February of
1967. He was definitely going to oppose that war with every strength, every
fiber in his body. And he did so. He opposed it. And from the date of the
speech to the date he was killed, he never wavered in that opposition. Now,
what does that mean? Is he an enemy of the State? The State regarded him as an
enemy because he opposed it. But what does it really mean, his opposition? I put
it to you that his opposition to that war had little to do with ideology, with
capitalism, with democracy. It had to do with money. It had to do with huge
amounts of money that that war was generating to large multinational
corporations that were based in the
, corporations that were based in the
When Martin King opposed the war, when he rallied people to oppose the war,
he was threatening the bottom lines of some of the largest defense contractors
in this country. This was about money. When he threatened to bring that war to a
close through massive popular opposition, he was threatening the bottom lines of
some of the largest construction companies, one of which was in the State of
, that patronized the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson and had the major
construction contracts at
. This is what Martin King was challenging. He was challenging the weapons
industry, the hardware, the armament industries, that all would lose as a result
of the end of the war.
Forget about democracy, forget about any ideology. This opposition to Martin
King, this growing enmity to him, was based on money and the loss of money. The
second aspect of his work that also dealt with money that caused a great deal of
consternation in the circles of power in this land had to do with his commitment
to take a massive group of people to Washington and there to encamp them in the
shadow of the Washington memorial for as long as it took. For as long as it
took, they would make daily trips to the halls of Congress and they would try to
compel the Congress to act, as they had previously acted in terms of civil
rights legislation, now to act in terms of social legislation.
Now, he begin to talk about a redistribution of wealth, in this the
wealthiest country in the world that had such a large group of poor people, of
people living then and now, by the way, in poverty.
That problem had to be addressed. And it wasn't a black-and-white problem.
This was a problem that dealt with Hispanics, and it dealt with poor whites as
well. That is what he was taking on. That's what he was challenging.
The powers in this land believed he would not be successful. Why did they
believe that? They believed that because they knew that the decision-making
processes in the United States had by that point in time, and today it is much
worse in my view, but by that point in time had so consolidated power that they
were the representatives, the foot soldiers, of the economic -- the very
economic interests who were going to suffer as a result of these times of
changes. So the very powerful lobbying forces that put their people in the halls
of Congress and indeed in the White House itself and controlled them, paid and
bought them and controlled them, were certainly not going to agree to the type
of social legislation that Martin King and his mass of humanity were going to
So there was a fear. What happens when they are frustrated? What happens when
they don't get any satisfaction? What would happen? They feared, the military
feared, that there would be a violent rebellion in the nation's capital. And
they didn't have the troops that could contain half a million angry poor
alienated Americans. They didn't have the troops. Westmoreland wanted another
two hundred thousand in
. They didn't have them to give to him. They didn't have them. They were afraid
that mob would overrun the capital. They were afraid that what Mr. Jefferson had
urged many, many times, that the body politic can only be cleansed by a
revolution every twenty years.
They were afraid that Mr. Jefferson would be listened to and that that
revolution would take place. Because of that, those factors, Martin King was not
going to be allowed, not going to be allowed to bring that group of people to
. So that's the reason for the hostility. He saw
as part and parcel of the overall problem, as a microcosm. He saw the plight of
the garbage workers here as being symptomatic of the pervasive sickness of
So he said if we turn our backs on these ones, how can we go on behalf of the
broad national interests? These ones need us now, let's start the Poor People's
Campaign here, which is what he did.
So he came to
and he was here on the 17th and 18th of March and he spoke and he returned
again on the 28th of March and the march turned nasty. Indications are there
that there were provocateurs, that it was broken up deliberately, that he was
discredited because of that, and he had to then return. And so he did plan to
come back. There was opposition within his own organization. But he said, no,
we're going to do this and we're going to lead a peaceful march and this is the
way we're going to launch this campaign, and so he came back to Memphis. After
the 28th he came back on the 3rd of April.
Now we move to the local conspiracy that related to the death of Martin
Luther King. You've heard evidence of a very reputable forty-year-in-business
store owner sit up there and tell you that he always bought -- every Thursday he
went to Frank Liberto's warehouse, that was his last stop before he went back to
Somerville, and on that Thursday, April 4, he heard the owner of that place take
the telephone and scream into it, "Shoot the son-of-a-bitch when he comes
on the balcony," amongst other things. That is the first indication of the
involvement of a Mr. Frank Liberto, which information was given to the police
and the FBI and forgotten about.
Then you've heard two other independent witnesses testify at different ends
of the trial, one called as a witness by the defense, Mrs. Lavada Addison, who
had this conversation with Mr. Liberto in her cafe when Liberto leaned over the
table at a time when the Select Committee hearings were on, apparently something
came on the television, and whispered to Mrs. Addison, "I arranged have
Martin Luther King killed."
She jumped back and was shocked by this. So. Liberto puts himself in it
against his own interest, mind you. He has said that. You are entitled to
believe that. Then comes Mrs. Lavada Addison's son Nathan, who confronts Liberto,
and Liberto again confirms the same thing to him. So we see now Mr. Frank
Liberto's involvement in this whole scenario.
Then we have from the defendant himself in sessions that are before you and
you've heard testimony from Ambassador Young and Mr. King about how he was
approached and he was asked to assist or become involved in this assassination
again by Mr. Liberto and how he was told that he would be visited by a man
called Raoul, he would first receive some money, be visited by a man called
Raoul, he would pass the money to Raoul, he would receive a gun, that he was be
asked to participate in this endeavor and he should not worry because there
would be no police around, the police would not be there.
We've heard him say that in fact he did these things and that he received the
gun after the shooting. He said he received the gun right at his back door.
That's as far as he went in his admissions. Of course, he also said he didn't
know what was going on. Neither Ambassador Young nor Mr. King believed him in
that respect, that he didn't know what was going on.
Now, why would anyone say this? Is this something new? No. You heard
testimony from witnesses who indicated that Mr. Jowers had said this to them
years ago, as much as twenty years ago he had said this, he had said that he
knew how Martin Luther King was killed. He had indicated to them that he didn't
do it but he knew how it was done, and in one case he actually told the same
story way back then that he is telling now. So this is not some afterthought
from Mr. Jowers to try to make a movie or become -- have notoriety or something
like that. This is a consistent story that has been around for a long time, and
other witnesses from previous times have confirmed it.
So other indications of the local conspiracy, what are they? You've heard
about the removal of Detective Redditt, who was a police officer on surveillance
duty on the afternoon. He was removed within an hour of the killing and told
there was a threat on his life and he was sent home to arrive at his home at the
time of the assassination, never to hear about this threat again. This was a
phony threat. I think it became quite clear. They didn't trust him because when
been a community relations officer that had been secunded into intelligence and
at the last minute had to pull him off, he might have seen something, done
something that was untrustworthy. He was pulled off. The other officer remained
making notes of what he saw.
There were two black firemen, the only two black firemen in the fire station,
they were removed. They were given orders the night before not to report for
duty but to go to another fire station in each case where they were surplussed
Why were they removed? Why were those two black firemen removed, the only two
black firemen, and the night before? You heard the Jerry Williams, Captain
Williams, testified that he had always formed an elite black homicide group of
detectives as a bodyguard for Dr. King. The last visit, he was not asked to form
that bodyguard. This was the only time he was not asked to form that bodyguard,
and he didn't know why he was not asked to form that bodyguard. And that
troubled him. You heard that the police were at one point around the Lorraine
Motel and then they were removed, or they just disappeared. They disappeared
within a half hour, forty-five minutes of the killing. Why did they disappear?
Where did they go? You saw evidence that the Invaders, a local
community-organizing group that had been willing to work with Dr. King toward
the end and were there for the purpose of helping him produce a produce a
peaceful march, at ten minutes to six, eleven minutes before the actual
shooting, they left the motel. They were ordered to leave the motel. They were
told their bills were no longer going to be paid and they had to leave the
hotel. So they emptied out. They might have reacted violently and caused some
sort of conflagration at the hotel, but they didn't. They just left.
You heard about the removal of the emergency tact forces. This is the
emergency tact forces, in this case it was Tact 10, which was usually a group of
four or five police cars with officers from the sheriff's department, police
officers. They were around the Lorraine Motel until the afternoon before the
killing. The afternoon of the 3rd they were ordered to be pulled back to the
fire station on the periphery. When Inspector Evans was asked who gave him the
instructions to pull them back, he said it was a request from Dr. King's group.
But when he was asked who, you may recall, he said, oh, yes, I think it was
Reverend Kyles that gave me that instruction. But the tact forces were pulled
The defendant on the day of the killing ordered a witness whom you heard who
was working at a waitress for him, ordered Bobbie Balfour not to take any food
upstairs to Grace Stephens, who was ill, and who had been received food on a
daily basis, but that day, because the second floor of the rooming house was
being used as a staging ground, no one was allowed up there, and he told her not
to go up there. So she didn't go. So she didn't go.
Then you heard Olivia Catling, who had never been spoken to by anyone, Olivia
Catling took the stand and told about a man coming from an alley that was
connected to a building that was attached to the rooming house. She saw this man
coming through that alley shortly after the killing, some minutes after the
killing, and getting into a 1965 Green Chevrolet that was parked on Huling and
then speeding away Norton Mulberry Street right in front of the police burning,
rubber as he went, with no interference whatsoever from them.
All of these things, all of these events, I submit to you profoundly are
strong evidence of the existence of a conspiracy just at the local level, not
even mentioning the fact that the defendant has also indicated that planning
sessions took place in his grill prior to the assassination.
So I think it is important to see that total picture of evidence you have.
There should be no doubt that all of these things are indicative overwhelmingly
of conspiracy. Now, are we conspiracy buffs because we find all of this evidence
insurmountable? I think not. But you have heard it. The masses of Americans have
not. And the media has never put it to them and I submit to you probably never
will. That's why your presence is so important.
The crime scene, what about this crime scene? We submit that the crime scene,
of course, was the back area of the rooming house. It was terribly overgrown
with bushes. The bushes were thick and they were difficult to penetrate and that
they provided an excellent sniper's lair. That's where the crime took place.
Any number of witnesses and evidence in the record indicates that a person or
persons was seen in those bushes at the time of the shooting. These are
different accounts that we put into the record, separate and apart.
There is other evidence, again, separate independent evidence, that a person
was seen jumping from the wall, jumping over the wall and running up
. As a result of this, we've concluded some while ago and have tried to provide
enough impetus for you to conclude that the shot came from these bushes and not
from the bathroom window.
The bathroom window and the rooming house bathroom has been officially the
scene of this crime forever. The State had evidence long ago that that was not
the case, that the dent in the window sill was not made by the rifle, even
though they maintained that was the case. The bathroom was seen open.
The State's main witness was drunk at the time. He was intoxicated. He
couldn't identify anybody. Captain Tommy Stephens said he couldn't identify
anyone, much less stand up. Yet it was the affidavit of Charles Stephens that
brought James Earl Ray back to this country back from
. That was the basis of the proof that brought him back.
Do you know what confidence the State had in their own chief witness? They
didn't even call him at the time of the guilty plea hearing. He didn't even
testify at that point. Now, the murder weapon itself, Judge Joe Brown heard
testimony and evidence in this case for about four years. He paid particular
attention to the weapon, and he has had a lifetime of experience and developed
knowledge about weapons and about rifles in particular. We qualified the judge
as an expert. He came before you and he sat there.
Anyone who heard Judge Brown's testimony with respect to that weapon should
have no -- and weapons in general should have no doubt whatsoever that he is in
fact an expert. The media will point to his lack of technical training, courses
having been taken with respect to learning about rifles. The other areas for
developing expertise happens to be experience and self knowledge and
development, which is what Judge Brown has.
Judge Brown sat in that chair and gave you sample technical scientific
reasons why that weapon in evidence is not the murder weapon very clearly. He
said, first of all, the scope was never sighted in. Because it was never sighted
in, if you use that scope, to quote him, you couldn't hit the broadside of a
barn with that weapon, remember that expression, because it was firing to the
left and below the target, because it was never sighted in.
He also said the scope couldn't have been altered by having been dropped in a
bundle. You can't alter a scope to that extent, its accuracy, by doing that.
He said also that the death slug did not have the same metallurgical
composition as existed in the lead of the other evidence bullets that were found
in that bundle the State has always said it was one of a number of bullets the
defendant had and you should see them as a package, if you will. Judge Brown
said, no, the death slug was different in metallurgical composition than the
bullets that were there.
Beyond this, there is evidence that you've heard that this clearly couldn't
have been the murder weapon because the defendant told a taxi driver, James
McCraw, to get rid of the murder weapon, and he did so. McCraw, being a close
friend of Jowers, a confident of Jowers, took the actual murder weapon and threw
it off the
. So it is laying at the bottom of the
for over thirty-one years. The real murder weapon is at the bottom of that
Now, Bill Hamblin, no reason to lie, he said McCraw would only tell him this
when he got drunk and he told him this over fifteen years. This is not something
McCraw made up one day. It is over a period of fifteen years. I remind you that
he told this same story.
Judge Arthur Haynes testified that he was, of course, James Earl Ray's first
lawyer along with his father, and he testified that in the course of their early
on-the-scene investigation, they talked to Guy Canipe, who owned the amusement
shop in front of which was found the bundle which contained, amongst other
things, the rifle. He said Canipe told them very early on, before anyone else
apparently had done any kind of tampering with him, told him very early on that
that bundle was dropped some minutes before the actual shooting. Imagine that,
that the bundle, the murder weapon, the rifle in evidence, was dropped minutes
before the actual shooting.
Now we come to Raoul, this shadowy figure who the defendant has mentioned and
who James Earl Ray has talked about right from the beginning as someone who
controlled him. You have a number of independent people, not even knowing each
other, who have identified this man from a spread of photographs that they have
seen. And they range from an English merchant seaman, who we had to depose by
telephone at some length, who ran into this same Raoul at the same bar James
did, up at the Neptune in
They range from him to the Grabows, Royce Wilburn, to the defendant himself
who identified Raoul from a spread of photographs before Ambassador Young and
Mr. King, and, of course, James Earl Ray, who also identified him.
If that is not enough, if that is not enough, we have the British film
producer, Jack Saltman, going to the door of Raoul's house, showing a photograph
and having his daughter admit that that is the photograph of her father, her
words to the effect that anyone can get that picture or that photograph of my
father. It is from Immigration & Naturalization. She identified her own
father as the person in that photograph.
Under subpoena and reluctantly a Portuguese journalist took the stand. She
had conducted an interview with a member of the family. The member of that
family had told her that this was a horror, a nightmare for them and for the
family, but the one comfort they had was that the government was helping them,
that the government had sent people to their home approximately three times or
so, and that the government was monitoring their telephone calls and the
government was providing them with guidance. The government was trying to give
them comfort and advice.
Can you imagine if anything like that happened to -- if any charges were laid
against any of us in those circumstances, do you think the government would come
around and see us, help us, monitor our phones?
That act alone indicates the importance and the significance of this man,
Raoul. So it is essential that that be put clearly in the context.
Now, as I understand it, the defense had invited Raoul to appear here. He is
outside this jurisdiction, so a subpoena would be futile. But he was asked to
appear here. In earlier proceedings there were attempts to depose him, and he
resisted them. So he has not attempted to come forward at all and tell his side
of this story or to defend himself.
As we move into the next area, we're concerned now about a broader
conspiracy, a broader conspiracy. That is two-pronged, ladies and gentlemen. On
the one hand, the broader conspiracy goes beyond a shooter in the bushes who
gets away with killing Martin King. It goes from him to a Mr. Jowers, who is
involved in facilitating, and it goes back to Mr. Liberto, whom you've heard was
clearly a part of it, but it goes beyond Mr. Liberto in terms of the Mob side,
because you've heard from witness Nathan Whitlock how he used to push a fruit
cart in New Orleans with Mr. Carlos Marcello and that he then has this
relationship and this awareness of Marcello and Marcello activities. Carlos
Marcello has been the Mob kingpin, was the Mob leader in this part of the
country, for a long, long time.
So any contract, any Mob contract, on Martin Luther King's life, would come
from Marcello through Liberto into the local infrastructure that Marcello had
. Marcello himself was involved in gun running. Part of the evidence in terms of
the military involvement is contained in a lengthy article that we put into
evidence that appears in March of 1993 in the Commercial Appeal by Steve Tomkins,
and that article indicated that there was a high-ranking general who had been
charged and imprisoned for aiding and abetting the trading in stolen weapons.
That deal meant what he was involved in was the theft of guns from arsenals,
armories and camps, like Camp Shelby in Mississippi, the theft of weapons from
those places that went to -- were trucked to a Marcello property in New Orleans,
and from the Marcello property in New Orleans were shipped around the coast into
Houston, Texas, where they were taken off. And that is where Raoul and his crowd
came into the receipt of those weapons before they went into Latin and
So that's one prong of the broader conspiracy, the Mob. But, you see, already
there is a relationship between organized crime and the military in the receipt
of those weapons and in the ongoing sale of them.
Then we move directly into the government of the
, their agents themselves. We've learned that the 111th Military Intelligence
Group based at
, were here.
They were in
. They had Martin King under surveillance. That as open -- quote, open
surveillance, eye-to-eye surveillance.
They had him under surveillance. Eli Arkin of the Memphis Police Department
Intelligence Bureau, Intelligence Division, said they were in his office. He has
he has admitted they were in his office.
They were here.
There was another section here that was involved in covert surveillance of
Martin King. "Covert" means bugging, wiretapping, that type of
activity. That was done at the Rivermont when he was here on the 17th or 18th.
You heard a witness say he was one of three people who were effectively a
surveillance team. They had Martin King's suite bugged, every room of it bugged,
including the balcony. If he wanted to speak privately and went out on the
balcony, they would pick it up by relay from the roof.
That covert -- that type of covert surveillance was carried out by another
agency, usually the Army Security Agency. So there we have those two agencies
involved very clearly here.
Then there were photographers. Remember those photographers that Captain
Weiden talked about. They were on the roof of the fire station. He put them
there. Who were they? They were a psychological operations team, and they were
there and they photographed everything throughout that day. That means, ladies
and gentlemen, that there is a film of everything that happened, photographs of
everything that happened buried somewhere. We tried long and hard to unearth it
unsuccessfully, but it is there and it is hidden, as it was hidden from this
jury it is hidden from the American people. Maybe the media one day will let you
know that it exists. But it is there. They took those photographs. They were
what is known as a psychological operations team, and they were there and they
photographed everything throughout that day. That means, ladies and gentlemen,
that there is a film of everything that happened, photographs of everything that
happened buried somewhere. We tried long and hard to unearth it unsuccessfully,
but it is there and it is hidden, as it was hidden from this jury it is hidden
from the American people. Maybe the media one day will let you know that it
exists. But it is there. They took those photographs. They were what is known as
a psychological operations team, and we know who the two members of that team
So there is this very strong presence now, which is primarily surveillance,
it is intelligence gathering, it is visual and it is audio and it is going on
and Martin King and his group are the subject of it.
But then there is another group that is more sinister. They are not more
sinister because of what they did, because they didn't really do anything, but
we know they had a presence. And that was a special eight-man sniper unit that
was here in
. They were all part of the 20th Special Forces Group. They were here and they
were assigned and they were trained for an operation, for a mission, in
. You heard testimony by a man who himself was a national security council
operative who was very involved in Iran-Contra activities, who had been a
long-standing operative, if you will, of the government of the United States and
whose best friend was a member of that sniper team. There was no reason in the
world for his best friend other than in a moment of whatever, anguish or burden,
desire to relieve himself, to talk about this, this mission that he was on which
he was assigned to in Memphis which was aborted, but he was assigned to it.
With a Q and A approach you heard documents of working papers that were used
to get information from other -- from another source who lives south of the
border and who fled the country in the 1970's out of fear who was also a part of
that unit. So they were there, and there are three separate sources that confirm
the presence. But they did not -- it was not necessary for them to do anything.
The mission was aborted because the Mob contract was successful in killing
Martin Luther King and framing James Earl Ray.
Remember, one of the things that Liberto also told the defendant, Loyd Jowers,
was that there was a setup man, there was a patsy, lined up to take the blame.
There was another area of comfort that the defendant could have.
Now we move to the cover-up aspect of this case. This in many ways is the
most sad in a representative democracy to have to have this kind of cover-up be
successful for so long. It is a shame. It is a tragedy. I think it goes right to
the essence of democracy and the right of the people to know.
The cover-up activities in this case, ladies and gentlemen, range from murder
to press manipulation and distortion, with bribery in between. Murder,
unfortunately in our view, and from the evidence that you have heard here,
credible sources, is that a taxi driver who pulled into the Lorraine Motel maybe
six minutes before the killing or so, shortly before the killing, a Yellow Cab
taxi driver who pulled into that drive and who was standing at the rear of his
car loading the trunk of the car with the baggage, the luggage, of someone that
was leaving, unfortunately for him, immediately after the shooting he saw the
shooting and then turned to look at the other side of the road and saw a man
come down out of the bushes and run up the street and get into a waiting Memphis
Police Department traffic car which sped away.
When he reported this to his dispatcher, he thought the police had the
assassin because he was in a police car going away. Well, this man, as you've
heard, was questioned by the police a couple of times that week. He was to give
a statement the next day.
He didn't give a statement, did he? No, his body was found off the
supposedly thrown out of a speeding car. Now, when we tried to find death
certificates for this man, we couldn't, either in
. There is no death record at all. We found his phone number with that of his
wife listed in 1967, 1966 and 1967, Betty and Paul Butler. This is all in
evidence. The Polk Directory pages are there for you to look at. In 1968 it is
Betty, brackets, widow, WID, of Paul, Betty widow, 1968 and 1969 she a widow.
Paul Butler was her deceased husband. He was, for him, in the wrong place at the
That is in some ways the worst of it. Because is there anything really worse
than losing your life when you've been in the wrong place at the wrong time?
The next aspect of cover-up is the tampering, drastic alteration, of the
crime scene. What happened there? You've heard what happened. Seven o'clock in
the morning Inspector Sam Evans called Maynard Stiles, who was a public works
administrator, and asked him to get a work crew out there and to cut down those
bushes. They cut the bushes down. Now, normally what one does with a crime
scene, at least for quite a period of time, is to rope it off and keep people
out of it and investigate it as it is. You don't go and destroy the crime scene.
You don't know what is there. You go and you deal with it the way it was at the
time of the crime.
No, it was cut right to the ground, cut right to the ground. And however long
it took them to do it, they did a good job, because it was not possible for a
sniper to be in that area once it was cut to the ground because he could
obviously be very visible.
So the image of a flat, barren area is what was relayed, and that reinforced
the whole bathroom window. There was no house-to-house investigation, ladies and
gentlemen. Do you remember Judge Brown on the stand saying that this was the
most deficient investigation, criminal investigation, he had ever seen as a
criminal court judge? He is talking about all of these kinds of things. Imagine,
no house-to-house investigation.
What that means is that no policeman going and knocking on the door of all of
the local residents and asking them did they see anything, did they hear
anything, because surely if they had, they would have knocked on Olivia
Catling's door, wouldn't they? She just lived down the street on Mulberry. She
would have told them what she saw. But they didn't. They didn't do that, did
they? No, they didn't do that, not at all. Why? Why did they suppress two alibi
statements, a statement from Ray Hendricks and William Reed, who left Jim's
Grill, oh, thirty-five minutes past the hour of five, forty minutes past the
hour of five, right around there, maybe even -- well, right around that time. It
would be difficult to pin exact times down.
They left Jim's Grill, saw James Earl Ray's Mustang parked in front of Jim's
Grill, started to work walk up the street and a couple of minutes later when
they went up a couple of blocks and were about to cross Vance, one pulled the
other back when the same white Mustang they thought came right around the corner
driving away, as James Earl Ray had said he done.
He always said he left the scene of the crime around to that time to try to
go have a spare tire repaired. Here are two alibi witnesses with statements
given to the FBI in their 302's kept from the defense, withheld from the guilty
plea jury, suppressed.
What else was suppressed? What was suppressed was the fact that they had a
scientific report from the FBI that the dent in the window sill could not
sufficiently be tied to the rifle. They had that. They had that almost a year
prior to the actual guilty plea hearing. And yet they went before the guilty
plea jury and said that scientific evidence would establish that the murder
weapon made that dent. Obstruction of justice, suppression? That and worse.
What about the death slug that could not be matched? You know, the media and
the State have turned the burden in this case of matching the bullet to the
rifle the other way around. They are saying because you can't exclude it, it may
be the murder weapon. That's not the way it works. In any other case that's not
the way it works.
This is not a good rifle in evidence when you cannot match the death slug to
it. And it was a death slug capable of being matched. You have evidence that
that bullet was capable of being matched if it could.
There were enough striations, enough independent markings that they could
match it if they could.
So the guilty plea hearing guilty plea hearing heard none of this. I talked
to members of the guilty plea jury years later.
They heard none of this. This was all kept quiet. They certainly would have
had questions about Mr. Ray's plea if they had.
They certainly didn't know that his lawyer had agreed in writing to pay $500
if he would plead guilty and not cause any problems and that $500 could be used
to hire another lawyer who could help overturn the plea. They certainly were not
They certainly were not told those kinds of pressures that descended on him
at the last minute to cop this plea, which I'm afraid people do all the time in
desperation, particularly when they are in isolation the way he was.
What about Captain Weiden? My goodness. Captain of the fire station, never
interviewed by local police authorities. The man who ran that installation, who
was there at the time, never interviewed by the authorities. Forgetting about
knocking on people's doors. Here is official, he is a senior executive officer
of the fire station. They didn't talk to him. They didn't interview him. They
didn't ask him what was going on there that afternoon. Were they afraid that he
would have told them about the photographers on the roof? Because if he had,
then they wouldn't have been unnoticed, would they? It wouldn't have been
unnoticed that there were photographs of what went on, and they would have then
had to request those photographs. So if you don't talk to Captain Weiden, you
don't have to know about them. If you don't know about it, you don't ask for it.
You heard Bill Schaap on the stand for a long time talking about media
distortion and the use of media for propaganda. He gave you the history of how
it has developed particularly over the 20th century
but, of course, it is a long-standing activity throughout history in older
nations than this.
But Schaap took you painstakingly through that history down to the present
time when he dealt with the way the media handled Martin Luther King, how they
handled his opposition to the war in Vietnam, how he was attacked because of
that opposition to the war.
Then he moved on. There were similar, comparable attacks on the King family
since they decided they wanted the truth out in this case and they decided that
James Earl Ray was entitled to a trial, similar media treatment happened to them
that happened to Martin, similar loss of contributions and money for the work
that happened to Martin back in those days. The same thing.
Bill Schaap led you through that. There were a couple of instances where he
referred to the huge network of ownership and control of media entities all over
the world by the Central Intelligence Agency. It is a matter of public record.
It has appeared in Congressional hearings, Senate hearings, which most people
don't read, don't know anything about, and, of course, the media only covers in
sparse fashion, because it is contrary to their interests to show that great
numbers of newspapers, radio stations, television stations, may in fact be
actually owned by the Central Intelligence Ageny in this country as well as
He talked about the numbers of actual agents who work for media companies,
who are placed in positions in network television company positions, in
newspaper company positions, on newspaper editorial board positions.
If you see the history of how national security cases are covered and this is
one, you will be amazed that some of the most liberal columnists, writers,
respected journalists, Pulitzer Prize winners, who have all the liberal
credentials, when it comes to this kind of case, they all of a sudden are
totally with the government because national security cases are a different ball
Ambassador Young ran into one at one point in an airport, and he said to him,
how can you do this, Tony, about this case, you have great credentials in every
other way, what is it about this case? His response was, you'll be happy to know
my wife agrees with you. But that was it. That was the end of the response.
The point is on these cases there is a special type of treatment that is
given. It is important to understand that across the board. That explains a lot
of what we're talking about. Examples: Column 1, New York Times, November, the
article is here, Alton, Illinois, bank robbery, Wendell Rose, Jr., the Times
wrote this whole piece, fabricated, whole cloth, that the Ray brothers robbed
the bank in Illinois and that's where James got his money and therefore there is
The problem was that the article said that the Times had conducted a special
investigation that paralleled that of the House Select Committee and that of the
FBI, and all three investigations indicated this was the case. Case closed, this
is where Ray got his money.
The problem is they never talked to the chief of police in
. They never talked to the president of the bank in
. There was no investigation. And when those people were talked to by myself or
by Jerry Ray, who went down there to turn himself in -- you think I did this,
I'm prepared to turn myself in -- the guy said, go away, you've never been a
suspect. Isn't that amazing, out of whole cloth. But it appears, and that's the
mindset that the people have.
You heard Earl Caldwell say he was sent to
by his national editor, New York Times national editor, Claude Sitton at the
time, and told to go to
and his words were "nail Dr. King." Nail Dr. King. That is what he
said he was told was his mission here in
as a New York Times reporter. I can go on. But these are examples of what
happens with the media.
Now, Bill Schaap told you the impact of that out of thirty-one years is very
devastating, is very hard to hear this for thirty-one years and have somebody
come along and say, no, you've been told the wrong thing and here are a whole
set of facts that are incontrovertible and this is why you've been old the wrong
The reaction is still, oh, yes, that's interesting, but the next day we still
believe, because it is almost implanted neurologically. That's the problem that
this kind of distortion, media propaganda abuse, just raises.
Mr. Jowers here, the defendant, was a victim of that. They gave him -- ABC
gave him a lie detector test and they told him at the end of that lie detector
test that he had failed, why was he doing this, was he looking for money, he had
failed this lie detector test. You heard from a cab driver, who has nothing to
gain by this, take the stand and say, yeah, he drove those ABC people to the
airport, took them to the airport, and he heard their conversation. His ears
perked up when he heard Jowers' name because he heard them, the guy in the
front, the examiner, said, I couldn't get him to waver, I couldn't get him to
waver. They were commenting on how much he remembered in so much detail and why
he remembered so much detail.
There is no question about him failing this test. They couldn't get the
defendant to lie. And yet that program was broadcast, was put out to masses of
people in this country to believe to this day that the defendant lied, that he
Now, you heard -- we're still on cover-up. I'm sorry. You heard about two
efforts to bribe James Earl Ray. I don't know of any others, but you have heard
of two in particular, one from a lawyer, Jack Kershaw, who told you about a
meeting at the Nelson Book Publishing Company and he was offered a sum of money
if Ray would admit that he did it. He was offered this money by William Bradford
Huey, who was a writer, if Ray would confess that he did it and did it alone and
he would give him this money and give him a pardon and he would go on and have a
Mr. Kershaw went over to the prison, as you heard, asked Mr. Ray if you want
to take up this wonderful offer. Ray, of course, said, no, and sent him packing.
Some while later a telephone -- on a telephone conversation Huey made the same
offer to Jerry Ray. His problem then was that that conversation was recorded.
Jerry Ray testified and you have a transcript of that recording, he was offered
now $220,000, they greatly increased the sum of money, $220,000, also a pardon.
And the best story, of course, that they wanted, that Huey wanted, was the story
why I killed Martin Luther King.
So they were offering him money, a pardon if he would tell that story. It
didn't work. James, of course, was not interested in anything of the sort. James
had always only wanted, from three days after his conviction, he had always
wanted a trial. That is what he wanted. Then there were a number of attempts to
kill James Earl Ray. These attempts vary. One time he escaped from
in 1977, he escaped from
with six others. No sooner did his feet hit the ground and they were up in the
woods there -- if you know that area of Petros, Tennessee, it is pretty rural in
some areas and rocky and hilly -- he was up in the woods, and no sooner did he
go get up in the woods but there was an FBI SWAT team out of the Knoxville
office on the scene.
Who asked for them? It is a State escape, State prisoner. The State is
handling it. No, here comes in the SWAT team. They have snipers with sniper
rifles. What are they going to do with those sniper rifles?
Lewis Stokes was chairman of the Select Committee on Assassinations. He calls
Ray Blanton, who is a governor of the State at the time. Reverend Fauntroy was a
part of to that conversation and said he was the one who encouraged Stokes to
call, but he was there. Stokes calls Blanton and says that you better get over
. If you don't, I'm going to lose my most famous witness and your most famous
prisoner because the FBI is going to kill him. Blanton goes over in a helicopter
and chases the FBI away.
They didn't what to go at first. He told them he would put them in the same
sell James Earl Ray came out of if they didn't. He saved James Earl Ray's life.
He was caught and brought back by local authorities, which is the way it should
The second attempt was in April of 1978. You heard April Ferguson, public
defender counsel, tell you how that worked. She went out, interviewed a prisoner
who had called their office when April and
were representing James back at that time. He was offered a contract. He was
asked to put out a contract on James Earl Ray, and he decided not to do it.
One, he thought he was being set up because the person who called him left a
number and he had to call him back. When he called had him back, he was calling
him back at an Executive Suites hotel that he knew, the prisoner knew, was being
used by the local US Attorney's Office and the FBI where they interviewed
informants and where they did the briefings. That's where the phone call came
He thought he was being set up. The phone call came to him from a fellow
called Arthur Wayne Baldwin, who was a Mob figure in
but who also was involved as a federal informant and was used by the
So he gave the statement of how this contract was put out by
on James Earl Ray's life, and Ms. Ferguson testified as to her affidavit.
Defendant's prior admissions, the next section of plaintiffs' case, you've heard
a good deal of it, how the defendant has admitted how he was approached by Mr.
Liberto and how he was told that he would receive a package, which he did, and
money and eventually a rifle to hold, and he told about planning sessions in his
cafe, and he told about taking a rifle from the shooter, taking the rifle from
the shooter, one that was still smoking. He said taking it from his back door.
He named the shooter as a Memphis Police Department lieutenant, Earl Clark,
who is deceased, who was a sharpshooter who he said was a hunting companion of
his, a friend of his, and a friend of Liberto's as well and who never had any
contact with him again after this day.
Now, Mrs. Clark, the first wife, who testified, gave her husband an alibi. It
is only fair that you consider what Ms. Clark said. When I first interviewed
here in 1992 -- she referred to that interview. In fact, her son was there. He
was not twenty-two. He was born later. He was about sixteen. Her daughter was
born in 1970. It was the son who was present. She told essentially the same
story at that point in time.
There are serious questions with that story, and they have to do with whether
or not in fact Lieutenant Clark had a radio at all at that point in time and
whether or not in fact Dent Cleaners was open later than six p.m. on that day.
Because by her accounts she got there sometime between six-thirty and six-forty
to pick up his uniform. But, in any event, you have to consider all of that.
Lastly, in respect of the defendant's situation, we had placed a woman --
aspects of a woman's testimony into the record so that you can review it, and
she was a waitress who had been a lover of the defendant during that previous
She very reluctantly in 1992 gave a statement that had really to be worked
out of her. She didn't want to tell this story even then because she was afraid
that her former lover and boss, Mr. Jowers, was the killer.
He was the only one she saw, she said, out there, and she was afraid that he
was the killer. Plaintiffs do not believe that to be the case at this point in
She described him running, face white as a sheet, looking like a wild man
with all mud on his knees, as though he had been kneeling in that brush area.
She has been to some extent discredited because there have been -- people have
descended upon her for various reasons. She was a -- a statement of hers was
taken repudiating a lot of things she said, but she subsequently said in another
sworn statement that she didn't even read what the state officials told her to
So in a case like this, this is a difficult area for you to assess for
yourselves in terms of what you read and what you have heard here.
The last area of the plaintiffs' case has to do with damages. We've addressed
that. Members of the family have addressed that in terms of the spirit in which
the family has approached these proceedings from the beginning.
Yes, we want a verdict of liability, a verdict of a finding of conspiracy,
but the family is not interested to benefit financially from these proceedings.
There has to be damages in civil litigation of this sort. It is a wrongful death
action. So the request is that there be an award of one hundred dollars to
offset funeral expenses at the time. And that one hundred dollars the family has
decided to contribute, along with other contributions, to a welfare fund of the
sanitation workers in this city, because that is the reason that Dr. King came
here in the first place.
Now, what I'd like to do is to briefly take you through a visual summary, it
will be much quicker than my verbal summary, but to take you through a visual
picture of the summary of what you have just heard in terms of the major aspects
of the plaintiffs' case.
24 THE COURT: Does anybody need a break?
A JUROR: Yes.
THE COURT: You do? All right. Just five minutes.
THE COURT: All right, Sheriff. Bring the jury back out,
THE COURT: All right,
Mr. Pepper. You may resume.
MR. PEPPER: Thank you, Your Honor. We have a depiction of
the overall seen of the assassination at about five forty-three, the time we've
pinpointed, on the afternoon of the assassination. Here in this depiction we
have two people on the firehouse roof, we show two people in the brush area at
this time, a number of witnesses down below the balcony right in there.
THE COURT: Mr. Pepper, excuse me. Can you see that?
A JUROR: Yes.
MR. PEPPER: Am I in your way?
THE COURT: You may stand over here, Mr. Pepper.
MR. PEPPER: There is also a car, a Chevrolet car, parked
here on Huling, and two Mustangs on
South Main Street
. You will remember Charles Hurley testified that he drove up behind this
Mustang when he was picking his wife up. It had
plates. This Mustang is believed to have been James Earl Ray's.
Now, when we move ahead, we're still at five forty-three, but it is between
five forty-three and five forty-four, Hendricks and Reed, who have been in Jim's
Grill here, have come out and have since walked up this street. About this time
this first Mustang has pulled off. Everything else remains the same. You have
the photographers on the roof, you have the two figures in the brush, who we
believe to be Earl Clark and Loyd Jowers, and you have witnesses below the
balcony over here.
Now we're at five-fifty. The evidence reveals that this first Mustang is
gone. The second Mustang still remains. Photographers still remain clicking away
on the roof. The figures in the brush still remain. The Invaders have started to
leave the hotel. They are coming down the stairs and they are leaving at
five-fifty. They were noticed leaving. Billy Kyles, Reverend Kyles, is right
there knocking on Martin King's door as the evidence indicates at ten minutes to
six. The witnesses are still down below.
At five fifty-five, the Invaders are now off the premises, they've gone.
Reverend Kyles has come away from the door and is on the balcony to the right of
the door. The witnesses are still below. Photographers are still in their perch
photographing. The Chevrolet is still parked where was. And now a Memphis Police
Department traffic car has pulled up to this intersection right here at Mulberry
and Huling. In addition to that, about this time a rifle and an evidence bundle
has been dropped by this figure right here in Canipe's.
Next. Still at five fifty-five, between five fifty-five and five fifty-six,
the Yellow taxicab has pulled into the
driveway and is loading a passenger. The man who has dropped the rifle has now
approached this second Mustang with the
plates here. The figures in the bushes are still there. The Chevrolet is there
and the taxi driver himself is standing toward the rear of his car next. About
five fifty-six, in that area, Martin King appears on the balcony and begins to
talk to a number of the people below who we've been calling as witnesses. The
taxi driver is still there unloading a passenger's luggage, and the
photographers are there. The rifle remains, but now the second Mustang moves
off. The traffic car remains in position and the Chevrolet remains where was.
Okay. Six-oh-one p.m., April 4th, 22 1968, Martin Luther King has been felled
by a single shot. Everything else remains the same. The taxi driver is facing
the brush area. The photographers are still on the roof of the fire station. The
rifle in evidence remains in Canipe's doorway. The Chevrolet remains on Huling.
traffic car remains at the intersection of Mulberry and Huling. The figures in
the bushes at this point remain there.
Next. Instantly, between six-oh-one and six-oh-two, immediately after the
shot, one of the two figures, and we maintain it is the defendant, is moving
toward his building carrying the murder weapon. The other figure in the bush, in
the bushes, is going down -- appears to be at this point not going down but
appears to be alone around the edge of the wall. The photographers are there.
The taxi driver is still there looking at the brush area, and journalist Earl
Caldwell, having heard the shot, has come out of his room.
It is difficult to do this with computers. You may recall
was in his shorts standing there looking at the bushes seeing this figure in
the bushes. The traffic car remains there. Kyles remains off to the right of the
fallen Martin King instantly after the shot. The witnesses are there, some of
whom turn toward the bushes looking up in that direction.
Next. Also between six-oh-one and six-two, because that's what it takes, Mr.
Jowers has entered his establishment. The shooter has gone down over the wall
and has run toward that
traffic vehicle, car vehicle, right there. This is all happening between
six-oh-one and six-oh-two. That's the period of time in which this was carried
The taxi driver has seen the shooter jump from the wall and run to here and
get into that traffic car. The photographers must have photographed it. There
they are. The rifle remains. Mr. Jowers has entered his establishment at that
point in time.
Okay. Around six-oh-five, under great pressure from his passenger, the taxi
driver actually drives away, left the
parking lot. The shooter, having gotten into that traffic car, is also gone,
disappeared. That traffic car sped up Huling, west on Huling. It is gone. Mr.
Jowers is inside his establishment, the witnesses remain in place where they
were. Mr. Caldwell has gone back into his room to put on his trousers.
Next. We're at about six-oh-eight. At this point in time barricades in the
form of police cars have been established at either end of Mulberry, thus
blocking any entrance to the street. We're at six-oh-seven. I'm a minute ahead
We're at about six-oh-seven. Everything else remains pretty much the same
except Journalist Caldwell has come out of his room again and would eventually
make his way up to the balcony. Dr. King is still down, witnesses are in place,
photographers are in place, the rifle remains where it is, and Reverend Kyles is
still on the balcony.
Also at six-oh-seven or thereabouts Olivia Catling has arrived at the corner
of Mulberry and Huling. She has three children with her. Two are hers and one is
a neighbor child. She has come to that corner just about this time, having heard
the shot from inside her house. Everything else remains pretty much in place
with the photographers, the witnesses and Journalist Caldwell coming out and the
rifle still at Canipe's.
Okay. About six-oh-nine we have a man appearing in the alley. This is the
first time he has appeared. He has apparently come from connected Buildings to
the rooming house and he is now seen in the alley. Everything else remains the
same. The barricades are in place. Mrs. Catling is there.
Next. He moves between this time, within a minute, very quickly to this car
seen by Mrs. Catling and the children. Next. He gets in the car and rips off
east on Huling, making a sharp turn going north on Mulberry right in front of
this police barricade and proceeds unimpeded north on Mulberry away from the
Now, at that point in time Mrs. Catling notices a fireman who is standing in
front of the wall, and he is talking to policemen, yelling at policemen, that
the shot came from the clump of bushes up there. They apparently are not
listening to him. Those are the -- that's the visual depiction of the critical
events that we wanted to put forward.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, sometimes that is helpful to amplify the verbal
narrative. Sometimes it confuses more than it helps. But I think we've tried to
draw this and depict it as precisely as we can within the constraints of the
actual evidence that has been presented to you.
Let me close by saying to you that long after people forget what has been
said in this courtroom, all the words that you've heard from witnesses and
lawyers, and long after they have forgotten about accounts that they have read
about this case, they are going to remember what was done here. They are going
to remember what action you took, what decision you came to.
You have got to understand the monumental importance of your decision. You
are going to -- they are going to forget everything I said, everything defense
counsel has said, everything the witnesses have said. They are going to remember
one thing, the ruling of this jury, the verdict of this jury because you have
heard evidence that has never before been put on in a court of law.
Some of it would have been put on in Mr. Ray's trial, if he had ever been
granted a trial. He wasn't. It wasn't heard. Judge Brown was on the verge of
granting that trial, on the eve, in our view, so close to granting that trial,
and then he was removed by the Court of Appeals in this state from the case,
summarily removed. Without any argument, any oral argument, they made that
decision. So Mr. Ray never had the trial. He was in his dying months when he
might have gotten that trial. The Court of Appeals finished that possibility.
Only you have heard this. The people in the
United States of America
have not heard this. The masses of people in this country or the world have not
heard this. They've heard snippets, they've heard edited clips on various
documentaries and programs, but no one has heard the detailed evidence that you
That is why your decision at this point in time is the most significant
decision that will have been taken in thirty-one years in terms of this case.
Please don't underestimate the importance of it. In our view, what has
happened in this case, the injustice that has happened in this case, and it may
be symptomatic of other cases, we don't know -- we haven't gotten into that,
we've just focused on this case -- but what has happened here in our view is
representative of the failure that symbolizes to me the failure of
representative democracy in this country.
Isn't it amazing that one could say that over a simple murder case. But when
you look at the wealth of evidence that has come forward and you understand how
this case has been conducted and you understand how it has been covered up, and
when you see how unresponsive elected officials and government has been and how
complicit they have been, you can come to no other choice.
Governmental agencies caused Martin Luther King to be assassinated. They used
other foot soldiers. They caused this whole thing to happen. And they then
proceeded with the powerful means at their disposal to cover this case up. This
is a conspiracy that involved -- and that's a nasty word. People insult people
in this country who use the word "conspiracy." Nowhere else in the
world, as Bill Schaap told you, is it viewed that way. In
conspiracy is taken for granted because they have lived with it so much longer.
Remember that there were thirty-nine daggers going into Cesar.
You know, these things do not happen as a rule without the involvement of
other people and in this case, this type of murder, without the involvement of
seriously prominent individuals in government. So it is in my view a failure of
democracy and this Republic that it has not been able to bring this forward.
What we're asking you to do at this point in time is send a message. We're
asking you to send a message, not just right a wrong. That's important, that you
right a wrong and that you allow justice to prevail once and for all. Let it
prevail. Let justice and truth prevail, else the heavens fall. No matter what,
let it prevail. Let it come forward. We're asking you to let that happen.
But in addition to that, we're asking you to send a message, send a message
to all of those in power, all of those who manipulate justice in this country
that you cannot get away with this. Or if you can get away with it, you can only
get away with it for so long. Ultimately truth-crushed earth will rise again,
and it has risen in this courtroom, ladies and gentlemen. Send that message.
You, you twelve, represent the American people. You are their representatives
with respect to justice in this case. They cannot be here. The media will keep
the truth from them forever. You represent the people of this land. You must
speak for them.
In all of my years I've had confidence in one institution anywhere in the
Anglo-American world, and it is a jury. It is twelve people independently
hearing evidence and ruling. That's you. You have this duty to yourselves, this
obligation to your fellow citizens, and you have an opportunity to act in a most
significant way that perhaps you can ever imagine, because your verdict of
conspiracy in this case, your verdict of liability for the defendant and his
other co-conspirators, means history is rewritten, means textbooks have to be
rewritten, means the actual result of this case and the truth of this case now
must come forward formally.
This message also will be sent to the Attorney General of the
, whose team are investigating in a limited way, they say, this case. But you
have heard much more, so that is why this message is so important. Please send
On behalf of the family of Martin Luther King, Jr., on behalf of the people
of the United States, I ask you to find for the plaintiff and find that
conspiracy existed and that those conspirators involved not only the defendant
here but 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 and once and for all give this
plaintiff family justice and let's cleanse this city and this nation of the
ignorance that has pervaded this case for so long. Let the truth reign in this
courtroom once and for all.
Thank you very much.
THE COURT: Mr. Garrison.
MR. GARRISON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I promise
you one thing, I won't take that long. Let me say this first of all: I've been
practicing law here starting forty years this past August, and I think this is
the most important case to me that I've ever been associated with.
I've tried cases in this courtroom and all over this courthouse, and I think
this case is the most important case I've ever been associated with. I say that
because it is important to the King family, it is important to the American way
of life, important to quality and important to history now.
Over the past few years I've met with Ms. Coretta King and Mr. Dexter King
and the family, and they are a very lovable family. They have gone through more
than any family should have to go through and simply because of the color of
their skin, because Dr. King simply was seeking equality and equal rights. And
if our constitution means anything, it means that is for everybody.
Now, Dr. Pepper has pursued this case for years. He is like a bulldog on your
trousers. You just can't shake him loose, you can't shake him off. If it wasn't
for him, we wouldn't be here today. He and I have many areas of agreement, but
we have many areas of disagreement. I want to put those out you to now.
First of all, let me say this: I told you at the beginning that anything that
Mr. Jowers had to do with this was very, very minute and small. I think the
proof fairly shows that. Here is a man who had a greasy-spoon restaurant, a beer
joint, to put it bluntly, that was there in a place where he had been dealing
with a Mr. Liberto, and perhaps those things weren't the way they should be, but
he is not on trial for that. He simply said that I had handled money for Mr.
Liberto previously and that here again he asked me to handle some money. He said
he was going to send a box to him. I didn't know what it was. He said that the
money came in and the box came in and that he said someone would pick up the box
and you be at the back door at six 4 o'clock and something would be handed to
you. He says I didn't know anything.
Now, he met with Mr. Dexter King and Ambassador Young freely and voluntarily
at his own expense, his own time. He told them what limited information he had
about this. He was very honest with them and very sincere in telling them what
he knew about this case, which was very limited.
He told Dexter King, which Mr. King admitted here, that he said I didn't know
anything about this as far as it being Dr. King that would be the target of
assassination, I had no knowledge of that. He said I apologize to you for
anything that I may have done that would cause the death of your father, but I
had no idea, no knowledge, it was just simply something I was doing and had been
doing previously, it wasn't any different from the other things.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is ironic to note here that there is only one
person that has placed any blame on Mr. Jowers as far as being there doing
anything. That's Ms. Spates. You've heard her testimony. You've heard an
affidavit read to you that she gave to the prosecutors of the city of
, their investigators. She first tried to say that Mr. Jowers was there and she
saw him and all this thing about him being white and so forth and so on, but she
came back and in an exhibit here that you have a right to see said I wasn't even
there, I was at work that day, I didn't see anything, because I didn't see Mr.
Jowers with a gun, I never saw anything, I was at work that day.
Which version do you believe? This is a sworn statement, a sworn statement
under oath she gave to the prosecutors. It is saying I wasn't even there. So
which version do you I believe of Ms. Spates?
She first tried to say she had been offered some money by Mr. Jowers and even
by me. Yet the first thing I asked her in her testimony is -- I had never seen
the lady but twice in my life -- Ms. Spates, isn't it true you have never been
offered any money we never even talked about any money? She said, that's exactly
right. She goes on to say I was never offered any money. So you have Ms. Spates,
who is the only person that said anything about Mr. Jowers' involvement in this,
and which version do you believe? Do you believe that she told the truth one
time or the other time? Both of them were under oath. Now, as far as Mr. McCraw,
I knew Mr. McCraw, represented him for years. The thing about Mr. McCraw is that
as Mr. Hamblin said, you couldn't believe a thing he said.
That's his best friend, he got on the stand and said you couldn't believe a
word he said. Mr. Jowers played a very, very insignificant and minor role in
this if he played anything at all. He stated because of who he has come forth
and said, that he has lost his wife, everything he has and his health. So he
played a very insignificant, very small role, if anything in this thing.
It was much bigger than Mr. Jowers, who owned a little greasy-spoon
restaurant there and happened to be at the location that he was. Now, ladies and
gentlemen, I guess the area of disagreement between Dr. Pepper and myself for
the most part is this: It is Mr. James Earl Ray's part in this case.
Let's look at this. You know, you have Mr. Ray here, who was a convict who
spent ninety-nine and nine-tenths of his life in prison, who would do anything
for money. He'd rob, take a gun, steal, do anything for money. He enjoyed his
notoriety as the most famous prisoner this state has ever known.
He enjoyed that. That was a big thing with him. Here he was let out of prison
in a bread truck. If you saw the poster here that's an exhibit, fifty dollars
reward. Big reward for him, wasn't it, for a man. He came and talked Dr. King.
Don't you think it is ironic he was in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Memphis,
Tennessee, when Dr. King was there, Selma, Alabama, little town of Selma when
Dr. King was there?
Don't you think it is ironic that there was a map that they found when he was
where he circled Dr. King's home, his church, his place of business? I asked
him on the deposition -- I know the deposition was long and burdensome to you,
but I want you to hear what he said. He has told a thousand and one stories.
This was his last one. This is number one thousand and one. As far as I know, it
is the last time he ever told his story and testified.
It is ironic that he had a map of
with these three markings. He had never been to
, never been to
, never been to
, no maps. But a map of
was found in his car which admitted had the circle around Dr. King's home, his
place of business and Dr. King's church.
Now, the State of
says that James Earl Ray acted and acted alone. I think there is some validity
to that. I don't agree with everything they say, but I think there is some
validity to it. Mr. Ray, when I asked him how did you know that Dr. King had
been assassinated, he said, I heard it on the news. I had just gone through a
whole series of questions where he said I never listened to the news. I said,
didn't you know they had riots in
, didn't you know there was someone killed there? He said, I never listened to
the news. Five minutes after Dr. King was killed, yeah, I heard it on the news.
I think Mr. Ray's testimony speaks for itself.
He goes in and buys a gun he says from somebody named Raoul that asked him to
do this, but he gets a gun that Raoul says -- first of all, Raoul didn't tell
him to get a scope. He got that on his own. He didn't tell him to get a scope on
a rifle. He goes in and says, I want another gun, this is not the right gun,
Raoul told me to do this, but he never showed the gun to Raoul. Was there really
a Raoul? Maybe there was. Isn't it ironic that for month no one ever saw him
with Mr. Ray, no one, no one. Now, when you take all the testimony here from Mr.
Ray and all the scenarios and the things that happened, it makes you wonder, did
Mr. Ray do this? Dr. Francisco says, I was taken up to the window there where
the shot was supposed to have come from and I saw the path of the bullet. In my
opinion, it came from that window sill. This is a medical examiner saying that.
Ladies and gentlemen, last year the Attorney General's Office here concluded a
five-year investigation, five years, and this is a report of theirs. Don't
decide this case without reading this report. It is an exhibit. Can you read it.
Don't decide the case without seeing this. It wouldn't be fair to anyone if you
didn't. They concluded that there is no proof here that anyone acted in this
case except Mr. Ray that was material.
Now, you know, you wonder sometimes why people tell things, and you've got to
think about, well, is that -- what are the circumstances? Because in March of
1969, here again is an exhibit which you need to read before deciding this case,
Mr. Ray was asked by Judge Battle, "Are you pleading guilty to murder in
the first degree in this case because you killed Dr. Martin Luther King under
such circumstances that would make you legally guilty of murder in the first
degree under the law as explained to you by your lawyers? Answer, yes."
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I think under the circumstances, if you remember
former Congressman Fountroy here said -- I asked him, why did the committee
conclude that Mr. Ray was the assassin? What was his answer? He said because he
kept changing his story. Do you remember tht? That's the testimony he gave here,
a gentleman who was in charge of the congressional committee.
This went on for weeks and weeks and weeks. They spent money, untold sums of
money to investigate this case. They concluded that Mr. Ray was the one who
pulled the trigger, was the one who did the assassination.
Now, let me say this: After spending several years with this case and talking
to many, many witnesses, listening to this trial and taking many depositions,
you can't help but wonder about things. You've got to wonder from this
standpoint: Would the restaurant owner of a greasy-spoon restaurant and a lone
assassin, could they pull away officers from the scene of an assassination?
Could they change rooms? Could they put someone up on top of the fire station? A
convict and a greasy-spoon restaurant owner, could they do that? You know, when
this trial started, there are two people mentioned in this guilty plea who are
still living. I talked to them and issued subpoenas for them to be here who are
prosecutors to explain you to ladies and gentlemen as to why there wasn't more
done to investigate this case. Mr. Ray tried several times, seven, eight, nine
times, to get a trial the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court, never granted it.
He was turned down that many times. Why didn't they test the gun? I don't know.
It doesn't make sense to me. You know, that would have ended this case if they
had tested the gun. There is DNA -- they can use means now to test these guns.
They could find out if they wanted to. Why wasn't that done? I don't understand.
I've never understood as to why the prosecutors and the Attorney General, if
they really wanted to end this case and solve it, why didn't they test the gun.
That would have told us whether or not Mr. Ray -- that was the gun that did it
with his fingerprints on it or was it another gun. It was never done. They
fought it and fought it and fought it.
I talked to two prosecutors who agreed to be here to testify, who had
subpoenas to be here. The day before yesterday, without you knowing, the Court
of Appeals said, no, you can't bring them in.
They turned us down again. That's the same thing we've had over and over and
Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is ironic in this case that when the
extradition proceedings were started against Mr. Ray, that it was to try to
extradite him for conspiracy to murder. That was the first thing the
government tried to extradite Mr. Ray for, was conspiracy to murder.
You know, when you stop and rationalize this case and think, there has to be
more it to it than a greasy-spoon restaurant owner and an escaped convict. They
could not have arranged these things. They could not have done those things. Mr.
Arkin testified here that one hour before the assassination, or a couple hours,
there was a man that came in from
, sent in here from
saying Mr. Redditt has had a threat on his life and you've got to go get him.
Could a greasy-spoon operator and escaped convict arrange for that? You know
that's not the case. And I do, too. Anyone who can think knows better than that.
Mr. Arkin also said there were officers from the
government in his office. Why were they here? What were they doing here? They
were sent here by the
Now, ladies and gentlemen, we've had problems with race in
, and I'm sorry to say that I must talk about it to some extent. It has been
said by a person who was very knowledgeable that we have the most serious racial
of any city in this nation, and that's bad, that's terrible. We've got to live
together and learn to live together and to know that we are all bothers and
sisters. It shouldn't be this way. It shouldn't be we should have this type
racism and the type problems we have.
In this case you have the opportunity to speak. You'll speak in your verdict
in case that will either say one of two things: That we know that there was a
conspiracy here, we know that they didn't intend for Dr. King to go to
Washington to march, and we know that the United States government, the FBI and
the Memphis Police Department and other government agencies along with Mr.
Liberto and Mr. Earl Clark and Mr. James Earl Ray were involved in this case,
and that's the type verdict that I would ask you to consider.
You told me at the beginning you weren't afraid to let the chips fall where
they may. I gather from that that you are not afraid of the
government. You are not afraid of the Memphis Police Department. If they are
liable, you are going to say they are. Am I correct? Isn't that what we agreed
I think the testimony here that you've heard and the proof that you've heard
indicates clearly there is more than just Mr. Jowers involved. He was a
small-time greasy-spoon cafe operator who played a very small significant part
in this case, if anything. If you will study over the reports I've provided for
you and the exhibits, think about all the testimony that has been given here and
what really happened, ladies and gentlemen, your verdict would have to be that
government, the FBI, the Memphis Police Department and others were involved in
this conspiracy to murder Dr. King.
It is a shameful, terrible thing that happened here in
. I'm sorry and apologize to Mr. King that it did, but think about it. It is a
very serious matter. You'll never have a more serious opportunity to sit on a
jury than this where the issues are more serious than this. Whatever you say
will be recorded in history, and this will be it. We expect this case to end
after this. It has been going on for years, but we think it is going to end with
your decision in this case.
Please give it serious consideration and please think about a judgment
against others besides Mr. Jowers. He played a very small part, you know he did,
in this case. Think about the other part that Mr. Ray played, Mr. Liberto
played. You've got testimony here from a witness that is uncontradicted saying
that Mr. Liberto told me he had Martin Luther King assassinated.
Go over it. Think about it. Read over it. There is only one thing to do,
that's to say that we the jury find that the United States government, FBI,
State of Tennessee, Mr. Liberto, Mr. James Earl Ray, they were all involved in a
conspiracy to murder Dr. Martin Luther King. That's the only decision can you
MR. PEPPER: I didn't realize I was going to have to try Mr.
James Earl Ray's guilt or innocence in this courtroom, but counsel has raised
it, so I should address some of the issues.
Mr. Ray had a habit of marking maps. I have in my possession maps that he
marked when he was in Texas, Montreal and Atlanta, and what he did was it helped
him to locate what he did and where he was going.
map is nowhere related to Dr. King's residence. It is three oblong circles that
covered general areas, one where he was living on Peachtree. He did this. He did
this up in
at the Neptune Bar, did this in
when he was going down to
. It was a habit that James had. The maps are part of his practice, if you will.
James never stalked Martin Luther King. James was moved from place to place
on instructions. He was told to go somewhere and he would go. He was given to
some money, told to come to
and he would be given money.
James Earl Ray was in
and was told to go to
. When Martin Luther King came to
, James Earl Ray left. He was there first and he left. He didn't stay in
. That was the time he left for
when Martin came there in March. He was in Atlanta when Martin King was there
part of the time, but Dr. King was in and out of Atlanta a great deal of the
time. So he would have to be there some of the time. He was not in
when Martin King was in
. That is a myth. He didn't stalk Dr. King. There was no reason to stalk him.
He wasn't in
when he was in
. He wasn't in
when he was in
. He wasn't in
when was when Martin King was in
. He worked in
, for a period of time.
He wasn't in prison ninety-nine percent of his time. Before James Earl Ray
went into the Army, he held down jobs. When came out, he held down jobs. When he
got fired, that's when he started to get in trouble. He went and hung out in
bars occasionally and somebody would suggest a good idea about how to get some
money. So James fell into it. He was, rightly as Mr. Garrison says, was a
penny-ante crook. That's really what it came down to.
He knew nothing about firearms. The man who sold him the rifle, Donald Woods,
said he never saw a person who new less about firearms than James Earl Ray.
Never saw a person who knew less about firearms.
He used to carry a pistol. When he would stick up a store, he would carry a
pistol, and he had five bullets in the pistol. I asked him, James, why would you
have five bullets in the pistol, why not six? He always kept the firing pin
chamber empty. He was embarrassed to tell me.
Finally I got it out of him. One time literally he shot himself in the foot.
It was an accident and the gun went off. He decided if he kept the firing pin
chamber empty, that wouldn't happen. He only had five bullets. When he was
arrested at Heathrow in
, that gun he was carrying had only five bullets.
He was somebody who was capable of being used for a crime like this. He was
someone who was gullible in a lot of ways.
He was someone who needed money. He was on the run when he was concerned and
he was someone that could be used. And he was used, and being used, he was told
only what he needed to know. Because that's the way those things operate. Once
he came under the control of this fellow, he would be told where to go, what to
do, only what he needed to know.
10 He bought the wrong gun. He bought a 243
. Raoul said, no, he wanted 12 a 30-06. He pointed it out to him in a 3 brochure
and he went back and got it. The very fact that he bought a gun and then went
around and immediately exchanged it indicates that somebody is involved,
somebody is controlling him or telling him to do something. So he did that.
Yes, he heard about the assassination on the radio, heard it on the car
radio. He came back around to go to park the car on
South Main Street
the way Raoul instructed him. At the time he came back around, the police were
all over the place.
He is an escaped convict. He is not thinking of Martin Luther King or
anything else. He is thinking of being an escaped convict and being stopped. So
he takes off. That's exactly what he did. He took off. And he did hear about
this on the radio. The more he drove, the more he listened to the radio, the
more he realized he was in serious trouble.
One of the problems James Earl Ray faced and lawyers for him faced was the
fact that he was a classic con. If he believed someone was trying to help him,
he wouldn't tell, he wouldn't name that person, wouldn't tell you who the person
was. By my view, he mistakenly believed he was being helped, particularly when
he was in
. But he would never tell us who was assisting him because he thought these were
people who were legitimately trying to help him and he was not going to rat on
When he was captured after one prison escape and he was asked continually to
explain how he got out, how he managed to get away, he refused to tell them.
When I pushed him on it, how did it happen, he said, well, the guard was asleep,
the guard fell asleep.
I said, why didn't you tell me that? He said, no, no, I might need him again
another day. Even in that case he wouldn't tell So Ray was that kind of
I looked at him from 1978 to 1988, only began to represent him in 1988. Ten
years after I started on this case I consented to represent James Earl Ray when
I became totally convinced after ten years of looking at the evidence that he
had no knowing involvement. He pled guilty because that was the thing to do.
Mr. Garrison read to you the response to the judge. What he left out was the
fact that Ray said, yes, legally guilty, legally guilty. He was legally because
he was copping a plea, so he was legally guilty. He never confessed. The media
has always said he confessed, the confessed killer. He never confessed.
He always insisted that he didn't do it, always wanted a trial. When he fired
the Haynes, Foremen came in, December 18th Foreman came on this case, formally
into Memphis for the first time for a hearing, two p.m. that afternoon Foreman's
local counsel was in meeting with the prosecutor. Two p.m., December 18th we
have the minutes of the meeting, the local attorney was meeting with the
prosecutor, Canale, to start plea-bargaining negotiations. Imagine that, without
any knowledge of Ray at all.
On February 21 he was writing to his brother that I expect a trial to start
perhaps in April. That late they had been stitching him up all that time
Finally Foreman comes down on him and says that you've got to plead guilty,
they are doing fry your ass, they convicted you in the paper, they are going to
send your father back where he was a parole violator forty years ago, they are
going to harass the rest of your family and, besides, Forman said, I'm not in
good health and I can't give you your best defense.
That was the thing that James said always, he had to get rid of that lawyer
and didn't think the judge would change him, so he said to him to plead, which
he did on March 10th, and then I'll get a new trial, the motion was denied on
March 13th, and he tried ever since. He filed motions. The judge died. Judge
Battle died with his head on James Earl Ray's application for a new trial, died
in his chambers with his head on those papers at the end of March. James was
denied that trial.
When a sitting judge dies, normally such a case when a motion is pending, it
is granted. There were two motions pending before that judge. One was granted.
One was not. James Earl Ray remained in prison. I mean, I didn't intend to
belabor Mr. Ray's innocence, but I believe firmly he is innocent, he was an
unknowing patsy in this case and he was used.
As far as Ms. Spates' testimony, I did refer to it earlier. The statement
that you heard read under oath in her deposition were paragraphs specifically
from an affidavit that she had given subsequently to her interview by the TBI
and the Attorney General's Office here. And from what she told me, that was a
horrifically-pressured interview that they gave her, was distorted inaccurate,
untruthful, and that's why she gave that other story. And she reluctantly put
Mr. Jowers right in the middle of it.
Now, having said all of that, Mr. Garrison is quite right, you can read the
Attorney General's report. Take a look at it. Remember one thing when you take a
look at it. The man who headed that investigation sat there. He was one of the
witnesses Mr. Garrison called that we were able to examine before the Court of
Appeals said you are not going to talk to any of those people.
Mr. Glankler sat in that chair. I just gave him a sampling of names, gave him
twenty-three names. Do you recall that? I asked him if he interviewed these
people in his investigation, these witnesses with vital evidence that you've
Do you know how many he actually interviewed? I recall I think it was two.
That's the investigation the Attorney General's Office did. That just speaks for
itself, in my view. So I would look at the report in that kind of context. As to
the House Select Committee investigation, Representative Fountroy is very
uncomfortable with the results of that investigation, very unhappy, has been for
a number of years. He has indicated that they didn't have enough time, they
could have perhaps done better if they had more time.
At other times he said the staff he thinks misled them. Fountroy was never
happy with the results of that investigation. And I think he has made that quite
Raoul, the evidence on Raoul speaks for itself. Mr. Jowers himself has
identified Raoul. Mr. Jowers identified Raoul from the spread of photographs
that I showed him when Dexter King and I met. He knows who Raoul was. He
identified him as the man who came into the restaurant who Liberto sent in.
Now, one thing Mr. Garrison and I do agree on -- we agree on a lot of things,
actually, but one thing in particular, is that Mr. Jowers is a small part of
this whole thing. He owned this cafe, and he did have a debt, an obligation, to
Mr. Liberto, and he was prevailed upon to become involved in this assassination.
He didn't go out looking for it. He was prevailed upon to be involved.
I'm not really certain about how much money he got for his involvement. I
think he got a substantial amount of money. I think that is what the stove money
was all about. But I'm not certain of that. We will never know that, I suppose.
Mr. Jowers has unburdened himself to the King family. He has -- it is late in
his life. And for whatever reason, he has come forward and he has, as Mr.
Garrison has told you, voluntarily told elements of the story.
We believe that that is what he has done.
He has just told elements of the story protecting himself to the extent that
he can because he is worried about being ultimately indicted. We think foolishly
so because we don't think there is any interest in that, but that is his fear.
What, however, we don't believe, is that Mr. Jowers was unknowingly involved.
We've put into evidence the Prime Time Live interview with Sam Donaldson, and
in that interview and in the transcript of that it is very clear -- he tells
different nuances of the story, but it is very clear that he knew what was going
on, he knew what was happening.
Both Ambassador Young and Dexter King have said the one thing they didn't
believe about him is when he said he didn't know. You can understand why he
would say that, because he is talking to the son of Martin Luther King, Jr., the
son of the victim is sitting right in front of him. How does he -- with eyes
together how does he say I knew, I was a part of this, I was a knowing part of
it? So he said, I don't know. We just don't believe that.
And we believe the evidence of Bill Hamblin, who said McCraw told him what
happened to that rifle, but he told him when he was drunk over a period of
fifteen years each time. It might be very right that McCraw would lie when he
was sober. But when he was drunk, Hamblin said, you may recall, he was straight,
he told him the truth, and he told him the same detail again and again and
again. If he had been sober and he would tell him one story and then another,
then you would say there was some prevarication, maybe it was not true, but
Hamblin said it was the same story again and again and again but only would
discuss it when he was intoxicated.
On the basis of all of that, we believe that Mr. Hamblin is telling the
truth, that that murder weapon is at the bottom of the
where it was thrown by Mr. McCraw.
So that is basically it, ladies and gentlemen. I think that you have to keep
in mind that no matter how small the part Mr. Jowers played in this whole sorry
episode, he nonetheless played a part and is a conspirator. He is guilty, libel
in this court. He is libel in this court of conspiracy because he was involved.
Irrespective of James Earl Ray, and I believe in respect of James' memory --
he is not here to defend himself, but I had to give you information about him --
but irrespective of that, even if you found that James was involved and up to
his neck, that does not absolve Mr. Loyd Jowers, neither does it absolve the
governments and the government agents who have been involved in this case.
So a verdict of an existence of conspiracy, as Mr. Garrison said, quite
rightly, does mean that there is a conspiracy, and it involves all of the
elements that you have seen here today, and the award of damages, nominal though
it is, is to be -- is also to be a part of your verdict.
Thank you very much. Once again, please, we're asking you to send this
message from this courtroom across the land. Though they will not know the
details what you have heard probably ever, unless researchers want to come in
and read all of this, they will not be able at least to suppress the mighty
Whirlitzer sound of your verdict.
That's the message that we ask you to send from this courtroom to the rest of
this country and indeed the world who are concerned about the assassination of
Martin Luther King and his loss to civilized mankind.
(Jury charge not transcribed.)
THE COURT: I understand the jury has reached a verdict. I'm
going to bring them out. They've indicated that they want a picture of
themselves. So I'm authorizing this gentleman to take one picture. He is going
to make sure there are no additional copies. I'll have copies made of them and
send them to the jurors.
THE COURT: All right, ladies and gentlemen. I understand you
reached a verdict. Is that correct?
THE JURY: Yes (In unison).
THE COURT: May I have that verdict.
(Verdict form passed to the Court.)
THE COURT: I have authorized this gentleman here to take one
picture of you which I'm going to have developed and make copies and send to you
as I promised. Okay. All right, ladies and gentlemen. Let me ask you, do all of
you agree with this verdict?
THE JURY: Yes (In unison).
THE COURT: In answer to the question did Loyd Jowers
participate in a conspiracy to do harm to Dr. Martin Luther King, your answer is
yes. Do you also find that others, including governmental agencies, were parties
to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant? Your answer to that one is also
yes. And the total amount of damages you find for the plaintiffs entitled to is
one hundred dollars. Is that your verdict?
THE JURY: Yes (In unison).
THE COURT: All right. I want to thank you ladies and
gentlemen for your participation. It lasted a lot longer than we had originally
predicted. In spite of that, you hung in there and you took your notes and you
were alert all during the trial. And we appreciate it. We want you to note that
our courts cannot function if we don't have jurors who accept their
responsibility such as you have.
I, BRIAN F. DOMINSKI, Reporter and Notary Public,
The foregoing proceedings were taken before me at the time and place stated
in the foregoing styled cause with the appearances as noted;
Being a Court Reporter, I then reported the proceedings in Stenotype to the
best of my skill and ability, and the foregoing pages contain a full, true and
correct transcript of my said Stenotype notes then and there taken;
I am not in the employ of and am not related to any of the parties or their
counsel, and I have no interest in the matter involved.
WITNESS MY SIGNATURE, this, the ____ day of ___________, 1999.
BRIAN F. DOMINSKI
Certificate of Merit Holder; Registered Professional Reporter, Notary Public
for the State of
at Large My commission expires: April 14, 2001.
We were indeed first out on November 15, 1999. The Judge agreed to let
one media pool camera in the courtroom along with our own video camera.
The media camera, like the media itself, would come and go (they were
nearly always absent, with the notable and sole exception of local
anchorman Wendell Stacy who almost lost his job at that time over his
insistence that he attend every day. – so important did he regard the
case. He was eventually fired and by August 2000 was preparing a wrongful
Jury selection began that morning in the small Division IV courtroom.
We discussed moving the case to a larger courtroom, but because of the
Judge’s health needs, it was agreed that the trial would remain in his
usual room. The Judge disclosed to both sides that he had been a member of
the group, which had carried Dr. King’s casket from the funeral home in
Memphis after the assassination. If, therefore, either side wanted him to
withdraw, he said he would, we certainly had no reason to do so although
the defense might have felt differently. Defense attorney Garrison also
had no objection. The Judge stayed on the case.
After almost despairing about finding an acceptable local counsel, I
finally was able to obtain the services of Juliet Hill-Akines, a young
black lawyer, who had been admitted to the Bar in 1994. Before Juliet
agreed, I discussed the possibility with a large number of local lawyers,
all of whom turned down the opportunity – usually because they were
advised that it would have a negative impact on their careers. Rather than
expressing such apprehensions, Juliet took this as a challenge and an
honor to be representing the family of Martin Luther King Jr. I admired
her decision and was grateful for her independence and courage.
Judge James Swearingen barred the media from the jury selection
process. Due to the sensitivity of the case, he was anxious to protect the
identities of the individual jury members and, to the extent possible,
ensure their privacy. He would issue a further order barring any cameras
from being pointed at the jury at any time during the trial and would even
hold one spectator in contempt and impose a fine for violating the order.
An attorney for The Memphis Commercial Appeal, promptly made a motion
requesting the Judge to allow the media to be present during the jury
selection process. Relying upon the rules of court, which gave him
discretion, the Judge denied the motion. They appealed, and the Judge’s
ruling was eventually overturned, but it was moot since we had selected
the jury by the end of the first day.
Since there were five plaintiffs to one defendant, we had the right
exercise many more exclusions. We used them all since the jury pool – in
excess of forty – contained a large number of people who were employed
by law enforcement agencies and security firms. After the voir dire, I
consulted with Juliet in respect of each candidate. Almost routinely, we
agreed to exclude potential jurors from those areas of work.
At the end of that first day, a jury of eight men and four women, six
of them black and six white, were chosen. The trial would start at 10:00
AM the next morning, and after opening arguments, we would begin the
plaintiff’s case with Coretta Scott King as our first witness. On behalf
of the plaintiffs, I had drawn together an intelligent, enthusiastic
volunteer team. Professor Phillip Melanson and the Reverend Mike Clark
agreed to deal with all media queries since both sides had agreed that we
would follow the English practice that counsel would not give media
interviews during the trial. The decision was taken to avoid the
inevitable media spins and in an effort to let the evidence spear for
itself. Risako Kobayashi, my assistant, would co-ordinate the production
of evidence and the synchronisation of materials and exhibits to witness
testimony. Attorney Ray Kohlman, from Massachusetts, was in charge of
court logistics, special research, and last minute investigation. My sons
Sean and Liam, over from England, would respectively organize for the
scheduled arrival and departure of the nearly 70 witnesses and film the
Security was handled by Cliff Dates (CDA Security), who organised
security details for the members of the King family, who, in turns, were
present in the courtroom throughout the trial.
The trial began on 16 November. Opening arguments were finished by the
lunch break, and that afternoon we called Coretta Scott King as our first
witness. Court TV was there to cover her testimony and provide the pool
camera. They would pull out and be absent for most of the trial, returning
for celebrity witnesses but missing most of the material evidence as did
the rest of the media. In copycat fashion, as though programmed by the
same puppeteer, local regional and national media were absent for most of
The plaintiff’s case was divided into nine areas of evidence:
The background to the assassination
The local conspiracy
The crime scene
The murder weapon
The broader conspiracy
The cover up – its scope and activities
The defendant’s prior admissions
Though many of the witnesses testified to facts with which the reader
is already familiar since they emerged in the investigation, discussed
earlier, I will summarise the details of the testimony because, of course,
they achieve a new status as evidence given under oath in a court of law.
Mrs. King led off the group of witnesses, whose testimony provided
evidence about the historical background and events leading up to the
assassination. They offered various perspectives and facts and described
the official hostility to Dr. King’s vigorous opposition to the war in
Vietnam and his commitment to lead a massive contingent of poor and
alienated people to Washington, where they would take up a tent city
residence in the Capitol and lobby the Congress for long overdue social
legislation. Dr. King’s support of the sanitation workers strike was
described by Reverend James Lawson as was the eruption of violence in the
march of March 28, which Dr. Coby Smith of the Invaders testified,
appeared, to be the work of out of state provocateurs.
The role of the Invaders and their sudden departure from the Lorraine
Motel was testified, to in detail, by Dr. Smith and Charles Cabbage. Smith
said that the Invaders decided to work with Dr. King in planning of the
April march because they had been wrongly blamed for the violence, which
had broken up the previous march. He insisted that they had conducted
their own investigation and became convinced that the disruption was
caused by out of state provocateurs. He said they had reached a basic
agreement with SCLC and Dr. King, and in order to facilitate their
participation in the planning process, the group had moved into two rooms
in the Lorraine Motel. Their rooms were also on the balcony level some
doors south of Dr. King’s room, and he said that they had participated
in various planning sessions and meetings with Dr. King following his
arrival on April 3.
Cabbage described the Invaders’ sudden departure within 11 minutes of
the shooting. He said that a member of the Lorraine staff knocked on their
door. It must have been after 5:30 PM. They were told that they had to
leave because SCLC was no longer going to pay their bill. This appeared
strange because the bill for that evening’s lodging would have clearly
been paid, or obligated to be paid, much earlier in the day. Though it
made no sense from any standpoint, he said they accepted the order, which
he said they were told came from Reverend Jesse Jackson, and quickly
packed up their things and began to leave around 10 minutes before 6:00
PM. The timing of their departure was later confirmed by the testimony of
MPD Captain Willie B Richmond (retired), who noted the event in his
surveillance report developed from his observation post inside and at the
rear of the fire station. Captain Richmond also testified that around the
same time, he observed Reverend Kyles knock on Dr. King’s door. Richmond
said Dr. King opened the door, spoke with him briefly, and then closed the
door. Kyles then walked some distance north on the balcony and stood at
the railing. This account, of course, contradicted the story of Kyles has
told for nearly 32 years, in which he said he was in Dr. King’s room for
about 30 - 45 minutes before the shooting.
At one point, Cabbage said when they were being asked to leave, he
observed the Reverend Jesse Jackson standing on the ground near the
swimming pool, which was opposite the balcony rooms occupied by Dr. King
and the Invaders. He said that Reverend Jackson kept glancing impatiently
at his watch. (It must be said, however, that the group was running late
for their scheduled dinner at Reverend Kyles’s home.)
It is more difficult to understand why Jackson would have caused them
to be summarily evicted (if he indeed did so) at that hour so near the
time of the killing. Reverend Jackson has reportedly stated subseqnetly
that he didn’t even remember that the Invaders were staying at the
Cabbage never understood it. In his testimony, he also confirmed that
the Invaders occupying the Lorraine rooms were quite heavily armed as was
their usual custom because of the hostility of the MPD.
The Local Conspiracy
The involvement of produce dealer Frank Liberto in setting up the local
conspiracy was conclusively established by a string of witnesses.
For the first time in the 22 years that I have known him, John McFerren
took the stand and testified under oath about hearing, within an hour and
a quarter of the killing, Liberto screaming into the telephone to “Shoot
the son of a bitch on the balcony,” subsequently telling the caller to
go to New Orleans to collect money from his brother. John, courageous and
forthright, began his testimony by telling the jury about the long history
of his family’s ascent from slavery and his civil rights activity and
harassment in Fayette County, one of Tennessee’s most racist areas. As
he described the events that took place within an hour and a quarter of
the assassination, he repeated the same story under oath that he first put
before the FBI/MPD team who interviewed him for hours at the Peabody Hotel
on the Sunday evening following the crime. The federal and local officials
dismissed his account in 1968 as did the Congressional Committee 10 years
later. This time it would be different. A jury of 12 of John McFerren’s
fellow citizens listened attentively. Members of my team observing said
the jury was clearly moved.
The role of Frank Liberto was further confirmed by the testimony of
Nathan Whitlock and his mother LaVada Addison who provided details about
the admissions Liberto made to them separately in 1978, leaving them in no
doubt that he had organised the Memphis hit on Dr. King, that there would
be no security, the police were co-operating, and that a patsy was in
place. In subsequent testimony, Dexter King and Ambassador Young testified
that in their separate interviews with Loyd Jowers, he had told them that
sometime in March after Dr. King’s first speech on behalf of the
sanitation workers on March 18, he was approached by Liberto, to whom he
said he owed a “big favour.” He basically confirmed the story he had
on the Prime Time live program without any mention of Frank Holt being
involved. Liberto told him that he would be given $100,000 in a vegetable
delivery box and that he was to turn this money over to a man named Raul
who would visit him sometime afterward. He told Dexter and Andy (and me,
for as noted earlier, I attended the session with Dexter) that Liberto had
told him no police would be around and that they had a patsy. In fact, he
said, it all happened in exactly that way. Planning sessions for the
assassination were held in his grill involving lieutenant John Barger
(whom he had known from his own early days on the police force) Marrell
McCollough, a black undercover officer introduced to him by Barger, as his
new partner, MPD sharpshooter lieutenant Earl Clark (who was a hunting
companion of Jowers), a senior MPD inspector, and finally, a fifth officer
who he did not know. He said he remembered that there were five because he
had to pull up a chair to the four-seater booth. Jowers said that if James
was at all involved, he was an unknowing patsy.
Hence, Jowers also confirmed the involvement of Frank Liberto. Along
with the testimonial evidence of McFerren, Whitlock, and Addision and the
deceased Art Baldwin’s earlier disclosures, Frank Liberto’s primary
role in the assassination appeared to be clear.
A steady succession of witnesses provided details of the removal of all
police from the area of the crime, the failure to put the usual security
unit in place as well as the removal of other individuals, whose presence
in the crime scene area constituted a security risk to the assassination
Fireman Floyd Newsom and Norvell Wallace, the only two black firemen at
Fire Station No. 2, testified that less than 24 hours before the
assassination, they were ordered not to report to their regular Fire
Station No. 2 post on the periphery of the Lorraine Motel but to stations
in other parts of the city. Newsom and Wallace said that their transfers
left their base station short handed while they were surplus to
requirements at the stations where they were sent. The transfers made no
sense, and they were given no satisfactory explanation. Newsom said
eventually one of his superiors told him that the police department had
requested his transfer.
Detective Ed Redditt, a community relations officer assigned to
intelligence duty as Willie Richmond’s partner on the surveillance
detail at the rear of the fire station, testified that he was picked up by
Lieutenant Eli Arkin, about an hour before the assassination and taken,
first, to Central Police Headquarters, where he was ordered, by Director
Frank Holloman, to go home because of an alleged threat on his life. His
protests were ignored. As he sat, parked with Arkin in front of his house,
the news of the assassination came over the car radio. He never again
heard about the alleged threat, which apparently was a mistake of some
sort. He never received a satisfactory explanation, but it was clear that
his primary community relations police duties had caused him to become
closely involved with the community, not MPD intelligence. It was
understandable that he would not be trusted to be allowed to stay in the
crime scene area if dirty work was a foot.
Memphis Police Department homicide detective Captain Jerry Williams
(retired) testified that on Dr. King’s previous visits to Memphis, he
had been given the responsibility of organising and co-ordinating a
security unit of all black homicide detectives who would provide
protection for Dr. King while he was in the city. They would ordinarily
remain with him throughout his visit even securing the hotel – usually
the Rivermont or the Admiral Benbow – where he stayed. Captain Williams
testified that on Dr. King’s last, and fatal, visit to Memphis, however,
he was not asked to form that security unit. It was not in place. He
always wondered why but never received a satisfactory explanation. At one
point, he was told that Dr. King’s group did not want them around. There
was no indication, of any kind, from any SCLC source that this was true.
In fact, Reverend Lawson remembered being impressed with the group on a
previous visit and their verbal promise to him that as long as they were
in place, no harm would come to Dr. King.
On April 3 and 4, 1968, they were not in place.
Testifying out of order, because he had been hospitalised, Invader Big
John Smith said that though there was a small police presence at the
motel, earlier on the afternoon of April 4, he noticed that it had
completely disappeared within a half-hour of the assassination.
University of Massachusetts Professor Phillip Melanson took the stand
to testify about the removal of the emergency forces TACT 10 Unit from the
Lorraine Motel on April 4. Only, he and I had previously separately
interviewed inspector Sam Evans, who was in charge of those units, and
since I could not readily testify, Phil took the stand. He said that Evans
admitted pulling back the TACT 10 Unit, which had been based at the
Lorraine Motel, to the periphery of the fire station. Evans claimed that
the decision was taken pursuant to a request from someone in Dr. King’s
group. When pressed as to who actually made the request, he said that it
was Reverend Kyles. The fact, that Kyles had nothing to do with SCLC and
no authority to request any such thing, seemed to have eluded Evans.
It would be hard to imagine, on that April 4, a more complete stripping
away of not only the available security personnel from Dr. King but also a
more thorough removal of individuals who were not deemed completely
trustworthy or controllable. And it was all set in motion twenty four
hours before the assassination.
Stories had always been around about Dr. King’s room having been
changed. Former New York City police detective Leon Cohen testified that
early in the morning on the day, following the assassination, he learned
from Walter Bailey, the manager of the Lorraine Motel, that Dr. King was
meant to be in a secluded more secure courtyard room, but that on the
evening prior to his arrival, someone from SCLC’s office in Atlanta
called to instruct that Dr. King be given a balcony room overlooking the
swimming pool. Cohen, who moved to Memphis and worked as a private
investigator after retiring from the New York City Police Department,
testified that Bailey maintained that he tried to talk the person who
Bailey said was a man who he knew out of this decision, but the caller was
adamant. Dr. King was moved.
At time of the trial, Taxi driver James Millner had known Loyd Jowers
for over twenty five years. He testified that, in fact, in the early to
mid 1970’s, Jowers had basically told him the same story that he
revealed in 1993 about how he became involved with the assassination, how
it was planned and carried out, and who (Lieutenant Earl Clark) pulled the
Another driver – J. J. Isabel – testified that on the occasion of
St. Patrick’s day 1979 or 1980 – he and Jowers drove two chartered
busses to Cleveland taking a Memphis group to a bowling tournament. They
shared an hotel room, and after a meal and some drinking on the first
evening, when they returned to their room, Isabel said he asked Jowers,
“Loyd, did you drop the hammer on Martin Luther King?” He said that
Jowers kind of hesitated for a moment or two and then replied, “You may
think that you know what I did, but I know what I did, but I will never
tell it in court.”
The value of Millner and Isabel’s separate testimony is, of course,
that like Whitlock/Addision and McFerren, they provide corroboration at
least of a local conspiracy, as well as aspects of Jowers’ story, long
before his involvement become an issue.
One of Jowers’s former waitresses Bobbi Balfour testified that on the
day of the killing, Jowers told her not to carry food up to a tenant in
the rooming house, Grace Walden Stephens, who was ill. She said that it
had always been her regular practice with Loyd’s approval to bring food
up to Charlie Stephens’ common law wife during her illness, but on that
day, Loyd explicitly told her to stay away from the second floor.
Finally, Olivia Catling, who lived and still lives, on Mulberry Street,
midway between Huling and Vance about 200 yards from the Lorraine,
testified that she was at home preparing dinner for her family when she
heard the shot. She knew that Dr. King was staying at the Lorraine Motel,
and she feared the worst. As quickly as she could, she collected her young
children and ran out of her house down Mulberry Street toward the
Lorraine. By the time she reached the Northwest corner of Huling and
Mulberry (see Fig. # ), the police had already barricaded Mulberry Street
with a police car, so she and the children had to stand on the corner. She
testified that shortly after she arrived on the corner, she saw a white
man running from an alley, half way up Huling, which ran to a building
connected with the rooming house. He arrived at a car parked on the south
side of Huling and facing east, got in, and drove quickly away turning
left on to Mulberry and going right past her as well as the MPD officers
opposite her who were manning the barricade. She was surprised that the
police paid no attention to him and did not try to prevent him from
leaving the area.
Shortly afterward, she testified that she saw a fireman – who she
believed must have walked down from the fire station – standing near the
wall below the brushes, yelling at the police on the street that the shot
came from a clump of bushes apparently just above the area where he was
standing. She said that the police ignored him.
Olivia Catling testified that she had never been interviewed by any law
enforcement officials. She said that there was no house to house
investigation. Though she has lived so close to the scene of the crime for
32 years since the assassination, no one had knocked on her door until I
did so in November of 1999. She seemed relieved to finally get it off her
chest. She said that she had been so burdened all of these years because
she knew that an innocent man was in prison. When I met her, of course,
James had died, but at least this wiry, clear, and tough-minded Memphian
could take satisfaction that at last her story would be heard.
Memphis Police Department homicide detective Captain Tommy Smith
(retired) testified that very soon after the assassination, he interviewed
rooming house tenant Charles Quitman Stephens, the state’s chief witness
against James Earl Ray, and found him intoxicated and hardly able to stand
up. It must be remembered that it was on the strength of Stephens’s
affidavit of identification that James was extradited from England. In
actual fact, Captain Smith said he was not in condition to identify
The state had always maintained that after firing from the bathroom
window, James stopped in his room to pick up his bundle of belongings and
fled carrying the rifle and the bundle, eventually exiting the front door
of the rooming house, dropping the bundle in the doorway of Guy Canipe’s
shop. Then, so the official story goes James got into a white Mustang
parked just slightly south of Canipe’s store and drove away. Stephens
was supposed to have caught a glimpse of the profile of the fleeing man.
Charles Hurley testified that while waiting to pick up his wife from
work, he parked behind that white Mustang about an hour and a quarter
before the shooting. He said that a man was sitting in it and was still
there when they drove away. Most importantly, however, he again confirmed,
though now under oath, that the white Mustang parked just south of
Canipe’s store, in which James is supposed to have driven away, had
Arkansas license plates. ( white background, red letters ) James’s
Mustang, of course, had Alabama ( red background white number ) plates.
We read into the record and introduced into evidence FBI 302 statements
taken from two witnesses who left Jim’s Grill about 20 minutes before
the killing. Ray Hendrix and Bill Reed said that late on the afternoon of
April 4, they walked north on South Main Street after having looked at the
white Mustang parked directly in front of Jim’s Grill. The car
interested them so they took particular note of it. They both confirmed,
in separate statements, that as they were about to cross Vance – two
blocks north of Jim’s Grill – the Mustang turned the corner directly
in front of them. The male driver was alone. This would have been about
5:45 PM. This statement was suppressed at the time and never turned over
to the defence or revealed to the guilty plea jury a year later.
The Crime Scene
Olivia Catling was the latest observer to give evidence about the
bushes behind the rooming house being the place, from where the fatal shot
was fired. There was abundant, current, and historical eyewitness
testimony, which clearly established this fact and which was introduced
Solomon Jones, Dr. King’s driver in Memphis, told a number of people
at the scene shortly after the shooting, Wayne Chastain being one, that he
saw a figure in the bushes come down over the wall. The Reverend James
Orange could not appear due to a death in his family, but his sworn
statement was read into the record. He said that as turned around from a
crouching position in the Lorraine parking area, immediately after the
shot, he saw what he thought was smoke (we have since learned that
although it had the appearance of smoke, it would have been sonic dust
rising from the bushes caused by the firing of the high powered rifle in
the heavily vegetated area.) He said no law enforcement or investigative
person had ever taken a statement from him.
Memphis Police Department dog officer J. B. Hodges testified that he
arrived on the scene within minutes after the shooting. With the aid of a
metal barrel to stand on, he climbed up over the wall and entered the
brush area. He described the bushes as being very thick from the edge of
the wall for some distance toward the back of Jim’s Grill and the
rooming house. He said he had to fight his way through the formidable
thicket, but that eventually he arrived at a clearing and went to the
alleyway, which ran between the two wings of the rooming house. No too far
into the alley, he said (that he found a pair of footprints heading in the
direction of the rooming house. At the end of the alley, there was a door
leading to the basement, which ran underneath the entire building. It had
rained the night before, and the ground cover was wet, but there was no
growth in the alley, and the mud revealed an apparently freshly made large
footprints – sized 13 – 13 ½. Hodges guarded his discovery until a
cast was made. Those footprints has never been identified or explained.
As a part of their testimonies related to their questioning of Loyd
Jowers, Dexter King and Andrew Young separately recounted how he admitted
taking the rifle from the assassin whom he said had in fact fired from the
bushes. An earlier deposition of Jowers’ former waitress/lover Betty
Spates was read into the record, in which she claimed having seen him
carrying a rifle, running from the bushes in through the back door of his
kitchen. In this last instance, the defense raised the question of her
credibility noting that she had altered her story when questioned by
official investigators. As noted elsewhere, this was true, but she advised
me that it was the result of their harassment. The last statement, she
gave to me under oath, was consistent with what she originally told me in
1992. (Television trial producer Jack Saltman, recently confirmed to me
that Spates had independently told him the same story also in 1992.) She
had indeed seen Loyd, white as a sheet, with muddy knees, running from the
bushes with the rifle. For years, she believed that he did it, having
tried back in 1969 to get the story out. She had no idea that he had taken
the gun from the actual shooter.
Former New York Times reporter Earl Caldwell could not break prior
engagements in order to testify, but the defense agreed to allow in a
video of his testimony at the television trial on the condition that the
cross-examination conducted by former U.S. Attorney Hickman Ewing was also
played. We agreed, and the jury saw and heard Caldwell testify that he was
sent to Memphis by the Times on April 3 with the instructions from
national editor Claude Sitton to “... nail Dr. King.” He said he was
in his ground floor motel room when he heard the shot, which he said,
sounded like a bomb blast. In his shorts, he said he ran outside of his
room and began to stare at the bushes, from where he instinctively thought
the shot must have come. He is certain that he saw an individual crouching
in the bushes, which he said, were quite thick and tall. He vividly
described the person’s posture even in cross-examination coming down
from the stand to demonstrate how the person was squatting and rising.
Probably, the most powerful single piece of evidence (although the
cumulative weight is overwhelming), that the assassin fired from the
bushes, was provided by the testimony of Louie Ward, who recounted the
story of fellow driver who he always knew as “Buddy” but came
incorrectly to believe was Paul Butler, who, when in the process of
picking up a passenger at the Lorraine just before 6:00 PM, happened to
see, immediately after the shot, a man come down over the wall, run north
on Mulberry Street, and get into a Memphis Police Department traffic car,
which had been parked at the corner of Mulberry and Huling and which then
speeded away. Louie Ward testified that he later learned that the taxi
driver had been killed that night, allegedly having been thrown out of a
speeding car on Route 55, the other side of the Memphis Arkansas Bridge.
He heard that the body was found the next morning. Attorney Raymond
Kohlman, to whom I had assigned the research task, testified that the 1967
Memphis Polk Telephone Directory showed Paul and Betty Butler living at
2639 (Apt # P1) Central Avenue, Memphis. His employment was listed as a
taxi driver for the Yellow Cab Company, and his wife was a manager of a
local Gridiron restaurant. In the 1968 directory, Betty Butler was listed
at the “widow of Paul.” Attorney Kohlman went on to state that there
appeared to be no record of a death certificate for Paul Butler.
Subsequent to the trial, we would learn that “Buddy” was not Paul
Butler but another driver who regularly made the airport runs in Car 58.
Ernestine Campbell, who a minute or two before the shooting had driven
up Butler, took a right turn on to Mulberry, and then stopped in front of
the Lorraine driving way very shortly after Dr. King had been shot, told
me, for the first time, (as I pressed her to remember everything she saw.)
that as she started to pull away, on her right – the passenger side –
mirror she saw the back of a Yellow taxi cab in the Lorraine driveway. I
believed that in that fleeting glimpse, she had seen taxi cab 58,
Buddy’s car. We urgently tried to get her to testify, and whilst at
first she was willing, eventually she ran from the idea, even frustrating
our efforts to serve her with a subpoena.
The Murder Weapon
Independent testimony established that the rifle in evidence was not
the murder weapon.
Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown took the stand under subpoena to share
his particular knowledge of the rifle evidence. I qualified Judge Brown as
a ballistics expert for the purpose of his testimony about the weapon, and
as he moved through his testimony, his expertise was never in doubt. He
began by telling the jury that the scope on the rifle had never been
sighted, in which meant that one could not fire it accurately when lining
up a target through the scope. We introduced an April 5, 1968 FBI report,
which stated that the rifle, on the day after the killing, had failed an
accuracy test – firing 3 ½ inches to the left and 4 inches below the
target. In addition, he said that the metallurgical composition of the
death slug lead was different from the composition of the other bullets
found in the evidence bundle in front of Canipes while the composition of
each of the other bullets matched. He had no doubt the rifle in evidence
was not the murder weapon.
In a startling development, Bill Hamblin, deceased taxi driver
McCraw’s house mate/roommate for 15 years, took the stand and testified
that for those 15 years, spanning the 1970’s and early 1980’s, McCraw
had consistently told him (but only when he was intoxicated) that on the
morning after the shooting (April 5) Jowers not only showed him the rifle
that killed Martin Luther King but told him to get rid of it. McCraw said
that he drove on to the Memphis Arkansas Bridge (Route 55) and threw it
off. In his deposition taken years earlier, McCraw had only gone so far as
to say that Jowers had shown him the actual murder weapon on the morning
after the killing. If we are to believe that testimony and there is no
reason for Hamblin to lie, then the actual murder weapon of Dr. King has
been enmired in the silt of the Mississippi river for 32 years. Hamblin
testified that McCraw would never discuss the subject when he was sober
and that when he did talk about it, the details were always the same.
Hamblin also testified that on one occasion when he and McCraw were
renting rooms in a house on Peabody, owned by an FBI agent, named Purdy,
he told the FBI landlord that he should talk to McCraw sometime because he
had information about the killing of Dr. King. Promptly, after that
conversation, he said, they were given their eviction notices, and during
the 30-day grace period, the MPD harassed them on a number of occasions.
At the time of the assassination, Bill Hamblin was working in Memphis
barbershop – the Cherokee barbershop and his boss was Vernon Jones. Mr.
Jones just happened to have as a client the same FBI agent Purdy who some
years later would become Hamblin’s and McCraw’s landlord. The agent
had apparently been having his hair cut by Mr. Jones for upwards of 10
years, and so they had a long-standing relationship. Hamblin testified
that the agent came in for a haircut within two weeks after the killing,
and after he had finished, as the agent was about to leave, Hamblin’s
boss pulled him aside and within earshot asked him who killed King.
Hamblin said he did not hear the soft-spoken reply, but he asked his boss
about the answer and was told “he said the C.I.A. ordered it done.
Birmingham, Alabama Probate Court Judge Arthur Hanes Jr., who, along
with his father, was James Earl Ray’s first lawyer, testified that in
his preparation for trial, that they had no doubt would result in James
Earl Ray’s acquittal, he had interviewed Guy Canipe in the doorway of
whose store the bundle of evidence including the evidence rifle was
dropped. He said that Canipe told him in no uncertain terms that the rifle
was dropped about 10 minutes before the shot was fired so it obviously
could not have been the murder weapon. Judge Hanes testified that Canipe
was prepared to testify for the defense at the trial.
Washington D.C. Attorney, James Lesar, who specializes in Freedom of
Information Act legal actions, testified that in one such application, he
obtained an FBI report concerning tests that they had conducted on the
bathroom window sill or, more specifically, on a dent in the window sill
which they suspected might haven been caused by the assassin resting or
pressing the barrel on the old wooden sill. Though a prosecutor had
alleged to the contrary before the guilty plea jury on March 10, 1969, we
introduced into evidence the actual report issued by the laboratory in
April, 1968. It stated that it would not be possible to tie the dent in
the windowsill to the rifle in evidence.
In their testimonies, Dexter King and Andy Young said that the
defendant himself had made it clear that the murder weapon was not the
rifle in evidence, but the one he took from the shooter. Jowers also told
them that he had tried to flush the spent shell down his toilet, but it
stopped it up, and he had to remove it. The Mississippi River became its
final resting place as well.
We explored the possibility of recovering the rifle form the river but
gave up the idea when we learned that a train locomotive, tanks, barges,
and cars had been lost in the enormous deep silt bottom, which was stirred
continually by a strong current. It was frustrating to have to accept that
even though we knew the location of the murder weapon, we would not be
able to recover it. This disappointment, however, was alleviated by the
realization that we had demonstrated through clear and convincing evidence
that the rifle purchased by James, as instructed, was not the murder
Memphis private investigator John Billings provided the background
information of how a photograph of the man we had come to know as Raul was
obtained. Ironically he said, a Memphis Police Department officer, who had
been assigned to the District Attorney General’s task force, had
obtained the Immigration and Naturalization Service photograph and turned
it over to them in an effort to convince them that he was willing to
cooperate and work with them in the search for the truth. Eventually, they
learned that nothing could have been further from his true intentions,
but, in the short run at least, it gave them the photograph taken in 1961
when he emigrated to the United States from Portugal. Billing’s
colleague Ken Herman organized a spread of six photographs for exhibiting
to witnesses. Billings testified that, in his presence, when he placed the
spread in front of him, James Earl Ray readily identified the man in the
spread (who we knew to be Raul) as being the person who had controlled his
movements and given him money and who he had come to know as Raul. As
mentioned earlier, James had seen the same photograph in 1978 and, at that
time, identified it (with some media coverage), so this was not a
Glenda Grabow had earlier, consistently identified the man in the
photograph as the person, who she had known in Houston from 1963 onward
and who, in or around 1974, in a fit of rage implicated himself in the
assassination of Dr. King just before he raped her.
At the time of the trial, Glenda had injured ribs in an automobile
accident and was suffering from internal bleeding preventing her from
testifying. Husband Roy testified instead and confirmed that he had been
present when she gave her earlier affidavit statements. Thus, the jury had
access to Glenda’s story including the details about her relationship
with Percy Foreman, his admission that James Earl Ray, though innocent,
had to be sacrificed and the fact that Foreman knew – or so he said –
After Roy confirmed its authenticity, I introduced into evidence a
telephone bill for their home telephone which showed on April 20, 1996, a
six minute telephone call to Raul’s home telephone number. Under
questioning, Roy stated that Glenda would not have stayed on the phone for
six minutes with this person unless he was known to her. It is hard to
imagine anyone keeping a conversation going with a complete stranger for
that period of time.
Glenda had some time previously provided me with notes of her
conversation with Raul, written, however, after the conversation. Whilst I
believe them to be an accurate account of the conversation, I did not
think that in Glenda’s absence, we should attempt to enter them into
evidence. It is useful however to see them in the context of Raul’s
denials about even knowing Glenda. The conversation went as follows:
Glenda: This is Glenda Grabow
Glenda: Yes. I was just calling to tell you I was
supposed to come to New York.
Raul: Where you at?
Glenda: When I come to New York, I will call you.
Glenda: I still don’t know yet when. You sell wine
Glenda: Do you still deal in guns?
Raul: Ya, I still deal in lots of guns.
Glenda: You do?
Glenda: Have you heard from Jack Valenti Lately?
Raul: No, not for long time. Why you want to know? Why
you call me?
Glenda: I will try and talk to you when I get there.
Raul: OK. O ya.
Glenda: I heard your daughter was getting married?
Raul: Ya, she get married. How many you have now?
Glenda: I just have the two girls and they are grown
now. Time flies. Well I will call back later. When is the best time to
Raul: My wife get here, or (leave here) at 6:00
Glenda: OK, I will call you when I get there.
Glenda’s brother, Royce Wilburn, an electrical contractor from
Nashville, Tennessee, who had not discussed the case or his testimony with
his sister, testified that the man, he knew as “Dago” and whose
photograph he picked out of the spread, did indeed hang out, off and on,
at a gas station near their home in Houston. He confirmed that his sister
and he used to see and talk with the man because the gas station, where he
hung out, was between their home and school.
British merchant seaman Sid Carthew, in a telephone deposition
described how he had met Raul – whom he had under oath previously
identified from the spread of photographs – late in the summer of 1967,
in the Neptune Bar on West Commissioners Street in the Montreal docks
area. At that time, he said Raul appeared to be with another person who
may well have been James Earl Ray. Carthew said at one point Raul came
over and introduced himself (as Raul). Sid, who was identified with the
British nationalists, said that the Neptune was a regular haunt of his and
his mates when they came ashore following days at sea on the voyage from
Liverpool. Someone in the bar must have told Raul about his politics
because eventually the conversation came around to the question of whether
Sid might want to buy some guns. Sid said he expressed interest, and they
began to negotiate. Raul said that their guns were new army (US) issue,
and the price reflected the money that had to be paid to a sergeant who
was organizing the supply. (To my mind, this matched Warren’s earlier
account of guns being taken from Camp Shelby or other military
installations, trucked to New Orleans, and delivered to Carlos Marcello
who organized the sales, with, according to Glenda Grabow, deliveries from
The negotiations broke down, and the deal fell apart according to Sid
over the quantity. They were discussing the purchase of 9MM pistols. Sid
said he would take four. Raul asked him how he was going to get them home.
Sid, thinking about four pistols, said he would put them in his pockets or
in a carrier bag. Raul, thinking of four boxes, suddenly realized that
this was not the deal he thought it was and exploded in disappointment.
From that day to this, Sid remembers those details and Raul’s face.
Former UK Thames television producer, Jack Saltman, who had produced
the 1993 Thames/HBO television trial of James Earl Ray, took the stand to
testify that after the trial, when convinced that an egregious injustice
had been done, he continued some investigating efforts on his own. He
particularly focused on Raul. At one point, he took the spread of
photographs to Raul’s front door. The jury heard the tape-recorded
exchange between Saltman and Raul’s daughter who was on the other side
of the door. They heard her admit that the photograph was indeed of her
father. Her words were effectively that “… anyone could get that
picture of my father.” It was a startling admission for now Raul’s own
daughter had joined the ranks of all of the others, who had confirmed that
the critical photographic evidence was indeed her father.
Both Dexter King and Ambassador Young testified that the defendant Loyd
Jowers had unhesitatingly identified the photograph as being that of the
man who appeared in his grill to pick up the Liberto cash and leave the
murder weapon a “package” for the actual assassin.
Barbara Reis was very uncomfortable on the stand. Reporters do not like
to have to testify in court. She is the primary US correspondent of
Publico the largest newspaper in Portugal, and because Raul was
Portuguese, her paper was interested in the story. She was covering the
trial and in attendance in court almost every day for the first two weeks.
Some time earlier, however, she had gone to Raul’s home and spoke with a
member of his family ( who we agreed not to identify ) and that was why we
believed that we had no choice but to issue a subpoena for her testimony.
She was outraged, but I believed that her evidence was too valuable not to
be put in front of the jury. So under oath, she reluctantly recounted what
she had been told during the course of that interview.
She said that she was informed that though these allegations had
greatly disrupted their lives and were terrible, nevertheless the family
took great comfort from the fact that they were being protected and
advised by government agents who had visited their home on three occasions
and who were monitoring their telephones. The government was helping them
through those difficult days.
The fact that government was helping a retired automobile worker in
such a fashion was not lost on the members of the jury. We could see them
thinking – what is this all about? Everyone knows full well that the
government does not become involved in such fashion on behalf of ordinary
citizens. There clearly was something special about this person; some very
good reason for the government to extend itself to such an extent.
Ordinary private citizens are obviously not afforded these services. It is
our contention, of course, that he was and will continue to be protected
for services rendered to the national security interests of the state.
Don Wilson’s resolve hardened, and he refused to testify at the
trial, but his evidence was too important not to be placed before the
jury. Early on, Don had told Dexter King about the events and given him
copies of two of the pieces of paper he took away from James’s abandoned
Mustang. Dexter was, therefore, in a position to identify the materials,
the originals of which had been with the Justice Department going through
a process of authentication for several months. In the course of his
testimony, Dexter recounted how Don Wilson originally explained how/when
he opened the slightly a jar passenger door of James’s car, an envelope
fell on the ground, and he instinctively put his foot on it, bent over,
picked it up, and put it in his pocket. The young agent was initially
afraid that he had screwed up material criminal evidence by allowing it to
become separated from the automobile possibly connected with a crime.
Later, when he had an opportunity to consider the materials, he decided to
hold on to them in part, no doubt, because he was in a difficult, if not
impossible, position, for not having turned them in straight away and also
because he genuinely came to believe that the notes would be buried if he
turned them over to his superiors at the Atlanta Field Office. So he
retained them – for nearly 30 years, until he decided to come forward in
an effort to support the King family and James Earl Ray.
The material – see Figs. # and , did in fact contain the name Raul as
well as a list of what appeared to be a list of payments to be made. When
shown a true copy of the torn page from a Dallas telephone directory with
handwriting at the top, in his testimony, Dexter King identified the name
Raul as he did for a second time on the payoff list.
There was also written at the top of the telephone directory page
(which contained the listings of the family of H. L. Hunt) the letter
“R” preceding a telephone number. As discussed earlier, when I learned
that the phone number belonged to the Vegas Club owed by Jack Ruby
pointing to a connection between Raul and Ruby, I went to Dallas to find
and interview some of Jack Ruby’s strippers as well as Madeleine Brown
– Lyndon Johnson’s mistress of 21 years. I saw Beverly Oliver, Chari
Angel, and Madeleine Brown separately. In each instance, I placed the
photographic spread in front of them and each time without hesitation,
Raul was identified as a person seen in the company of Jack Ruby in 1963,
usually at the Carousel, Ruby’s other Dallas Club. Beverly Oliver said
that on one occasion, she remembered Raul giving Ruby $20,000 in a Piggley
Wiggley grocery store bag.
Glenda Grabow’s story about the connection between Raul and Ruby had,
in my view, been corroborated, but I eventually decided against
introducing evidence this connection and the link to the Kennedy
assassination. I did not want to run the risk of taking the jury down that
road. It was, after all, surplusage to our main case, and there was always
the possibility that the jury would refuse to accept the connection with
the Kennedy assassination, and then begin to question the primary pillars
of our evidence. I had Madeleine, Beverly, and Chari lined up to travel to
Memphis and then did not call them. It was a temptation, which had to be
resisted, but it was not easy because I believed these courageous women.
Madelein Brown for example is very credible, and some aspect of her
recollections of her life and genuine love for Johnson were compelling.
The fact, that she gave birth to his only son I have seen and obtained a
copy of Johnson’s commitment (through has local lawyer Jerome Ragsdale)
to provide support for his son Steven which continued even after the
President’s death). That she was able to provide such detail about their
relationship, was impressive. Of particular note was her recollection of
the events of Thursday evening November 21, 1963 – the night before the
assassination. She said she attended a social gathering at Clint
Murchison’s home. Ostensibly, it was an event to honor J. Edgar Hoover
who was a close friend of Murchison, H. L. Hunt and the other Texas oil
giants. The guest list included John McCloy, Chairman of Chase Manhattan
Bank, Richard Nixon, George Brown, of the Brown and Root Construction
company, R. L. Thornton, President of the Mercantile Bank, and Dallas
Mayor Earle Cabell, brother of General Charles Cabell, former Deputy
Director of the CIA who was fired by President Kennedy after the Bay of
Madeleine told me that near the end of the party, Johnson made an
appearance and the group quickly went into Murchison’s study behind
closed doors. After a while, the meeting broke up, Johnson anxious and red
faced came up, embraced her, and with a quiet grating sound, whispered a
message, she would never forget, in her ear. “After tomorrow, those
goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again – that’s no threat,
that’s a promise. She was stunned, but the next day she realized what he
I decided not to take our case in this direction. It was tactical
decision but, if, however, I am asked whether I believe that Raul and Ruby
knew each other, were associates, and that the same forces were involved
with both assassinations, I could only truthfully answer in the
The Broader Conspiracy
We next turned to present the evidence that the conspiracy to kill
Martin Luther King Jr. extended well beyond Memphis, Tennessee and, in
fact, reached into the echelons of power in the nation’s capitol.
Former Memphis Police Intelligence Officer, Jim Smith took the stand
under subpoena. His testimony at the television trial resulted in him
losing his security clearance, being put under surveillance, and
eventually, being in fear for his life, leaving Memphis only to find that
the FBI had permanently blocked him from ever again obtaining a position
in law enforcement. Now six years later, he returned to Memphis having
been transferred there in another line of work when an opening arose. He
was uneasy and not willing to testify unless subpoenaed. We served him. He
basically restated his earlier testimony that on March 18, 1968 he was
assigned to assist a two men surveillance team parked in a van in the area
of the Rivermont Hotel. The van contained audio surveillance equipment and
the two agents – he did not know which federal agency they were from. I
had earlier concluded that they were Army Security Agency Operatives and
that they listened in on conversations and activities in the suite
occupied by Martin King. He did not, himself directly, participate in any
of the surveillance but he observed it and understood what was going on.
Back in 1992, I had been able to obtain a detailed description of the
location of the microphone placements in the suite. It was so extensive
that even if Dr. King went on to the balcony his conversation would be
relayed to the tape recorders in the van below. In addition to the covert
(non eye to eye) surveillance activities of the ASA agents, the court
heard testimony from defense witness Eli Arkin, the MPD intelligence
officer – that the 111th M.I.G. was on the scene conducting its own
surveillance activities. He said that some of them were based in his
Military historian Doug Valentine, whose book The Phoenix Program
included a mention of a rumor that photographs of the assassination were
taken by army photographers, arousing my interest, took the stand to
testify about the military affiliation of the man who provided the Memphis
Police with the false assassination threat against Detective Redditt,
justifying his removal from the surveillance detail at the rear of the
fire station. Valentine said that when he interviewed the individual,
Phillip Manuel, (who had been in Memphis on April 3 and 4, ostensibly
pursuant to his position as a staff member of the McClellan committee) he
learned that Manuel previously – and perhaps then as well – worked
with the 902nd MIG. I had gradually come to believe that this little known
unit coordinated the federal agency task force activity in Memphis and
also liaised with the non military side of the operation.
Carthel Weeden, the former Fire Department Captain in charge of Fire
Station number 2, testified in detail about how in the morning, of April
4, he was approached by two men in Civilian clothers who showed him army
credentials and asked to be taken up to the roof of the fire station where
they would be in a position to photograph people and activity in the area.
Though Carthel was not certain exactly how he carried them up to the roof,
it must have been up the outside iron ladder which at the time was
attached to the north side of the building near the side door and the fire
hose tower. He said that he observed them taking their photographic
equipment out of their bag. Carthel testified that he did not notice them
again during that day and he just assumed that completed their various
tasks. Carthel also testified that he had never been interviewed any
local, state, or federal law enforcement official. The reason for this is
obvious. Had he been interviewed, it is quite likely that the
investigators would have become aware of the soldiers on the roof. They
would then have the obligation to locate them and the photographs they
took. This, of course, would be the path that any serious investigation
would have to take. It would be anathema to those efforts which were only
set up to conceal the truth for from all we understood as a result of
meetings between Steve Tompkins and the photographers the actual assassin
was caught on film powering the rifle right after firing the fatal shot.
In his testimony, Professor Clay Carson read into the record portions
of documents which I had provided to the King Papers Project, which he
directs, at Stanford University. One of the documents was a report from
Steve Tompkins prepared for me after a meeting at the Hyatt Hotel in
Chicago with one of the photographers. Amongst other details was the
photographer’s confirmation that the assassin was caught on film and
that it was not James Earl Ray.
Professor Carson, also read the responses to questions I had asked
Steve Tompkins to raise with the Green Beret I had referred to as Warren.
The exchange, on the record went like this:
By Dr. Pepper
Q. Dr. Carson, good afternoon - - barely afternoon.
Thank you for joining us here. You’re come some three thousand miles,
and I know that time is precious in terms of your schedule, so I’d like
to just move ahead.
Would you please state your full name and address for the record.
A. Clayborne Carson, Palo Alto, California.
Q. And what is your profession?
A. I’m a professor of history at Stanford.
Q. And what do you - - what is your relationship to
the works and life of Martin Luther King, Junior?
A. I’m the editor of Martin Luther King’s papers,
and I’m director of the Martin Luther King papers project at Stanford.
Q. And how long have you been in that position?
A. Fifteen years.
Q. And have you published various works on Doctor
King’s work and life?
A. Yes, I have. I’ve published, I think, edited or
authored five - - I think five books on Martin Luther King.
Q. All right. And is the King papers project at
Stanford University an ongoing project?
A. Yes, it is. It’s a long-term project to publish
all of the historically significant papers of Martin Luther King. It’s
been going on for fifteen years. It will probably go on as long as I go
Q. And in your capacity and as part of that project at
Stanford, do you have the process of collecting documents and materials of
all sorts of natures related to Doctor King’s life, work and death even?
A. Yes, sir. The purpose of the paper is - - papers
project is to assemble all of the historically significant papers from
archives around the world. We’ve contacted probably some two hundred or
more archieves to make sure that we have all of the historically
significant papers. Obviously, the largest collections are those at the
King Center in Atlanta and at Boston University.
Q. Right. And as a part of that responsibility, did
you receive from me certain documents, certain reports with respect to the
assassination of Martin Luther King?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. And it should be clear to the Court and Jury that
you are not in any way involved in attesting to the accuracy or the
validity of this informaion, but you are simply reporting on what it is
that you have received; is that correct?
A. That’s right.
Q. So we’re asking you to do that in a professional
capacity and in line with your role as editor and director of the King
With that background, Professor Carson, I’d like you to move, please, to
the first set of responses in the documentation that I’ve provided to
you and of the project that I addressed to a resource who was traveling
and providing me with information.
The Court and Jury have become aware with how that process worked so we
just need to go into a question and answer mode here.
On Page 2 of - - well, on Page 2 of the questions and whatever page of the
response, I’d ask you to turn to Paragraph 2.1.4, and the question that
was asked to be answered was: Was the operation, in re, our target, a one
op, or were there other similar operations? If others, any details
possible. Please, at least learn if they were domestic, foreign or both.
What is the answer that you have?
A. Answer: Lots of other ops nationwide. These are the
ones I was at, summer of 1967 - - parentheses, June 12th through 15th,
1967 - - Tampa, Florida. Two Alpha teams deployed during riots. Detroit,
summer, July 23rd, riot. Washington, October 1967, riot. Chicago, just
before Christmas, 1967, recon. February 1968, Los Angeles.
Q. Thank you. Question 2.1.5: When was the instant
operation? The instant operation is the Memphis operation against Martin
Luther King. When was the instant operation first raised with him, that
is, the source. A, where and by whom? Answer.
A. Answer: Date unknown. Place, Camp Shelby,
Mississippi. Briefed by Captain Name. First, a recon-op - - not sure when
killing King first mentioned.
Q. What - - 2.1.6: What were the first details of the
operation scenario put to him? A: Was target named:
A. Yes, King. Another answer.
Q. Yes. Please continue.
A. Young added later.
Q. First answer, King. Young added later.
B: What was site:
A. Site not set. Depended on our intel and recon. We
positioned at rooftop ascent across Lorraine motel about 1300 hours, 4
April. Don’t know why or how intel came in.
At brief, 0430, reminded Doctor King was the leader of a movement to
destroy American government and stop the war. We were shown CR, close
range photos, of King and Young. Don’t know - - don’t remember anyone
worrying about killing those sacks of shit.
One but - - buddy on Team 1, remember bragged about him, had him in
center mass, parentheses, this is a sniper term meaning cross hairs and
center of chest. During that big March in Alabama, should have done it
Parentheses, Bill, I did some checking from my files. There is a John
Hill listed among the 20th special forces teams that was deployed in
Selma, Alabama in 1965 for the beginning of the march to Montgomery.
I interviewed two of the team members who were there, and they said a
sniper team had King in their scope until he turned left and crossed the
bridge. This may be the same Hill on main team. None of the other names
Another Name - - parentheses, that’s me - - asked about clothes. We
were dressed as working stiffs working on the docks. Parentheses, I
believe this means their cover was day laborers on President’s Island
where the riverboat barge and the warehouses are located, end parentheses.
Equipment was stored in suitcases, moved along, came up in cars from
Camp Shelby. Only place I remember eating in Memphis was a Howard
My spotter and I were met by a Name down near the train tracks where we
were let out. I remembered this guy because he looked a lot like a buddy -
- parentheses, buddy of mine. This guy got us to the building where we set
up. I always figured he was a spook.
From him, we got a detailed AO - - parentheses, area of operations map
- - not the kind you’d buy in a gas station, pictures of cars the King
group were driving, and the guy got us to the building where we set up. I
always figured he was a spook.
From him, we got a detailed AO - - parentheses, area of operations map
- - not the kind you’d buy in a gas station, pictures of the cars the
King group was driving and the Memphis police tact - - parentheses,
tactical radio frequencies. Maybe some other stuff, I just don’t
Q. C: Any explanation of reason?
A. Name gave none.
Q. D: Any indication of sanction by or involvement of
others, one at federal, state or local levels?
A. Everybody but my brother was there. Spooks, the
company - - parentheses, CIA - - Feebs - - parentheses, FBI - - police,
you name it. The only person I remember talking to besides CO, Name, was
some guy who was the head of the city - - parentheses, Memphis tact
parentheses - - tactical squad. I think his first name was Sam. Name put
him on radio to describe to us what was in that hotel - - parentheses,
Lorraine. I do remember he saying friendlies would not be wearing ties.
Took that to mean that somebody inside the King group as informant. Did
meet in person one other guy. Met him on sidewalk down couple blocks from
our perch. Directed by Name. This guy identified himself with the police
intelligence. Said city was about to explode, and blacks would be
murdering whites in the streets. After a few minutes, I figured was asking
me to sit tight and kill any rioters if things went to hell. He seemed to
know something about us and said had met with Name before this day.
Q. E: Was operation pure military, any involvement of
FBI, state police, local sheriff’s, poster police, civilians, anyone in
A. Our part military. Far as I know, we were
coordinating with units at NAS. This would be Millington Naval Air
Q. Okay. Move over to the response to Question 3,
please. Was he aware of any support from inside Doctor King’s
organization, SCLC, or inside the local Memphis groups working with Doctor
King? Details and names if possible.
A. Scuttlebutt was 111th - - parentheses, military
intelligence group out of Fort McPherson - - had guy inside King’s
Q. Moving to Number 7. Did he actually see anything at
the time of the shooting? Where was he precisely?
A. I thought Team 1 had fired early. I guess I still
think they may have. After that day, I only saw Captain Name twice more,
and both times, he refused to talk to me about what happened. After the
shot, I keyed - - parentheses, radioed - - CO to ask for instructions, and
after a wait - - parentheses, I think this means Name told him to wait - -
was told to exit building and make our way to pick-up point. If this
helps, I heard a lot of gunfire, and I think remembering - - I remember
thinking it was an Army sniper shot. It surprised me later when I heard
some wacko civilian had done it. Name described the shooting to me, and
let me tell you this. Whoever fired that shot was a professional. Even
from three hundred meters, there’s no way just anyone could make that
Q. Eight: If the military unit did it, how does he
explain the head shot, and their not waiting for the coordinated hits from
the second target, A-Y, Andrew Young?
A. When you have everybody’s hands in someone’s
pants, it’s a cluster fuck. That’s what happened in Nam - - what
Q. What kind of weapons were they carrying?
A. Standard forty-five caliber sidearms, M-16 sniper
rifles and some K-bars - - parentheses, this is a military knife. We also
had some frags - - parentheses, fragmentation grenades - - and two or
three laws, light anti-air - - anti tank weapon rockets.
Q. Ten: How did the two teams communicate with each
other? When was the last contact prior to the killing?
A. By radio. The shot was fired just after the TTR - -
parentheses, top of the hour I guess this means, 1800, end parentheses - -
sit rep - - parentheses, situation report.
Q. Eleven: Set out details of their exiting Memphis,
how - - where they went.
A. Exit by foot to waiting boat.
Q. Finishes the first section. Now the second - -
second series of questions and answers. We’ll just move through these.
Number 1: Where was Young?
A. Best I remember, a bunch of them had been upstairs.
My spotter got Young when they all left. He went downstairs. He had come
out of his room below and looked like to me was heading for the - - a car
when the shot was fired. We were must getting ready to do the sit rep. He
was definitely out of his room.
Q. Second page, 2.15 and 2.16: What was the nature of
the training - - real purpose training?
A. This was a recon, slash, surveillance mission to
support major Army element at Millington and possible deployment of other
heavy units, dash, one of the dozens in cities with large black
populations. We were walking the ground literally. We would walk city
streets to identify possible sniper and ambush sites, anything that would
help the guys coming into a riot to survive. Target reduction - -
parentheses, Bill, he means killing Young and King, end parentheses - -
was discussed as a option should the situation go in the toilet, and we
had a riot on our hands in the AO - - parentheses, area of operations.
Then and only then was that option briefed. You need to talk to him - -
parentheses, he’s referring here to you, end parentheses - - about how a
military mission is done. Logistics, intelligence, communications which
make up seven-eighths of a mission. What I’m saying is that target
reduction was brief, but we had to get to a riot before it was authorized
on the net.
Do you want me to go on?
A. Here NAME digressed into an argument over radios.
Said team had PRC 77’s unreliable. Out of - - on that roof that evening,
we were watching. I had Young targeted, but only to watch.
Q. Then moving down - - Bill, I asked here about the
psychological warfare photo recon stuff at this point. Continue.
A. Big psy-ops (phonetic) plan to discredit King and
his party using any means at hand. We weren’t told much about this, but,
again, SOP with fifth special forces was psy-ops included and everything.
M-A-C-V-S-O-G had long time begged into this. We call this, quote, gray
operations and spreading propagenda to newspapers and radio stations. This
was done a lot against black pot-heads. I wasn’t involved in this, but I
kept my ears open, and this was a big push. Any intel we picked up to help
this effort out was passed back up the chain. Not sure about reserved
element of psy-ops. Most guys in Nam I knew worked for the fourth psy-ops
group at Teng Sau Nu. I know there they ran their own newspaper, radio and
Q. Yes. 2.1.7: When was Memphis first mentioned?
A. Not sure. Original brief of twentieth recon
operations including - - included Memphis among cities where possible
rioting was possible at Camp - - Camp Landing. Parentheses, Bill, this is
in Florida, end parentheses. Memphis was scouted 22 February by Alpha team
for sniper communications and supply sites. We had a lot of stuff going
in, but previous recon produced a lot more.
What we were doing is similar to Nam. Maps, terrain studies, readouts of
infrared imagery from aerial recon blackbirds - - parentheses, Bill,
he’s referring to SR 71 blackbird over flights of Memphis and other
potential riot cities, this mentioned in my series, end parentheses - -
and anything else we could find, which we shipped to S2 and Nam Trang.
Here we shipped to Camp Shelby S2. Where intel went from there, I’m not
Q. 2.1.8: Who was in charge of training?
A. NAME Captain.
Q. How long was the training period?
A. Can’t remember. Too long ago. Too many missions
before and after.
Q. During training - - 2.1.13: During training, who
were you told were targets?
A. We were told these were recon missions whose
purpose was to reverse the cluster fuck in Detroit where our guys didn’t
even have maps of city streets. Our mission was to walk the ground before
the heavies - - parentheses, Bill, means tanks and APCs here - - got
there. Training was entirely based on identifying communications links,
supply sites, places where troops could be quickly and safely inserted
where the black community was, where black churches were, where black
leaders congregated - - parentheses, restaurants, churches.
Q. 2.1.14: Other members of team involved other sites.
A. Worked with Captain Name in Tampa.
Q. 2.1.15. Were all those 9 – 0 second operations?
A. Don’t know and don’t care. What I know is this.
You start asking a lot of questions about the 9 – 0 second - - he
pronounced ninety-deuce - - you’d better be digging a deep hole.
Parentheses, Bill, he was very reluctant to discuss 9 – 0 second. I
tried several times in this interview to broach subject. He refused to.
Q. 2.1.16: Who controlled training and actual
A. Team leader and his exec. control.
Q. 3.2: Who was on the February 22nd Memphis recon
A. I was on it. Will give other names if agreed they
not be made public.
Q. 3.3: Did entire unit go together to Memphis on 4
April or separate? Explain.
A. No. We went in separate cars in two’s.
Q. 3.4: What time leave Camp Shelby for Memphis?
A. Don’t remember.
Q. 3.8: You’re referring to this Name fellow - -
I’m sorry. 3.8: Who did spook on ground work for?
A. You’re referring to this Name fellow who met us
down by railroad yards. Guy smelled like a company guy. We had maps, but
this guy gave us a detailed map of the AO - - parentheses, area of
operations - - not a regular service station map. This was like a grid map
you got in the field with street and building names.
>Anyway, this Name, I think it was James reminded me of a friend. I got
no proof though, but he was definitely a spool.
Q. 3.9: Details of conversation.
A. You got to be kidding. We just talked about the
current situation, our location and radio net.
Q. And then questions 3.9 to 3.14.1: No answrs?
A. parentheses, Bill, these questions, he simply could
Q. That finishes the second section. Lastly, Professor
Carson, you have a one-page report of a meeting that took place in
Chicago, also at plaintiffs’ counsel’s request, having to do with the
location of some photographers on the roof of the fire station in Memphis.
Would you read that report, please.
A. Trip to meet NAME, 1 December, 1994, Chicago.
Location, Hyatt Regency, downtown off Michigan Avenue. Breakfast, slash,
lunchroom off of lobby. Description, about five-feet-ten inches, one-sixty
to one-seventy pounds. Gray, short chopped hair, nice suit - -
parentheses, Brook Brothers style - - wing tipped shoes, erect, obviously
ex military. Said in Vietnam assigned first SOG - - parentheses, special
operation group - - base, Kan Tu, worked 525th psychological operations
battalion. Refused to discuss place of birth, date of birth or other
personal info. April 3, 4 weekend, 9-0 second operation. New Colonel Name,
worked with him number of assignments. Two agents in Memphis day of
killing. Therefore, routine photogs and surveillance copied to Name and
Name - -
A. - - believed distributed to other agencies. Idea to
pick up anyone in photos, might be identified as communist or national
security threat - - such H-U-M-I-N-T-S-O-P in King’s surveillance. When
King came out on balcony, camera was filming. No photo moment King shot,
but several of him falling. Second guy with Name watched approaching cars,
heard shot and saw white man with rifle. Quickly snapped his picture
several times as this guy left scene. Shooter was on the ground clearly
visible. Name witnessed only his back as left scene. Said never got a
visual face ID. Name and second guy rooftop of fire station, both armed
with forty-five caliber automatics. Second guy carried small revolver in
hlster, small of back. Pictures hand delivered to Colonel Name, but second
guy with Name kept negatives. Name has no copies. Said will approach
second guy for two thousand dollars, give us name and address.
DR. PEPPER: Thank you very much, Professor Carson.
There is a final document, which is a choronology of important dates, that
has been provided to us from January 17, 1967 to the 4th of April listing
dates, times and places and subjects of meetings that took place in
government agencies throughout that entire year. We’re not going to go
through that here, but I am going to close that and move that that be
admitted as a part of the total package of evidence.
Thank you for coming, and no further questions.
Thus, for the first time a jury heard the details of the investigative
process Steve Tompkins and I employed in order to reveal the presence and
the role of the eight man Alpha 184 unit in Memphis on April 4, 1968. It
became abundantly clear that the team did not carry out the assassination
but were in fact in position to do. Steve had always maintained that they
were only going to be ordered to shoot in the event of a riot. As
mentioned earlier that never made any sense to me, given the apparent
absence of any possible riot at the time in the area of the Lorraine.
However, the testimony of Invader Charles Cabbage made that possibility of
violence breaking out late that afternoon, all too real. Cabbage
acknowledged that the members of his group, who occupied two balcony rooms
just south of Dr. King’s room, were armed. When ordered to leave the
hotel, shortly before the assassination (actually leaving within 11
minutes of the event) the Invaders might well have been expected to react
violently disrupting the surface calm of the motel. If instead of leaving
peacefully, the Invaders had reacted violently that could have created the
required circumstances and cover for any military action deemed necessary.
In the event the Invaders left peacefully and the killing was not carried
out by the army snipers who were ordered to withdraw from their position
promptly after the shooting. They left the city immediately.
Covert operative Jack Terrell who previously I had referred to as
“Carson” desperately wanted to testify in person but his liver cancer
became worse and he was not allowed to travel. We had to use his video
deposition taken in Orlando, Florida on February 7, 1999. It stunned the
court. After describing his previous covert activities on behalf of the
Government he described his close friendship with the 20th SFG green beret
J. D. Hill who he came to know in Columbus, Mississippi. He said that J.
D. would train for two weeks every summer at Shelby with his unit and that
he used to return in excellent physical condition. He said that on one
such occasion in 1975 J. D. seemed to want to unburden himself. It was
then that he began to spell out the details of a mission for which he
trained and which was to be carried out in Memphis. He said that his unit
had trained for a considerable period of time to carry out an
assassination against a target or targets who were to be in a moving
automobile. He said that snipers were placed high above and a considerable
distance away from the target vehicle. They were not told who was the
target but suspected it might have been an Arab.
On April 4, Jack said that J. D. told him that he and his unit set out
for Memphis, still not aware of who the target was to be. It is at this
point that a whether or not it was a function of the progressively
worsening of the disease affecting his recollection of detail, I am
uncertain. In my first session with Jack in 1994, he had indicated that J.
D. told him that the team was already in Memphis and had been on three
occasions, in position – similar to Warren’s version – when they
were told to withdraw. The discrepancy arose between his deposition
account and the statement he originally gave to me in 1994. There, in
fact, may be no discrepancy, at all. In his earlier account it was clear
that the unit was staying somewhere in the area but outside of Memphis.
They would travel to town and take up their positions – water tower,
building roof, and window – and then leave at the end of the day. It may
well be that when he testified that they were en route to Memphis when
told to withdraw he was referring to the last trip in on April 4. When he
heard about the assassination J. D. told Jack that his initial reaction
was that another team was also involved and his unit did not get the call.
What is incontrovertible, however, is that J. D. Hill was a member of a
unit which trained to carry out an assassination on American soil and the
event was to take place in Memphis, Tennessee on or around April 4, 1968.
When, shortly afterward J. D. learned that Dr. King had been
assassinated on the day of their mission, he realized that this was his
Terrell then described the suspicious circumstances of J. D. ‘s death
in 1979 where his wife was alleged – though not indicted – to have put
a neat semi circle of 357 Magnum bullets in his chest, after he returned
home late at night. He was dead before he hit the floor, and Terrell said
it was impossible for J. D.’s wife who weighted about 90 pounds to have
handled the 357 magnum weapon with such precision.
He next went on to describe the three hour interview he gave to the ABC
Turning Point Program at my request. After they produced the team leader,
who I thought was dead, alive and well, – though without acknowledging
his criminal conviction for negligent homicide – I believed that
Terrell’s corroboration of the military operation in Memphis would be
helpful. ABC did not use one second of the interview but soon afterward he
began to receive official calls which led him to believe that his life
could be in danger. He left the country for several months. So, not only
did ABC not use the interview, we came to believe that it was very
possible that they had turned the tape or the information over to the
Government. Terrell maintained that there was no reasonable excuse for
them not using his interview. In fact, there was every reason for ABC to
be aware of his credibility since he had been previously a source,
interviewed by them on sensitive matters on more than one occasion. When
Jack learned that they had blocked out his story in its entirety, he
decided that he had to testify.
The Cover Up
A large number of witnesses testified to the extensive range of
activities which caused the truth in this case to remain hidden and
justice denied for nearly 32 years.
Incredibly, the chronicle of events and actions included murder,
solicitation of murder, attempted bribing, suppression of evidence,
alternation of the crime scene, and the control manipulation, and use of
the media for propaganda purposes:
Former taxi driver and security officer Louie Ward testified about what
he learned from the observation of Yellow taxi cab driver Buddy, who, when
picking up passenger at the Lorraine at the time of shooting, saw a man
came down over the wall, run north on Mulberry Street, get into a Memphis
Police Department traffic car and be driven away. Louie Ward testified
that he heard this account directly from Buddy, who was driving car number
58 on that day. He said that Buddy told him this story just before two
police officers arrived and were told the same thing. Later that evening
Ward said he saw a number of MPD cars parked at the Yellow cab offices. He
was certain that they were taking a statement from Buddy.
Since he was only a part-time driver, Ward said he did not return to
work as a driver for about two weeks. When he did, he entered the Yellow
cab offices, after his first day behind the wheel and asked, the few
people in the lounge where was “Buddy.” He said he was told that he
was dead having been thrown out of a car on Route 55 – the Memphis –
Arkansas bridge – on the night Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
Ward said he learned that Buddy’s cab No. 58 was found at the Yellow cab
offices, and his body was found the next morning around 10:30 AM.
He said he watched the newspaper for an obituary or death notices, but
there was none.
As noted earlier, Massachusetts Attorney Raymond Kohlman testified that
he had enquired about any death records in Memphis and the neighboring
states and found that there was no record of the death.
In his pre-trial deposition, the owner of the Yellow cab company, whose
son runs the business today, testified that he no longer had any records
dating back to 1968 and also that he did not recall hearing about any such
incident involving this driver, who he believed actually left the company
some time before 1968. Many of the drivers had died, and though we were
never able to locate with certainty the dispatcher on duty that night, one
person, who Ward believed also knew what happened and who may have been
the dispatcher on duty on the evening of April 4, refused to discuss the
matter. This same person apparently came into a substantial amount of
money after the event and bought a very expensive house, which would have
certainly been way beyond his means as a taxi driver or any apparent
So, at this writing, we are left only with the unwavering statement of
Louie Ward who concerned about his own safety and that of his family kept
it to himself for a quarter of a century. He said that he did call John
Pierotti at one point and told him what he knew. He said that Pierotti
then Shelby County District Attorney General gave him short shrift, and
Word said he become so angry that he asked the district attorney if he was
the person driving the police car that took the shooter away.
We had no doubt that Louie Ward was telling the truth. He had no reason
to come forward at this point in time and lie. He never asked for
anything, and our team concurred unanimously that he was one of the most
credible witnesses we put before the jury.
The effectiveness of the cover up of this side murder event, however,
was staggering. There was no police report or statement taken from the
driver, in any file, and no death record or report existed. No driver
alive, except Louie Ward, remembered or was willing to talk about the
incident, although Hamilton Smythe IV the present manager of the Yellow
cab company did acknowledge to Nathan Whitlock that he heard about such an
event, but then quickly said only his father could comment. The father,
Ham Smythe III, as noted earlier, stated that he did not believe it ever
Alteration Of The Crime Scene
Maynard Stiles, in 1968, was a senior administrator of the Memphis
department of public works. In 1999, he had been retired for a number of
years living outside of the city, but he readily agreed to testify about
what he did early on the morning of April 5, 1968.
The day after the assassination began for Maynard Stiles at 7:00 AM
when his phone rung. He said MPD inspector Sam Evans was on the other end
of the phone, and he had an urgent request. He asked Stiles to send a team
to completely clean up the area between the rooming house on South Main
Street. The team would work under police supervision, but the basic job
was to cut the thick brush and bushes to the ground, rake then into piles
so they could be carted away. Stiles hung up and called Dutch Goodman, who
he instructed to pull a team together. Willie Crawford was recruited along
with some others who began working that morning.
Stiles said that he checked on the progress in late morning, and he
recalls that the job was so extensive that it took his men more than one
day to complete.
So far as he was concerned, he was cooperating with the police. It was
not his job to question the decision to clean up the area. For all, he
knew they were looking for evidence. In fact, of course, a cardinal rule
of criminal investigation was contravened. An area which was part of the
crime scene was not only not sealed off preventing intrusion but also a
clean up crew was brought in for the express purpose of drastically
altering the entire physical setting itself so that it could never be
examined, considered, and analyzed as it was at the time of the crime. All
traces of the bushes and brush, which were in place at the time of the
crime, were removed. Ordinarily, it is the routine responsibility of the
police to ensure that the crime scene is preserved as it was at the time
of the crime. In this instance, the Memphis police ensured just the
opposite – that from the morning of April 5, 1968, the area would be
completely altered and never again be as it at 6:01 PM on April 4, 1968,
the evening before.
Not only was there – as Olivia Catling testified – no house to
house investigation in area of the Lorraine Motel but also a considerable
number of people in the area of Jim’s Grill and the Lorraine Motel were
never interviewed. At the time as Reverend Orange noted, many were told to
shut up and stay out of the way. This and other omissions prompted Judge
Joe Brown to declare that this was the sorriest excuse for an
investigation that he had ever seen. The old adage if you didn’t look
for evidence, you won’t find it held true in Memphis following the
Where potential evidence was stumbled upon or acquired it frequently
was ignored or suppressed – this was the case with the two FBI 302
statements given by William Reed and Ray Hendrix, which we put into
evidence. They were the two men who left Jim’s Grill about 20 minutes,
or so, before the killing and spent some time looking at James’s Mustang
before working north on South Main Street. Just as they reached Vance,
about two blocks away, they saw the white Mustang, driven by a dark haired
man, turn the corner in front of them. These observations, in fact,
corroborated James’s account of how he left the scene several minutes
before the shooting in an effort to have the flat space tire repaired. In
other words, they constituted an alibi but were kept from the defense and
Also suppressed were critical scientific reports known to the
prosecution at the time. First, that the dent in the bathroom windowsill,
which the state contended had been made by murder weapon, could not have
been proved to have been made by a rifle. Secondly, that the death slug
removed from Dr. King’s body could not be linked to or matched with the
rifle in evidence, and that this alleged murder weapon had failed an
accuracy test on the morning after the shooting because it had never been
Though this evidence was noted earlier, it is important to focus on it
here in terms of its suppression being integral to the cover up.
Near the end of his tenure as James Earl Ray’s lawyer – he was
replaced by Mark Lane in 1977 – and during the early period of the
investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Jack
Kershaw testified that he was asked to attend a meeting in the offices of
a Nashville publishing company. The meeting was held in a large conference
room, and those present included author William Bradford Huie. He didn’t
recognize any of the other persons, but he said that two of them appeared
to be government types.
He was asked to take an offer to James Earl Ray. The offer consisted of
a sum of money (in this instance $50,000) a parole and an opportunity for
a new life if James would finally admit that he was the killer. Kershaw
said he listened, challenged Huie at one point in terms of the reason
behind, and the feasibility of, the arrangements but agreed to take them
to his client. He said James rejected the proposal out of hand.
James’s brother Jerry took the stand a testified how, some time
later, he was personally contacted by author Huie who basically made the
same offer except that this time the amount on offer had increased to
$220,000. James was still having none of it.
Jerry tape-recorded this conversation and authenticated the transcript
of that recording as being accurate and the one he caused to be made. It
was entered into evidence.
The jury heard evidence of two other more sinister cover up efforts to
put an end to James Earl Ray’s protestations of innocence and request
for a trial.
Former Congressman and HSCA King Subcommittee Chairman Walter Fauntroy
testified that after James Earl Ray escaped (an escape that had “set
up” written all over it) with a number of other inmates in 1976, they
learned that the FBI had immediately and uninvited sent a SWAT team
consisting of upwards of 30 snipers to the prison. Their information was
that this unit was there not to help capture Ray but to kill him. Fauntroy
said that at his urging HSCA Chairman Stokes called Tennessee Governor Ray
Blanton and asked him to intervene in order to save their main witness and
Blanton’s most famous prisoner. Blanton promptly took a helicopter to
the prison and ordered the FBI out of the area, thus saving James’s life
for he was captured non violently shortly afterward.
April Ferguson who is now a federal public defender was, in 1978, Mark
Lane’s assistant. She testified that their office was contacted by an
inmate at the Shelby County Jail named Tim Kirk. When she and an assistant
went out to interview Kirk, he told them that he had been asked by a
Memphis mob connected topless club owner Arthur Wayne Baldwin to put out a
contract on James Earl Ray. Kirk, who had some lethal connections at the
Brushy Mountain Penitentiary, could have organized the hit but he became
suspicious. Baldwin did not reach him that first time, and he had to
return the call. When he did call back, he realized that the number was to
a suite of rooms in an hotel near the Memphis airport, where a suite of
rooms was kept by the local US Attorney’s office and the FBI and used to
interview witnesses and for other purposes. He thought that he might have
been set up, and so he decided to contact Ray’s lawyer and another
effort to silence James was aborted.
Baldwin had died, but as noted earlier, when I spoke with him in 1994
at the Shelby County Penal Farm, he basically confirmed Tim Kirk’s
story. Baldwin also mentioned another effort, in which he himself was
actually to participate in the killing of James. He said James’s
continued presence at the time of the HSCA hearings was a source of
serious concern and worry to Carlos Marcello and consequently to the
Memphis godfather, who he recalled had tongue lashed Liberto for not
killing Ray at the time.
Half a day was occupied with the testimony of Attorney William Schapp,
who we qualified as an expert on government use of the media for
disinformation and propaganda purposes. After providing the jury with
survey of these practices by governments throughout history in a detailed
question and answer exchange, Schapp introduced the court to these
practices of the United States Government in other cases or issues, where
intelligence and/or national security interests were believed to be
involved. A number of examples were cited. One, for example, involved a
CIA propaganda story that was spread all over the world and widely
believed for some four years, that Cuban troops fighting in Angola had:
1) raped Angolan women 2) were tried and convicted of these crimes 3) were
executed by the victims
In fact none of the above was true. The story was revealed by the agent
who promulgated it to be false and to have been totally concocted at the
CIA station in Zaire and disseminated through the extensive world-wide
agency network. Schapp revealed that the agency alone – not to mention
its counterparts in the rest of the American intelligence community –
owned or controlled some 2,500 media entities all over the world. In
addition, it has its people ranging from stringers to highly visible
journalists and editors in virtually every major media organization. As we
have seen and were indeed experiencing every day of the trial, this
inevitably results in the suppression or distortion of sensitive stories
and the planting and dissemination of disinformation.
He then turned to the coverage of the King assassination and examined
the extraordinary universal media hostility against Dr. King when he came
out against the Vietnam war, and the same reaction against his family when
they decided to advocate a trial for James Earl Ray. Cited were specific
examples of media distortion and blatant lies, which characterized the
media coverage of the case and James Earl Ray’s alleged role for over 30
years. Particular mention was made of the totally baseless New York Times
front page column piece reporting on alleged investigations by the FBI,
the HSCA, and the Times of the 1967 Alton Illinois bank robbery. This
piece was far worse than distorted or slanted reporting, since the
investigations did not take place and the Ray brothers were never even
suspects as the Times article stated. It was a domestic example of the
type of pure fabrication similar to the story about the Angolan rapes.
Schapp explained that a Harvard neurologist had helped him to
understand the power of the neurological impact upon human cognizance,
intellectual functioning, and reasoned decision making when the same story
is told over and over again. That impact makes the story a knee jerk part
of the people who are exposed to it. Even if they are convinced on one
occasion, by powerful evidence to the contrary, the next day will usually
find them reverting to the long held belief, which has became a part of
themselves – often integral to their very identity. Nothing less than
some sort of intense de-programming experience with ongoing reinforcement
After analyzing the powerfully comprehensive control of the media by
the forces who control American public policy and examining their
identical policy and coverage in terms of the assassination, the
systematic brainwashing of Americans in respect of this case became
abundantly clear to the court, jury, and those present. Bill Schapp’s
analysis and testimony highlighted the absence of the media in our
courtroom. In effect by not being there, they proved his point. As noted
earlier, only one local television journalist stayed. He was ordered away,
and he refused. Probably, only his popularity as a local anchor saved his
job for the time being. He was later fired. He – Wendell Stacey – said
he was never more disgusted with his profession. He noted that The New
York Times and the AP reporter spent much of their time in the hallway
outside of the court. They and Court TV would be present when celebrities
testified, but for them to remain and hear the evidence might mean that
they would have to write about it, and this was surely not what their
editors wanted to read.
Considering all of the aspects of the cover up in this case, the
ongoing media role is the most sinister precisely because it, if not
powerfully controverted, as was done with the trial, perpetuates the lies
and disinformation from one generation to the next, for all time.
The Defendant’s Prior Admissions
The defendant Loyd Jowers had made a number of admissions over the
years, which, taken cumulatively, constituted powerful evidence of his
knowing involvement in the assassination. A number of witnesses took the
stand, each with a particular piece of the picture of Jowers’s role.
Taxi diver James Millner, who met Jowers in the early 1970’s,
recounted how he came to work closely with Jowers during 1979 – 1980,
seeing him about 8 hours a day. On one occasion during this time some
twenty years ago, he testified that Jowers told him that Dr. King was
killed not by James Earl Ray but by a law enforcement officer and that he
knew all about it.
Millner said that after Jowers told him that Dr. King was actually
killed by a law enforcement officer, he added that “You can take that to
the bank.” After that admission over 20 years ago, it was not until 1998
when Millner said that he carried on a long distance telephone
relationship with his friend over a period of two and one half to three
months. During these conversations, Millner testified that Jowers
essentially told him what happened. He said he asked Jowers if he pulled
the trigger, and the response was – “I was involved to a certain
extent, but I did not pull the trigger.” He said Jowers stated that
Frank Liberto sent him a large sum of money in a produce box. He took it
and put it in an old stove. Then, the man he knew as Raul picked it up.
Millner continued that Loyd told him that the assassination was planned
over two days in meetings in his café attended by five men – only three
of whom he knew. Millner testified that Jowers identified an old police
buddy with whom he used to ride, inspector John Barger, a black MPD
undercover officer, Marrell McCollough, introduced by Barger, and a
hunting buddy, lieutenant Earl Clark. But he insisted that two other men
were present that he didn’t know.
Millner said that Jowers told him that Frank Liberto instructed him to
be at his back door around 6:00 PM where he would receive a “package.”
He was there, heard a shot, and then took the “still smoking” rifle
from his friend Earl Clark. Then, he tried to flush the cartridge shell
down his toilet, but it stopped it up. When he retrieved it later that
night, he threw it in the Mississippi River. The next morning, Jowers
said, Raul picked up the rifle.
As noted earlier, J. J. Isabel testified confirming his earlier
statement that he and Jowers each drove a chartered bus to Cleveland,
taking a group of Memphis bawlers to a tournament on St. Patrick’s day
in 1979 or 1980. They shared a hotel room, and after dinner and beers
(with Jowers having more than a few) as they sat on their beds talking,
Isabel said Jowers confirmed his knowledge about involvement in the
assassination. Isabel said Jowers’s response gave him pause. He dropped
the subject and never raised it again.
The jury had, of course, previously heard from Bill Hamblin that his
roommate James McCraw had maintained over a 15 year period that Jowers had
given him the actual murder weapon on the day after the killing and told
him to get rid of it, which he did by throwing it off the Memphis –
Arkansas bridge into the Mississippi river. In his earlier deposition,
McCraw only event so far as to admit that Jowers showed him the actual
murder rifle on the morning after the shooting. It was hardly surprising
that he concealed his true role and only discussed the extent of his
involvement with his friend when he was dunk refusing to broach the
subject when he was sober.
Also as dicussed earlier, Bobbi Balfour, (Betty Spates sister,
previously “Smith”) one of Jowers’s waitresses, testified that on
the morning of the day of the assassination, Jowers instructed her not, as
had been her daily practice, to bring food upstairs in the rooming house
to Grace Stephens who was bedridden and recuperating from an illness.
Grace and Charlie Stephens’s room was right next to the one rented by
James Earl Ray in mid afternoon, and which appears to have been used by
Raul for staging activity with James having been kept outside of it by
instructions from Raul on one pretext or another for most of the time.
Ms. Balfour also testified that Jowers picked her up and drove her to
work the next morning. On the way, she said that he told her that the
police found the murder weapon out behind the café.
Betty Spates story, which first surfaced in 1992, was put into evidence
as a rebuttal witness through her deposition and her earlier affidavits,
in which stated that standing at the backdoor of the café’s kitchen
around 6:00 PM on April 4, 1964 when she saw Loyd, her boss and lover
running from the bushes carrying a rifle. His face was white as a sheet,
and the knees of his trousers were wet and muddied. Rushing by her, she
said he broke down the rifle, then wrapping it in a cloth he carried it
into the Grill, where he put it under the counter. For all of the
intervening years, Betty Spates thought Loyd, himself, was the assassin
because she didn’t see anyone else out in the bushes.
Defense counsel Garrison attacked Spates credibility quoting from a
statement she gave to the Shelby County District Attorney General’s and
FBI investigators, in which she denied seeing anything. She subsequently
had told me that she felt threatened by the two official investigators. We
intended to call defendant Jowers at this stage of the proceedings, but
after the first week of the trial, his health deteriorated preventing his
return to the courtroom. Consequently, we read portions of his deposition
into evidence. That evidence included the statements discussed earlier
that he confirmed he made in a December 16, 1993, television interview
with Sam Donaldson on his Prime Time Live program, in which he admitted
that he became involved in facilitating the assassination at the request
of Memphis mobster Frank Liberto, to whom he owed a big favor. As noted
earlier, he was told that there would be no police around and that a patsy
(James Earl Ray) was in place, who did not know what was going to happen.
The most critical testimony and in terms of evidence damning admissions
by Loyd Jowers came from Ambassador Andrew Young and Dexter Scott King.
Dexter participated in two separated meetings with Mr. Jowers. The first
session was in my presence, and the second was with Ambassador Andrew
Young at the table. On both occasions, Mr. Jowers was accompanied by his
attorney Lewis Garrison.
Both Dexter and Andrew Young testified that Jowers, admitted being
approached by Frank Liberto who told him that his assistance was required
for the operation and that there would be no police around at the time and
that they had a patsy lined up, would received a lot of money, which he
was to turn over to a person, named Raul, who would visit him and who
would leave a rifle with him.
He said these events took place, and subsequently, there were meetings
in his grill, where the assassination was actually planned. Attending
those sessions were Jowers and MPD friend inspector John Barger, who
Jowers said introduced Marrell McCollough, another senior MPD inspector,
(whom he named) and MPD lieutenant Earl Clark.
The testimony revealed that Jowers said that on the day, Earl Clark
collected the rifle from him within an hour of the killing. The next time
he saw it was when he said, he took it from Clark when it was still
smoking after the shot. Jowers said he tried to flush the shell casing
door the toilet in the rear off the grill, but it stopped it up.
Eventually, he said he threw it into the Mississippi river. According to
Jowers’s version, on this occasion, the actual murder weapon was picked
up the next day by one of Liberto’s people.
Jowers insisted that he didn’t know who was going to be killed and
contended that he did not participate in the planning sessions. Both
Dexter King and Andrew Young testified that on this point, they didn’t
believe him. They agreed that he appeared to be an old man waiting to
relieve himself of a great burden, but that he didn’t quite seem able to
bring himself to be completely truthful as to his role and the extent of
his knowledge in first of the victim’s son.
This, of course, would explain whey he would not admit being out in the
bushes with the shooter or directing James McCraw to get rid of the murder
weapon as is indicated by other evidence.
The interview session conducted by Dexter King and Andrew Young was
tape-recorded, and that recording authenticated by Ambassador Young was
introduced into evidence in its entirety.
It is interesting that while he told Millner that he did not know the
other two men at the planning sessions in his café and that Raul picked
up the rifle the day after the killing, in the King / Young interviews, he
named a fourth man (an MPD inspector) who participated, and he said that
one of Frank Liberto’s people picked up the murder weapon on the morning
of April 5.
The King family did not bring the action for the purpose of obtaining a
large damage award against Loyd Jowers or his co-conspirator agents of the
City of Memphis, State of Tennessee, and the Federal Government. The
family decided to request only nominal damages in the amount of $100
toward the funeral expenses of their loved one. Three of the five family
members testified with great dignity. Mrs. King, Dexter, and Yolanda, each
in her or his own special way told the jury what it meant to lose Martin
King as a husband and a father. From their perspectives, the jury and the
court had a unique opportunity to focus on the personal loss to young
children of a loving, caring, and playful father, as well as the sudden
absence suffered by their mother as she was traumatically separated from
her lifetime partner with whom as one she had experienced joy and sadness,
success, and setbacks, tribulation, and adulation. One began to set a
glimpse of the burden of being the close family of a man, a human being,
who becomes a legendary, heroic figure in life, then mythologized, and
perhaps beatified if not sainted on earth. (At this writing, Martin King
has been declared a Martyr by the Vatican - the first step toward
The Case For The Defense
Defense counsel, Garrison, as experienced as any member of the Memphis
bar called this case the most important litigation, he had tried in his 40
years of practice. He had been, however, placed in a most difficult
position by his client’s admissions driven by a desire, on the one hand
to obtain immunity from prosecution (which began in 1993) and on the other
to unburden his conscience in his waning years. The defense therefore took
the position that Mr. Jowers had no liability, but if he did, it was
minuscule compared with that of the co-conspirators who were agents of the
city, state and federal governments. The strategy was to minimize Jowers
involvement, and consequently, it made little sense not to acknowledge the
role played by the alleged co-conspirators.
Therefore, throughout the presentation of the plaintiff’s case,
defense focused on eliciting evidence from relevant witnesses on
cross-examination, which tended to minimize his client’s involvement
though not that of the co-conspirators.
At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case, the defense moved for a
dismissal on the grounds that the plaintiff’s wrongful death action had
been field outside of the one year statute of limitations. We argued that
the statute only began to run after Dexter king’s first meeting with
Loyd Jowers and actually heard for the first time the account of his
personal involvement. The meeting was held on March 2, 1998, and the
action filed on October 2, 1998 within the year. No proof was offered that
the plaintiff’s or any of them had access to reliable information about
the defendant’s role as well as any opportunity to test his credibility.
Plaintiffs, for a considerable time, diligently sought an opportunity to
learn the truth from the defendant, and as soon as the meeting with Dexter
was agreed, it was held without delaying.
After extensive oral argument, the Judge denied the motion.
The most hotly disputed defense motion, and the last before Lewis
Garrison opened his case, was for a mistrial based upon the inability of
his client to attend the trial and assist with his defense due to his
deteriorating health condition. A doctor’s letter was provided in
support. It was true that Jowers had been absent after the first week, and
we had considered going to his home in order to take his deposition. We
ultimately decided against doing this when he informed us through his
attorney that he would invoke the fifth amendment throughout.
We argued that the mistrial was not timely or warranted since we at the
outset had fully disclosed our witness list and the scope of their
expected testimony to the defense, which had ample time to prepare. Since
the defendant had made it clear that he was unwilling to testify in his
own behalf either in front of the jury or by deposition, his presence or
absence was irrelevant.
The Judge was also unhappy with the language of the doctor’s letter
noting that it did not explicitly state that Jowers was unable to attend
court or testify.
The court denied the motion for a mistrial, and the defense moved on
with its case.
First, he called the Reverend Samuel “Billy” Kyles. In response to
questions put to him on direct examination, Reverend Kyles described his
civil rights experiences in Tennessee and the events surrounding the
sanitation workers strike and Dr. King’s visit. He said that they were
all under surveillance and he referred to the Redditt – Richmond
surveillance operation which was conducted from the rear of the fire
station. He said that he learned that one of the black officers (He was
referring to Willie B. Richmond.) engaged in that activity was so troubled
by it that he became an alcoholic, left the police force, and died,
implying that he committed suicide. He gave his usual account of how he
went into Dr. King’s room about an hour before the assassination, spent
the last hour of Dr. King’s life with him. He described their
conversation or “preacher talk.” He gave an emotional statement of how
he had come to believe that it was God’s will that he had been there to
be present when this great man died. He said, inexplicably, that Dr. King
did not die using drugs or from engaging in some other criminal, activity
but because he was there to help the garbage workers. He described how a
little old lady came to one of his speeches and told him how she just
wanted to shake his hand because his hand had touched Dr. King. Thus, he
considered himself blessed to have had this experience.
When Lewis Garrison surrendered the witness, he was riding high with
his credibility intact. After cross-examination was completed, it was in
At the outset, I decided that my associate Juliet Hill-Akines would
conduct the cross-examination of Reverend Kyles. I believed that the level
of my personal hostility and disdain was so high that professionally it
would be appropriate to ask Juliet to handle cross.
She focused on how he drew pleasure from women, such as the one he
described, reaching out to him, and seeking to touch his hand. Then, her
questions dealt with Willie B. Richmond indicating not only that he was
alive but also that he had testified at this trial. Kyles was surprised.
She then walked him through Kyles statement which, of course, refutes his
claim to have been in Dr. King’s room observing that he simply knocked
on the door, had a few words with Dr. King who then closed the door, and
Kyles walked over to the balcony some way down from the room.
Reverend Kyles said that statement was simply not true. He could not
explain, however, why the officer would lie about these simple facts.
Then, Juliet played a videotape of a speech given him on the thirtieth
anniversary of the assassination. In it, he described again how he spent
Dr. King’s last hour on earth with him and Reverend Abernathy in Room
306. Then, as he described how he and Dr. King stood together on the
balcony at the railing, he seemed to get carried away and became
transfixed as he said at one point: -
“. . . only as I moved away so he could have a clear shot, the shot
rang out. . .”
The jury and the Judge looked stunned.
Juliet played the tape three times, so it became very clear that he
had, in fact, somehow admitted stepping aside so that a shooter could get
a clear shot.
When she asked him who he was thinking about getting a clear shot, he
said, he supposed it would have been James Earl Ray.
At one point during cross-examination, Kyles mouthed silently to her
“You should be ashamed of yourself.”
When he was dismissed, he walked behind the attorneys’ chairs and
asked Garrison – “What did you get me into?” Garrison replied “I
just called you as a witness.”
Yolanda King was in court that day and had the very uncomfortable
experience of sitting through Reverend Kyles testimony.
Next, the defense called Frank Warren Young from the Shelby County
Criminal Clerk’s office. He brought with him the original transcript of
the record of the guilty plea hearing and authenticated it so that it
could be placed in evidence and in the record. The defense thus ensured
that James Earl Ray’s guilty plea was in evidence four the jury’s
On cross-examination, I asked the witness to focus on particular
aspects of the transcript.
I asked him look at the first pages of the transcript and observe
whether or not James Earl Ray had been put under oath by Judge Preston
Battle. (Required practice during a guilty plea hearing) He had not been
sworn. I next asked him to read James’s interruption of the proceedings
when he stated that he had never agreed with Ramsey Clark or J. Edger
Hoover that there had been no conspiracy and he did not want to do so now.
Upon request, he read the state’s representations about: The
existence of the second Mustang, (which they falsely claimed at the time
was the only Mustang); the eyewitness Charlie Stephens (who was actually
too drunk to have seen anything); the dropping of the bundle in front of
Canipes (the jury had already heard Judge Hanes testify about Canipes’s
statement); and the deliberative misrepresentation of the dent in the
windowsill, about which it was stated that forensic evidence would
conclusively establish “. . .will match the markings on the barrel of
the rifle in evidence.” (after Attorney Lesar had introduced a FBI
laboratory report stating that this was not possible.)
As their next witness, the defense called former MPD lieutenant Eli
Arkin. Arkin, who was a senior intelligence officer, confirmed that he had
picked up detective Redditt at the fire station and eventually, after the
meeting in the MPD Central Headquarters, on director Holloman’s
instructions, he took him to his home. Shortly after they arrived, there
the assassination took place.
Lieutenant Arkin then confirmed that elements of the 111th Military
Intelligence Group worked out of his office for some time during the
sanitation workers strike.
On cross-examination, he denied ever meeting or talking with any of the
Alpha 184, Special Forces team in Memphis on the day of the assassination.
Eli Arkin’s confirmation of the presence and activity of the 111th
Military Intelligence Group in Memphis added to the defense’s mitigating
The first wife of lieutenant Earl Clark, Rebecca Clark, was called as
the next defense witness. Prior to her testimony, she had asked for a copy
of her deposition to review and was provided with it. Mr. Garrison
established that her husband kept a large collection of guns and that he
was an expert shot. She said that she got off work at 4:00 PM that day and
that it took her about 10 – 15 minutes to get home, so she arrived home
around 4:15 PM. She then said she believed that her husband got home about
an hour or so later and lay down for a nap which lasted 30 – 40 or 45
minutes until a report came over the police walkie talkie radio, which he
left on the dining room table for her to monitor.
When the word of the assassination came through, she woke him up, and
he told her to go and get his clean uniform from the cleaners before they
closed. She set out for the cleaners which was about 15 minutes away, and
he took a bath. When she returned, he left.
Attorney Garrison raised the fact that kind of walkie talkie, she was
talking about, was not available during those times. She couldn’t
comment on that she said she only knew what she heard.
On cross-examination, I came back several times to the question of
whether she was lying to protect not her dead divorced husband but her
children and, of course, himself. She denied that she would lie for that
purpose. One major problem with her alibi for her former husband was the
timing of the events, which she described, and the conflict between her
earlier recollections in her deposition of April, 1999 and her current
In her deposition, she clearly stated that she usually worked until
3:00 PM, but on that day, she worked until 4:00 PM. She also stated that
her husband came home” fairly soon” after she had arrived. She set the
time of his unannounced arrival at some 10 – 15 minutes after her own.
She also indicated that he was not asleep very long when the announcement
came on the radio. In court, she now remembers that he could have arrived
as much as 45 minutes after her, putting it at or around 5:00 PM, and that
his nap could have lasted for quite some time – an hour or more.
It clearly appeared to me that she was trying to cover up for an
unexplained period of an hour, which may have meant both she and her
husband Clark came home earlier and that he left earlier well before the
As discussed later, we subsequently learned that the cleaners would
have been closed by the time she should arrived – around 6:30 PM. At
that time, Mr. Dent the owner would be at home having dinner with his
family. We would also learn that she did not go near the cleaners that
afternoon but that her husband who was not home did go there himself. We
would also confirm that the kind of Walkie Talkie radio which she said her
husband brought home was definitely not in use at the time.
Attorney Garrison read portions of a “John Doe November 5, 1999,
telephonic deposition into the record. The witness, who contacted
Garrison, declared that he was involved in the assassination of Martin
King present to a $400,000 contract for the killing put out by Water
Reuther the leader of the United Auto workers. He contended that Reuther
was being pressed by Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson. Because of Dr.
King’s anti war activity and that Carlo Marcello cooperated but was not
directly involved, and James Earl Ray was not even there having left for
Attorney Garrison completed reading, his portions of the telephone
deposition I advised a court that we had concluded that this witness was
providing misinformation and false evidence, and I referred to Page 56 of
the deposition and read his response to my question on cross-examination
with respect to him arriving at his position at the corner of the brush
area near the wall. When I asked him how long he took to get there in his
position from the time he entered the parking lot area, which was adjacent
to the brush area behind the rooming house, he replied only a couple of
minutes. When I asked him if he encountered any impediment as he passed
through the area to his position, he said None except for the bushes,
through which he had to make through his way. We then put up on the screen
a photograph taken within a day or so of the assassination showing the
area behind the rooming house. Very clearly visible on the photograph was
fence which was at about five feet tall and which around east and west
from the north side of the rooming house all the way down to the very edge
of the wall. For the witness to have passed through this area and not
having on countered, this fence was unimaginable. Since there were even
some barbed wire strands across the top, it would have required some
effort to climb over it.
Based upon this particular fact and other statements he made, which did
not conform to facts we knew about the case including the Caliber bullet
retrieved from Dr. King, we concluded that this witness was not credible.
The defense had subpoenaed Marvin Glankler, the investigator in charge
of the Shelby County District Attorney General’s last investigation, and
Retired Judges James Beasley and Robert Dwyer who were Assistant Attorneys
General in 1968, prepared the state'’ case against James Earl Ray and in
Beasley’s case actually presented the state’s evidence to the guilty
plea jury. Garrison said that initially they told him they would be
pleased to take the stand and defend their work and the case against
By early December close to the time they were due to take the stand,
their positions had changed. A motion to quash the subpoena was filed on
their behalf by the State Attorney General. Argued out of the presence of
the jury, the Judge denied the motion and ordered the former Judges to
appear. Meanwhile, Marvin Glankler, out of turn, arrived at the courthouse
along with a representative of the anti-drug task force, which he now
headed. The Judge’s order required him to take the stand but with
Glankler outside of the courtroom, the state’s lawyer and the task force
official argued in a bench conference that his testimony could destroy his
cover and jeopardize the sensitive operation. It was finally agreed that
Glankler would take the stand, but that the cameras would avoid showing or
photographing his face. He was sworn in and began his testimony.
Garrison attempted repeatedly to draw information form Glankler on the
Attorney General’s investigative report, which was published in 1998. He
was met with continual objections from the Assistant Attorney General who
was there to represent the state, the Shelby County District Attorney
General and, of course, investigator Glankler. The state lawyer was up and
down like a jack in the box. His intention was clearly to limit
Glankler’s testimony to the maximum extent possible. He basically
contended that the report should speech for itself, and since Glankler did
not write it, he could not comment on it. Garrison was able to extract the
facts that the District Attorney General’s office began an investigation
in 1993 and ended it in 1998. That he, Glankler, was the Chief
investigator, and that the investigation may have included statements
taken from some 40 witnesses.
On cross-examination, I took a different tack. I asked Glankler if he
had interviewed 25 named witnesses, the evidence from all of whom had
already been heard by the jury. I asked him about each one in turn. Of the
25, he had interviewed only two. He had not even heard of most of the
others. The negative impact on the credibility of the District Attorney
General’s investigation and report was evident in the expression of
disbelief on the jurors’ faces.
The defense next called LaVada Whitlock Addison, Nathan Whitlock’s
mother, and as noted earlier, she testified in detail about the time in
her café when her regular customer, Memphis produce man Frank Liberto
told her that he had arranged the killing of Martin Luther King. She said
that she ran the little pizza parlor – which was between Liberto’s
home and his warehouse in the Scott Street market – between 1976 and
1982. She said that Liberto would stop in four or five times a week
starting in 1977 and that they developed a good relationship, one in which
he would often confide in her about various things. He trusted and liked
her. On the day in question, she said they were sitting together at two
tables pushed together, and something came on the television about Dr.
King. (The congressional hearings were being televised in 1978.) He leaned
forward toward her and said “I had Dr. Martin Luther King killed.” She
said, she recoiled and told him – “Don’t be telling me anything like
that. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t believe it anyway.” She said
that this was the only time he ever mentioned it to her though she saw him
many times afterward.
Attorney Garrison read large portion of James Earl Ray’s deposition
into the record, which basically set out James’s story and the history
of his involvement from the time he escaped from prison in 1967.
After the Spates rebuttal evidence, discussed earlier, was concluded
defense counsel Garrison renewed his motion for a mistrial, based upon his
client’s absence from court. This was denied promptly, and he then filed
a motion for directed verdict, which he argued was justified because the
plaintiffs did not meet the required burden of proof. I argued that the
evidence adduced on behalf of the plaintiffs was overwhelming and that
though we had met the standard we decided not to move for a directed
verdict in the case because we wanted it to go to the jury.
The Judge denied the motion, and closing arguments began.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General appealed Judge Swearingen’s denial of
the motion to quash the subpoenas served upon Judges Beasley and Dwyer to
the Court of Appeals and the Court promptly overturned the ruling and
ordered the subpoena quashed. Judges Beasley and Dwyer were spared the
inevitable uncomfortable task of defending the state’s investigation and
justifying certain representations made on March 10, 1969 to the guilty
plea hearing jury.
The Closing Arguments
Over a period of nearly two hours, I took the jury through the
evidence, step by step, reminding them that the King family had brought
this trial because the initial investigation was badly flawed and had not
been remedied by any subsequent official local or federal investigation. I
reminded them that the truth had been covered up for 31 years but that in
this courtroom, even though the media had been absent most of the time and
the outside world had not learned about the evidence or even heard about
the trial, the truth had been revealed. As Martin King after said “Truth
crushed to earth shall rise again” – and so it did.
During the last half-hour with the use of computer graphics, we took
the jury through the last 21 minutes of Dr. King’s life and the eleven
minutes immediately following the killing.
Lewis Garrison contended that if his client had any liability, he was
at worst only a small cog in the conspiracy, which took Martin Luther
King’s life. He tried to focus the jury’s attention on the city,
state, and federal government as well on James Earl Ray.
The Jury Instructions
By late morning, we were finished and the Judge instructed the jury. He
gave the standard instructions, defining direct and circumstantial
evidence, advising them that they and only they must decide questions of
fact and how much weight to put on the various aspects of evidence, which
had been laid before them, while he would determine the law. He reminded
them that they must find for the plaintiffs if they found that the
plaintiffs’ allegations were proved by a preponderance of the evidence,
in other words if the allegations were more likely true than not. On the
issue of damages, he reminded them that they were bound by the parties’s
stipulation that the damages should no exceed $100 – a payment toward
the funeral expenses.
Finally, he told them that he had prepared a jury verdict sheet, which
contained those questions to be answered.
1. Did the defendant Loyd Jowers participate in a conspiracy to do harm to
Dr. Martin Luther King? If yes,
2. Did you also find that others including governmental agencies were
parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant?
3. What is the total amount of damages to be awarded to the plaintiffs?
The case went to the jury just before lunch.
It took the jury about one hour to decide. After nearly four weeks of
trial and some 70 witnesses they found that:
1. YES – Loyd Jowers participated in a conspiracy to do harm to Martin
2. YES – Others including governmental agencies were parties to this
conspiracy as alleged by the defendant.
3. The total damages to be awarded to the plaintiffs are $100.
The issue of comparative liability was agreed to rest with the Judge.
Based on the evidence before him, Judge Swearingen apportioned liability
The Transcription of the King Family Press Conference on the MLK Assassination Trial Verdict
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
. 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
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 to can
hear this. The word that always comes forth first, that James Earl Ray
confessed, is not true. He never confessed. He pleabargained. Any of you that
understand the legal process understand that plea bargain is not 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
. He talked about dealing with poverty, by taking poor people to
. 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
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
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 father?" I have been hearing that all of my life. No, I
don't. This is the end of it. Thank you.
Martin Luther King, III: First I want to say, well done
brother, well said. On behalf of all of the persons who worked with my father
and as the spokesperson of the organization that he cofounded, SCLC, I don't
think that I can say much more than what my brother Dexter has said, and what my
mother has said. Certainly this has been a very, very long time coming. It
essentially says that the truth can in fact come through. It essentially says
that if you keep working forward, sometimes for some, even in the twilight, that
one day you will reach the conclusion of truth. This could not have happened
without a lot of people. I too, want to thank Dr. Pepper and his team, who have
been working on this for almost 20 plus years. I too, must thank my brother, who
basically sat us down and had the courage to encourage us to take on this issue
that we knew was going to be a process of maybe, attempting to discredit this
family. Some people have said that we are crazy. Some have stated that we were
trying to do other things. The only thing we have ever tried to do was to seek
that which is true. So while this is in a sense closing for us, or may be the
end of a chapter for us, it might be just the beginning for others, as my
brother Dexter has stated and my mother has stated.
We are very pleased this day. I hope that this will give others encouragement
to always seek that which is true. Thank you.
Bernice King: I guess I will speak, for I have never spoken
before regarding the assassination of my father. I was only 3 yearsold. You may
remember me as the one in my mother's lap at the funeral. I don't have much to
say, because in a real sense I recall words that were spoken when the decision
came down from the Supreme Court, regarding the bus boycott in
. The words spoken were that "God had spoken" from the Supreme Court.
I think that God has spoken from 12 independent jurors in
concerning my father's assassination. As somewhat the spiritual leader for this
family, because I am an ordained Christian Minister, I have to truly give praise
to God for what has happened. We cannot know that God is not a liar. He has
spoken his word that I will never leave you, not forsake you, that I will be
with you until the end of the earth. So I praise God for what may happen. I
thank God for my family. My family praises God for Attorney William Pepper, for
his diligent and tireless efforts. There is a word in scripture that says do not
be weary in what you are doing, for in due season you will reap if you faint
not. Today, we have reaped a harvest, not only for us alone, but also for this
nation. And I believe that ultimately God is going to speak even more truth in
regards to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., because as we said from
the beginning, even though we needed a sense of peace and satisfaction to have
the record set straight, the reality is that it is not who killed Martin Luther
King, Jr., but as we go forth into the new millennium, as a nation, but what
killed Martin Luther King, Jr. Because whenever we get to what killed Martin
Luther King, Jr., then we will deal with the various injustices that we face as
a nation and ultimately as a nation that leads this world. So I thank God for
what has happened. I thank the American people for their voices that have been
relentless in this pursuit in various ways. Even to those who have not been able
to speak at this point, I thank God for their prayers.
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
, and sought to bring the poor to
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
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
. 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
. 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
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
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 at 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
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 to 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. He didn't know and he didn't understand that. This
was a businessman from
. In the traditional history of the country, where a person who was a friend and
a colleague of a victim, only for one year, the last year of his life, but
during that year the friend and colleague of the victim decided 20 years later
the convicted murderer of that victim. Then eventually came to represent the
family in the final quest of justice. That has been the process that I follow.
That has been the result. 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
, finally that truth crushed to earth rose again. Today we acknowledge that
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 by Dexter King: What should happen next
as you have heard, we really have no control over. I don't mean to sound rash or
insensitive, but we really don't care at this time. As my father used to say, in
healthy self interest, this family is now hoping to cleanse and to heal and
move. Closure. This is it for us. We are here to say that we feel that we can
move on from here.
Answer to Question by Dexter King: 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: 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.
Dexter King: No, he 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.
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 there are faces and names attached
to that conspiracy that justice will not be served. The family doesn't share
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 this information is there. It's just
that no one has really looked. This is the most incredible coverup of the
century. I can't even believe it. It is mindboggling. But again, if anybody
wants to go do the research, and we do live in an age of microwave society and
everybody wants things like that (very quickly), but if anyone is serious about
sitting down and going through this, 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. I personally witnessed my
grandfather forgiving the killer of his wife when I was 13 years of age. The
only thing that this family and I have ever talked about is reconciliation. We
are a family of love. We try to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. 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.
Dexter King: 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. But you cannot put a price on freedom. And
certainly you cannot place a price on death. So the thing we hope for is that we
can move forward into this new millennium, coming into the Christmas Season.
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
. We assured him that if that were the case, we would certainly make a stand to
grantimmunity. 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?
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. They came in and told him that he
failed at the end of it. While this team was being driven to the airport, they
were talking about Jowers, and because he knew Mr. Jowers, his ear perked up. He
heard the examiner in the front seat say, "There is nothing I can do to get
him to waver." And the passengers in the back, asking, "Well how does
a man retain so much detail like that? How can he recollect that so
accurately?" The front seat passenger said in reply, "I don't know, I
couldn't get him to lie." And when a program aired, Jowers was still shown
as failing the lie detector test. That cab driver came forward. 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
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. A Head of Intelligence, The United
States Department admitted that he had no trained intelligence officers in his
office and that even they were a nuisance at one point and time. 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 ,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. I am asked to remind you that if anyone wants to
communicate with me by email, you can at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So I am happy to receive any inquiries at any time and any information at any
time. 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.
KING FAMILY STATEMENT ON THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT "LIMITED
INVESTIGATION" OF THE MLK ASSASSINATION
ATLANTA . . . On behalf of The family of Martin Luther King, Jr, Martin
Luther King III today issued the following statement on the U.S. Justice
Department's release of its report on their "limited investigation" of
recent evidence regarding the assassination of Dr. King
"We learned only hours before the Justice Department press conference that
they were releasing the report of their results of their "limited
investigation," which covered only two areas of new evidence concerning the
assassination of Dr. King. We had requested that we be given a copy of the
report a few days in advance so that we might have had the opportunity to review
it in detail. Since that courtesy was not extended to us, we are only able at
this time to state the following:
1. We initially requested that a comprehensive investigation be conducted by a
Truth and Reconciliation Commission, independent of the government, because we
do not believe that, in such a politically-sensitive matter, the government is
capable of investigating itself.
2. The type of independent investigation we sought was denied by the federal
government. But in our view, it was carried out, in a Memphis courtroom, during
a month-long trial by a jury of 12 American citizens who had no interest other
than ascertaining the truth. (Kings v. Jowers)
3. After hearing and reviewing the extensive testimony and evidence, which had
never before been tested under oath in a court of law, it took the Memphis jury
only 1½ hours to find that a conspiracy to kill Dr. King did exist. Most
significantly, this conspiracy involved agents of the governments of the City of
Memphis, the state of Tennessee and the United States of America. The
overwhelming weight of the evidence also indicated that James Earl Ray was not
the triggerman and, in fact, was an unknowing patsy.
4. We stand by that verdict and have no doubt that the truth about this terrible
event has finally been revealed.
5. We urge all interested Americans to read the transcript of the trial on the
King Center website and consider the evidence, so they can form their own
Although we cooperated fully with this limited investigation, we never really
expected that the government report would be any more objective than that which
has resulted from any previous official investigation. In a reasonable period of
time, when we have had an opportunity to study the report, we will provide a
detailed analysis of it to the media and on the aforementioned website."
The King Center thanks Daniel Dillinger Dominski Richberger Weatherford, Inc
for their support and assistance in making the posting of this transcript
possible. The King Center gratefully acknowledges the services & contributions of
the Data Company of Memphis, TN for trial graphics
Proceeds from your purchases
support the mission of The King Center in educating the world about Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy and methods of nonviolence in order to create the
JUDICIAL DISTRICT AT
SCOTT KING, MARTIN
KING, III, BERNICE KING,
SCOTT KING and YOLANDA KING,
Case No. 97242-4 T.D.
JOWERS and OTHER UNKNOWN
REMEMBERED that the above-captioned cause came on for Trial on
the 15th day of November, 1999, in the above Court, before the
Honorable James E. Swearengen, Judge presiding, when and where
COURT: I normally introduce those parties who are going to participate.
And if they are, I need their names.
PEPPER: You want me to write them down for you, Your Honor?
COURT: That has dual purposes -- for my convenience and then, in
addition to that, once we have called their names, we're in a position to
ask the jurors if they're familiar with their names.
PEPPER: Sure. (Brief break taken.)
PERA: Your Honor, for many years -- and I should first say, Your Honor,
that all I know about this situation is what I've learned in the last 15
But as I say, for the record, I do represent The Commercial Appeal. I'm a little
out of breath. But my name is Lucian Pera. And since at least 1984 when the
Supreme Court decided the Press
case -- Press
. And the cite on that I can give you which is 464
1984 the Supreme Court has made it clear, as has virtually every court in the
nation -- has addressed the issue that there is a constitutional right on the
of members of the public and, therefore, members of the press to attend jury
dire proceedings in court. I would add, Your Honor, that in
been at least two cases on this point -- I believe three. The first one of which
is State versus Drake which is a 1985 case which squarely follows the analysis
what are called the quartet of cases of which Press Enterprise is a part from
U.S. Supreme Court. And that case requires that if there is a closure of any
of a trial that there must be under the constitution specific findings by the
on a motion by a party that there will be prejudice if there's not a closure and
specifically how the closure is tailored as narrowly as possible to meet the
compelling interest of preventing prejudice.
written findings. There have been at least two other cases since then,
Your Honor. I don't -- I can't cite you the precise name on this short of
but I will remind the Court of one the Court may be familiar with arising from
this county. I believe it was in front of a criminal court judge across the
And essentially what happened is that there was -- it was a rather horrible
gang-related murder case. In fact, it was one in which I believe the victims
literally buried alive. There were claims of misconduct ongoing in the midst of
trial. In fact, the Court itself was under 24-hour armed guard at home and at
office -- at the court. During the course of that trial, the judge heard
from witnesses obviously. And one of the witnesses who had testified was to
again. The Court imposed a gag order essentially closing the trial implicitly
saying that the reporters might not print the name of that witness who had
in open court and who was to further testify as a rebuttal witness. The
Court expressed very specific concerns about safety, that the witness might
that the trial might be jeopardized for that reason. And the Court of Appeals --
excuse me, I think it was the Court of Criminal Appeals -- specifically and
and firmly reversed that ruling and said that what goes on in open court is
and the constitution requires that it be so, and again reaffirming State vs.
relying on Press Enterprise. So, Your Honor, with that thought in mind -- again,
I've not been privy to the discussions here about what the problem were that
were sought to be addressed, and I apologize to the Court for not being prepared
in that respect. But I would urge the Court to not close this hearing to members
of media including my client, The Commercial Appeal.
COURT: All right.
PERA: And, Your Honor, I might finally request that in compliance with
versus Drake, whatever the Court's decision there, that there be specific
findings of fact tailored to address the issues under Press
COURT: All right. First of all, I would like to refer you to Supreme Court Rule
30, Media Guidelines, under Section C(2) which reads as follows: "Jury
coverage of jury selection is prohibited."
PERA: Your Honor, it's my -- am I interrupting? I can look at the rule, Your
but it's my impression that Rule 30 addresses television coverage and similar
media coverage. To the extent that that rule, Your Honor, either says or is
interpreted to mean that voir dire may be closed by a court without
constitutional foundation, the specifics which are very clear -- I can cite them
to the Court if I can get my hands on State versus Drake.
that rule says that or means that or the Court interprets it to mean that, then
it is unconstitutional, Your Honor.
COURT: Well, let me further refer you to Section D, and that section deals with
limitations. And under 2 it says:
of Presiding Judge." That's me.
presiding judge has the discretion to refuse, limit, terminate or temporarily
suspend media coverage of an entire case or portions thereof in order to 1.)
the conduct of proceedings before the Court.
Maintain the quorum and prevent distraction. 3.)" -- and this one I am
with --"Guarantee the safety of any party, witness or juror." This
case is such that
I feel that the jurors should be protected from public scrutiny and that the
shall not be aware of who they are. I don't want -- and I'm going to assure them
we voir dire them that they will remain anonymous. And for that reason they will
free to participate in the trial process. That's my ruling.
PERA: Your Honor, may I be heard on this point?
PERA: Okay. Your Honor, meaning no disrespect, may I ask -- may I ask a
COURT: Yes, sir.
PERA: Has this Court considered or has it been proposed to the Court that the
jurors remain anonymous and therefore that proceedings be allowed to take place
in open court
with, for example, members of the public and/or media present but nevertheless
with the jurors remaining anonymous? Has that been considered, Judge?
COURT: No, sir, because I don't feel that that's a viable solution.
PERA: May I ask a further inquiry, Your Honor?
COURT: Yes, sir.
PERA: Is it the Court's ruling that the entire trial is going to be held in
COURT: No, sir. Once the jury selection process is completed, then it
be open to the media as prescribed by court rules with cameras and with
and all of that. This court is not excluding the media from the trial
proceeding, but it
is excluding them from the jury selection process.
PERA: Well, Your Honor, again -- the Court knows me, and the Court knows that
I'm not inclined to argue with a ruling once it's been made. But since I'm
getting into this so late, Your Honor, I have to inquire further. Your Honor, if
-- I'm not at all sure I understand how this is tailored narrowly under the
guidelines of the constitution.
mean, for example, Your Honor, if -- if the identities of the jurors is what the
Court is trying to protect, then -- and not, for example, their answers to the
questions of one of the parties as to their particular biases or lack of biases,
it seems to me that the Court might consider having the jurors, as has been done
across the country, I think the Court is probably aware
this -- having the jurors remain anonymous and have the parties to the case and
Court refer to them in whatever way would do so anonymously but, nevertheless,
questioning that goes to, for example, bias -- their views on particular
be explored in open court as the constitution requires. I would urge that upon
as a remedy that has been used elsewhere. And it would not trample on the First
but it would, nevertheless, meet the Court's concerns.
COURT: I'm going to deny your request.
PERA: Your Honor, when -- you're ruling then that until voir dire is complete
and the jury is sworn that this hearing is closed both to members of the press
and the public?
COURT: You may, yes, sir. But if you do, then you would be under a gag order. As
an officer of the Court you could sit, yes, sir.
PERA: But another member of the public could be present and not be under some
sort of gag order?
COURT: I'm going to exclude all members of the public, as a matter of fact,
during the jury selection process. I'm not going to let reporters come in here
and say, at this time I'm not a reporter, I'm just a member of John Q. Public.
PERA: Okay, Your Honor. I just wanted to make sure I understand your ruling
then. The hearing is closed to members of the press and the public until the
jury is sworn.
COURT: And the public. And the public, yes, sir.
PERA: May I -- I assume that what has transpired here so far, I'm under no gag
order; is that correct, Your Honor? Because I may well be instructed by
COURT: All right. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have completed our process. We have
12 jurors now and two are alternates. So the rest of you I'm going to excuse and
thank you for your patience, and you can report to the main jury room tomorrow
right. Now that we have selected or jurors and alternates, we would ask to you
please stand and take the official oath as jurors in the case.
CLERK: Ladies and Gentlemen, please raise your right hand.
the jury was sworn in.)
CLERK: Okay. Please be seated.
COURT: All right. Normally at this stage we would begin our trial which would be
the rendering of an opening
by the lawyers. That is they would tell you what they expect the proof to be as
it develops in the case, and then we would start to hear the witnesses in the
because of the hour, I'm going to excuse you and ask you to be here tomorrow at
that we can get started promptly at 10 o'clock, reminding you that you should
with the lawyers or the witnesses or anyone else involved in the case and that
you should have no contact with the media. I think -- I'll have some additional
instructions for you tomorrow before we start to hear the proof. You should not
go back to the main jury room for any reason. You come directly here from now on
which means that you don't report at the regular 9:30 thing over there. Just
come right here. Mr. James will show you our jury facility back here, and that's
where you should congregate until you come out as a group.
We would ask you -- sometimes the jurors would sit out in the hall and do things
of that sort before the trial begins
in a normal case. But because of the
nature of this one and because we don't want you to
be exposed to the media, we would ask you to please not congregate in the
there. If there are smokers in the crowd, then during our breaks, you can feel
go down and do your smoking or whatever else just as long as you don't have any
with the media. If we -- if for any reason we need to take a comfort break on
your behalf, we're very considerate, we'll do that. We want this to be a
pleasant experience for you.
But it's a serious matter, and let's not forget that. All right.
Proceeds from your purchases
support the mission of The King Center in educating the world about Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy and methods of nonviolence in order to create the
PERA: Your Honor, good morning. I have a couple preliminary matters related to
the matter you have on trial. May I address the Court this morning?
COURT: Let me get my orders first.
PERA: Okay. I thought that was done, Your Honor. That's why I approached.
COURT: Any additional orders? Okay. Go ahead, Mr. Pera.
PERA: As you know, I'm Lucian Pera. I represent the Commercial Appeal. First,
your Honor, I have an order on yesterday's proceedings as to our motion for
access -- I have served this on counsel for the parties -- that both grants --
both denies my motion for access, grants our status as an intervenor for our
and grants the Rule 9 motion that you orally granted yesterday.
COURT: All right.
PERA: Does that meet with your approval, your Honor? There are two other
Honor, I want to present. One is a motion we filed this morning. As I understand
it, although, of course, I wasn't here and my client wasn't in the courtroom,
voir dire has been completed.
have moved -- filed a motion with the Court, I'm not sure if the Court has
received it yet, for access -- immediate access as soon as practicable to the
transcript of voir dire proceedings. We have filed a motion and would ask the
Court to grant us immediate access to the transcript of the voir dire
proceedings held in this case.
obviously give a moment to counsel. I'm anticipating one of two possible
results. I've actually prepared an order. Since I know my client may be
interested in an appeal, I will share this with Mr. Pepper and Mr. Garrison.
is one other matter, Your Honor. That is my partner Ms. Leizure is in a better
position to address it than I. We know the Court has granted access to the trial
to the broadcast media, but under Rule 30 we would also, as the Court knows, do
use still photographers and would request and have filed a motion yesterday
afternoon by access by one of our still photographers to the courtroom.
Court needs to hear that addressed from a legal point of view under Rule 30, my
partner, Ms. Leizure, can address that.
COURT: As for still photography, I'll have to refer to the rule, which does
allow it, but it is limited.
the provisions are that you can limit it to two still photographers.
COURT: Who are you?
LEIZURE: I'm sorry, Your Honor. I'm Kathy Leizure. I'm Mr. Pera's partner. I
represent the Commercial Appeal.
COURT: Kathy who?
LEIZURE: I'm Kathy Leizure. I believe the provision is, your Honor, you can
limit it to two still photographers who are using no more than two cameras each.
COURT: I intend to abide by the rule.
LEIZURE: Okay, Your Honor.
COURT: It says if there are more than two, if we're going to have still
photography in the courtroom, you'll have to work it out among yourselves. If
they can't work it out among themselves, then I'm going to disallow all of it.
LEIZURE: I understand, Your Honor. There is a provision in here for pooling
arrangements, which I would be happy
to work out if I know, you know, what other media have been granted access
to this rule for still photography purposes.
COURT: I intend to abide by the rules. It is for that same reason that I
disallowed the presence of media during the jury selection. All right. Assuming
that there are no others who want to have still photographers in the room, I'll
allow yours, but if it comes to a point where there are more than the rule
allows, if you can work it out among yourselves, I'll do that. If not, as I
said, I'm going to disallow all of them, because I'm not going to become
involved in a dispute over who can and who cannot.
LEISURE: I understand, Your Honor. I understand. So I will advise my client that
they can bring the still photographer in within the provisions, the criteria and
guidelines of the rules.
COURT: The other thing is that I have instructed all of them that they are not
to photograph my jury.
LEIZURE: That's right. That's certainly a provision that is in the rule. That's
PEPPER: May I be heard, Your Honor?
PERA: I've provided this order --
COURT: Just a moment. Go ahead, Mr. Pepper.
PEPPER: Thank you, Your Honor. Your Honor, the family has its own still
photographer who would like to be present in the courtroom and will abide by all
of the rules. It is Mr. Benedict Fernandez, who for nearly forty years has
followed the history of Dr. King's work and these proceedings.
PERA: Your Honor, if I could pass the order for immediate access to is the
transcript. Mr. Garrison and Mr. Pepper have approved that order, although I
haven't actually signed that original. Thank you, your Honor. I appreciate you
COURT: Yes. Mr. Garrison, are you ready?
GARRISON: Yes, Your Honor.
COURT: Mr. Pepper?
COURT: Bring the jury out,
COURT: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Glad to see that everybody made it
this morning. Yesterday I inadvertently omitted one of the Court personnel. I
should have introduced him. I have to constantly remind him that I'm elected by
the residents of
and that he is not my boss. It is my court
Mr. Brian Bailey over here. I think I introduced everybody else. Before we begin
the trial, I'm going to give you some preliminary facts that you can refer to
during the course of this trial. Before the trial begins, I'm going to give you
some instructions to help you
understand how the case will proceed, what your duties many be, and how you
should conduct yourselves during the trial. When I have completed these
instructions, the attorneys will make their opening statements. These statements
will be brief outlines of what the attorneys expect to be evidence. After the
opening statements, you will hear the evidence. The evidence generally consists
of the numbered exhibits and testimony of witnesses. The plaintiffs will present
evidence first. The defendant will then be given the opportunity to present
the plaintiff presents all of the plaintiff's evidence before the other
present any evidence. Exceptions are sometimes made out of this usually to
accommodate a witness. The witnesses will testify in response to questions from
the attorneys. Witnesses are first asked questions by the party who calls the
witness to testify, and then other parties are permitted to cross-examine the
evidence is preserved my asking questions, the questions themselves are not
evidence. Any insinuation contained in a question is not evidence. You should
consider a question only as it gives meaning to the witness' answer. Evidence
may be presented by
deposition. A deposition is testimony taken under oath before the trial and
writing or sometimes it will be videotaped. During the trial objections may be
made to the evidence or trial procedures. I may sustain objections to questions
asked without permitting the witness to answer or I may instruct you to
disregard an answer that
been given. In deciding this case you may not draw an inference from an
question, and you may not consider testimony that you are instructed to
disregard. Any arguments about objection or motions are usually required to be
made by the attorneys out of the hearing of the jury. Information may be
excluded because it is not legally admissible. Excluded information cannot be
considered in reaching your decision. A ruling that is made on an objection or
motion will be based solely upon the law. You must not infer from a ruling that
I hold any view or opinion for or against any parties to this lawsuit. When all
of the evidence has been presented to you, the attorneys will make their closing
arguments. The attorneys will point out to you what they contend the evidence
has shown, what inferences you should draw from the evidence and what
conclusions you should reach as your
The plaintiff will make the first argument and will be followed by the
defendant. Plaintiff will then respond to the defendant's arguments. Unless you
are otherwise instructed, statements made by the attorneys are not evidence.
Those statements are made only to help you understand the evidence and apply the
law to the evidence. You should ignore any statement that is not supported by
the arguments are made, I will instruct you on the rulings of law that apply to
the case. It is your function as jurors to determine what facts -- what the
facts are and apply the rules of law that I have given you to the facts that you
have found. You will determine the facts from all of the evidence. You are the
sole and exclusive judges of the facts. On the other hand, you are required to
accept the rules of law that I give you, whether you agree with them or not.
determine which of the witness' testimony you accept, what weight you attach to
it and what inferences you will draw from it. The law does not, however, require
you to accept all of the evidence in deciding what evidence you will accept. You
must make your own evaluation of the testimony given by each of the witnesses
and determine the weight you will give to that testimony. You must decide which
witnesses you believe and how important you
think their testimony is. You are not required to accept or reject everything a
witness says. You are free to believe all, none or part of any person's
testimony. In deciding which testimony you believe, you should rely on your own
common sense and every-day experiences. There is no fixed set of rules to use in
deciding whether you believe a witness, but it may help you to think of the
the witness able to see, hear or be aware of the things about which the witness
those things? How long was the witness watching or listening? Was the witness
distracted in any way? Did the witness have a good memory? How did the witness
look and act
while testifying? Was the witness making an honest effort to tell the truth or
witness evade questions? Did the witness have an interest in the outcome of the
case? Did the witness have any motive, bias or prejudice that would influence
the witness' testimony? How reasonable was the witness' testimony when you
consider all of the evidence in the case?
are certain rules that would apply concerning your conduct during the trial and
during recesses that you should keep in mind. First, do not conduct your own
investigation into the case, although you may be tempted do so. For example, do
not visit the scene of an incident, read any books or articles concerning any
issue in the case or consult any other source of information. If you were
that, you would be getting information that is not evidence. You must decide the
case only on the evidence and law presented to you during the trial. Any juror
who receives any
information about the case other than that presented at the trial must notify
immediately. Do not discuss the case either among yourselves or with anyone else
during the trial.
must keep an open mind until you have heard all the evidence, the attorneys'
closing arguments and my final instructions concerning the law. Any discussion
before the conclusion of the case would be premature and improper.
permit any other person to discuss the case in your presence. If anyone does
attempt to do so, report that fact to the Court immediately without discussing
the incident with any of the other jurors. Do not speak to any of the attorneys,
parties or witnesses in the case even for the limited purpose of saying good
morning. They are
instructed not to talk to you. In no other way can all of the parties feel
assured of your absolute impartiality. All right. There are a couple of
additional comments I would like to make. I know that when you are over in the
big room, the jury commissioner probably tells you don't ever leave anything
lying around. I just want you to know that we have not had any unhappy
experiences, that your personal affects are considered to be safe in the jury
you have sweaters or coats or lunches or whatever else, then you can feel pretty
safe leaving them back there while you are here or while you are gone to lunch.
Also, if we need to take a comfort break, let us know and we'll be glad to
accommodate you. We want to make this a pleasant experience for everyone. We
would ask you to be on time whenever we are supposed to congregate. We'd hate to
have to be waiting on someone who is disrespectful of the others and for some
I know that sometimes, usually after lunch, but any time of day you can become
weary and just can't keep your eyes open. So I am going to designate each of you
and authorize you to nudge your neighbor if you catch them dozing on us. All
right. As I promised, the attorneys will give their opening statements, that is,
they will tell you what they expect the proof to be in this case. After they
have done that, we will begin to hear the proof.
told you, this is a case on conspiracy. Conspiracy I guess in general terms
would mean carrying out a design or plan where two or more have agreed to commit
an act to do injury or damage. And the planning, of course, is not enough. They
have to, in addition to the planning, do an act pursuant to that plan in order
to be a co-conspirator.
right. The plaintiff will begin. Then after the defendant has given
opening statement, we will start to hear the proof in the case.
PEPPER: Thank you, Your Honor. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the jury.
On the 3rd of April, 1968, loving husband, father of four young children kissed
his family goodbye and left for
. He would never return. They would never see him alive again.
4th of April, 1968, approximately one minute past six in the evening as he stood
on a balcony overlooking a parking area of the Lorraine Motel, he was felled by
a single bullet, never regained consciousness and died shortly thereafter.
ladies and gentlemen, is the beginning of this story. The plaintiff in this
case, the victim, was a husband and a father, but he also was a prophetic figure
in American history. He had been a civil rights leader as a young man after
school and in his early pastor's years, but he moved beyond
calling, beyond that calling on behalf of the poor in the southern part of this
country, in this area of this country, to become an international figure
the plight of poor people, economic injustice and with the issues of peace and
he grew in his leadership and his calling, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
With that award he became truly an international figure, not a regional pastor
fighting for justice on behalf of his people. He then turned his attention to
the plight of poor people and the effect of war.
came out strongly during the last year of his life to oppose the war in
because he saw it destroying an ancient culture and civilization that had so
much in common with the plight of black people and the poor everywhere in the
world. So he opposed that war.
also turned his attention to the plight of poor people, the growing numbers of
poor in the
, and had put together a poor people's campaign that was to
in the spring of 1968, the very spring in which he was
assassinated. That March an encampment did come off but without its leader. As
such, it is history now that it did not have the impact that it might have had
on the Congress of the
. The victim was, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...
defendant in this case, Mr. Loyd Jowers, who owned Jim's Grill, which was at the
ground floor of a rooming house on South Main Street in Memphis at the time. It
no longer exists, but the building is still there.
Honor has quite correctly advised you not to go near the scene of this crime
because it has changed so much over the years. It would only be very confusing
for you. That is the reason for that instruction.
that time and now that building backed onto an area, like a vacant lot area or a
backyard. That backyard was covered with brush and bushes, and beyond it was the
Lorraine Motel and the balcony on which
Luther King stood when he was assassinated. The defendant managed and owned that
grill, and the plaintiffs will attempt to prove that the wrongful acts and
conduct of this defendant led to the death of Martin Luther King from behind his
very premises, from the bushes, the brush in that area.
by way of disclosure to you, counsel for both parties have agreed not to conduct
any interviews with the media, not to talk to the press at all, during the
course of this trial. The Court has so instructed you with respect to that. We
think that is a most important
instruction, and, in addition, plaintiffs would hope that you would think
about the issues of this case and the facts that are presented and the evidence
comes before you and not considering what is on television or radio or in the
regarding this case.
would ask you please consider staying away from any coverage of that sort
make your decision solely on what you hear in this courtroom. It is most
by way of disclosure I have the obligation to tell you that I was a friend and a
colleague of the victim in this case during only the last year of his life.
Years later I began to look into the facts of this case and ultimately became
convinced that the man accused of the crime was not guilty and undertook to
represent him and was his lawyer for the last ten years of his life.
died in prison, never having a trial on the evidence in the case. And the
plaintiff family decided that this man also was innocent of the crime and
decided to come out and support a trial for him a few years before he died.
the Court has properly instructed you with respect to the nature of the
evidence. There will be mostly live witnesses, but there will also be some
deposition evidence that you will hear, some affidavits, some public statements,
will advise you as to the range of voracity you should put on any evidence that
is admitted in this Court. But it will not all be live testimony, although
indeed most of it will.
respect to the plaintiff's proof, it is -- the case will be divided into a
variety of sections. It is important to us that you consider those sections in
the order as it appears.
There will be a general introductory background area of the case that will
familiarize yourself with what led up to this wrongful death so that will be
hopefully as clear to you as can be.
will then be evidence laid before you that will indicate that in fact the fatal
bullet was fired from the brush area behind the rooming house, from a row of
bushes that were very tall and thick where a sniper lay in wait and fired the
shot. So that section will deal with the bushes.
will be a section of proof that will deal with the rifle that is in evidence
that is alleged to have caused the
of Dr. King. And the proof that the plaintiffs will put forward will demonstrate
to you that in fact the rifle in evidence is not the murder weapon and that the
murder weapon was disposed of in another way.
will advance proof that there were a number of other people involved. As Your
Honor has correctly told you, of course a conspiracy involves more than one.
Whilst this case is focusing in a civil court on Mr. Jowers as the defendant,
there were other people involved. And some of those individuals will be
developed in evidence.
particular one individual will be developed in evidence who was critical to the
coordination of a lot of these activities and who is beyond the reach of this
Court, although will be invited, has been invited, and will be invited to
attend, but was a part
of this conspiracy, this collaboration with Mr. Jowers.
defendants have in their answer, their amended answer, indicated that
liability results, and counsel has mentioned that yesterday, if liability
results, attaches to his client, that it should also attach to other agencies
that door is open, plaintiffs will advance evidence of the extent and the scope
of this conspiracy so that you understand the umbrella under which the defendant
was operating, so it is clear to you the kind of total picture in which he found
himself as he carried out his wrongful acts which led to this death.
indication of this conspiracy, why we are here thirty-one years later in this
courtroom in Memphis, Tennessee, is the suppression of the truth, the cover-up
that has lasted for so long and the effects of that cover-up in terms of people
learning the truth and courts, such as this Court, being able to entertain
proceedings designed to unearth that truth.
cover-up itself and that section of the case would show you
of the wrong and will relate directly to the wrong itself that we are proving
here and alleging here.
because these witnesses will come from various parts of the country and various
parts of the world, I must say, we've had to adjust to various schedules of
people. So to some extent the evidence you hear up there may be disjointed. But
what I ask you to consider is that each of the witnesses who testify with
respect to facts will be putting forward to you a particular piece of this
puzzle. And they are being called only for -- he or she will be called only for
that particular piece. So you must discern what that is in each instance.
there will be an introductory statement so that you get to know the witness and
who the witness is, get a feeling for whether he or she is credible. But beyond
that there will be a piece of information. It would be very useful in our view
for you, if you could, to take notes in the course of these proceedings. I know
I understand does not provide you with note paper or pads in this jurisdiction.
But if you could provide yourselves with them just to make notes of particular
facts that you think are relevant that a witness has testified to or an exhibit
that you might want to look at further or later on during deliberations, that
would be very helpful to you when you begin to refresh your own recollections,
because there will be a lot of information coming out.
will be a great deal of information coming out from a number of witnesses. You
may very well expect to forget some of it unless you have noted it down so you
understand what they said. I urge you to consider using that, to use some
mechanical way of recalling what has happened.
think that's basically it. I think plaintiffs believe that as a result of the
evidence you will hear in this courtroom, that finally the truth will emerge in
respect of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He often said that
earth will rise again. Well, I think plaintiffs sincerely hope that the
truth will be resurrected in this courtroom. And that as a result of the truth
resurrected in this courtroom, the events, those horrible events of April 4th,
1968, will be unearthed and seen and understood.
and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for the resurrection of truth with respect to
that horrible day, April 4, 1968. And I suggest to you that some of the evidence
you hear may go to the essence of this Republic and may in fact shake some of
the foundations of this Republic. So important is this case, so important is the
evidence, please consider it carefully and well.
seek a verdict of liability against the defendant because he played a critical
role in these events. But it goes well beyond him. And we're prepared to
acknowledge and to establish that.
GARRISON: If Your Honor please and Dr. Pepper and ladies and gentlemen, as you
know, I'm Lewis Garrison. I represent Mr. Jowers, who is the defendant in this
like to say this: I started forty years ago in this practice of law in August,
and on April the 6th, 1968, I was about three hundred feet from this very spot
in my desk when Dr. King was assassinated.
Dr. Pepper and I agree on probably eighty percent of the things that he is
advocating and stating to you. There are some areas that we do not agree upon.
I'll touch on those now.
and gentlemen, April 4th, 1968, this city was racially divided. November 16,
1999, it is still racially divided. I'm sorry to tell you, it is. It is an error
we need to work on, and I hope this trial will bring out some things that
perhaps will have some bearing on that.
Jowers has been around the City of
a long time. He is a former
officer. When this occurred in 1968, he was operating a small restaurant called
you'll find that any part that he -- he has conferred with Mr. Dexter King and
Ambassador Young and told them some things that he knew and heard, but I think
you will find that he was a very small part, if any -- if any -- in the
assassination of Dr. King. He was simply operating a little restaurant down on
South Main Street
that Mr. Jowers may have had to do with this certainly was unknown to him. He
was never told that the target of an assassination was Dr. King. Certainly his
feelings are that he was at sympathy with Dr. King and certainly for the things
that Dr. King was seeking.
Ms. King and her family have been made to suffer more than any family should.
There is no question about that. They've had to go through more than a family
should have to go through. We're certainly in sympathy with them and have always
have been behind Dr. King and the things that he was seeking. When I was growing
up, not too far from here, we had separate rest rooms, separate water fountains,
those type things, separate schools. It doesn't seem like it was very long ago.
But after Dr. King came
along, those things came to some extent, but we still take too much of our
rights for granted. It has not always been the way it is now.
this trial you will hear from different persons that will bring forth things
that you probably never heard before. For instance, there will be a police
officer that will testify here about the
government sending in agents just before Dr. King's assassination. You'll hear
a lady here testify about a police officer who was her husband who was very
prejudiced against people whose skin was not white.
hear, ladies and gentlemen, from a gentleman who will also tell you that he had
a chance to be with Mr. James Earl Ray
some months before the assassination, and he'll provide information to you as to
Mr. Ray disclosed to him as to how he escaped from the Missouri prison, who
helped him, and
the purpose of it.
think, ladies and gentlemen, you'll find in this case that Mr. Jowers was a
very, very small cog in a big wheel, if he was a party at all. He never
knowingly did anything that would have caused the death of Dr. King or brought
any hardship on Ms. King or her family.
this has been a long process. I've been involved it seems like forever. It has
been many, many years. Dr. Pepper has been involved in this three times as long
as I have. But this is the final chapter.
historians may write, your verdict will be the final chapter in this case. So in
this case I think when you hear all the testimony here and all the proof that
Dr. Pepper will offer and I'll offer, I'm going to be able to stand here and ask
you not only if you find that Mr. Jowers had
to do with it, but there are others who are much more responsible than he was
knew what they were doing and who brought about the commission of this hate
crime. That's what it was. And that others are responsible and that they should
be held liable instead of Mr. Jowers. It will be an interesting trial. I think
that you will certainly find it interesting, and I hope that you do. If you will
listen attentively, because this is a very important case in the history of this
COURT: Mr. Pepper, call your first witness, please.
PEPPER: Plaintiffs call Mrs. Coretta Scott King to the stand. CORETTA SCOTT KING
Having been first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows: DIRECT
Thank you for being here. I realize how stressful it is at the time,
because of the gauntlet of the media out there. We're grateful for your
presence. Could you just tell us by way of background what was the purpose of
Dr. King's visit to
, his involvement in
and his coming here in 1968.
Martin came to
to support the sanitation workers who were engaged in a strike for better wages
and working conditions. He felt it was important to come to support them because
they were working poor people.
how did the sanitation workers' strike and his support for that fit into the
Poor People's March in
which had been planned for later on, the spring?
felt that it was important that he give his support to them because they were a
part of what he was really struggling to get the nation to understand, that
people work full-time jobs but in a sense for part-time
Even people who were poor who worked could not make a decent living. So they
would then be invited to join the mobilization for the campaign which was to be
Right. And was this support -- his support for the sanitation workers in Memphis
and the plans for the Poor People's March in Washington to be covered by the
umbrella of non-violence at all times?
Absolutely. He felt that -- as you know, his whole life was dedicated to
non-violent struggle. Any time there was violence of any kind, it was very
disturbing to him, and he disavowed it completely and whenever he had an
opportunity to. He dedicated his life to helping people to understand the
philosophy of non-violence, which he lived it as a way of
life. And so when he came to Memphis -- I don't know, Counsel, should I mention
that he -- I don't want to get ahead of myself, but when he came to Memphis the
first time and there was a march that he led
his organization had very little to do with planning, that broke out in
violence. It was very, very upsetting to him because most of the marches, I
would say all of them, that he had led had always been mobilized with the
support of the National Southern Christian Leadership Conference staff.
Therefore, they were aware of any problems, any controversies that might exist,
conflicts between groups and among groups. But he came that day from a trip, got
off the plane and went straight to the head of the march. Of course, the march
break out in violence. It was most disturbing to him. So when he -- when this
felt that it was very important for him to return to Memphis to lead a peaceful,
non-violent march before he could go forth to Washington. He had to demonstrate
that a non-violent march, a peaceful march, could take place in
because of the criticisms that were being leveled at that time.
he returned to
that last time because of the violence that broke out on the march of March
28th, and he was determined, from what you are saying, to restore the position
of non-violence to the movement?
Yes, that's correct.
he attribute -- did he have any idea why that march on March 28th turned
violent? Did he have any notion of what caused that?
Well, I think he became aware that there was a local -- well, he thought at the
time what was a local group of young people who really precipitated the
violence. The feeling was that there were some forces behind them, that they
were not just persons who decided that they would throw rocks and break windows.
Now, what was behind or underlay his decision to come out against the war in
and to take on such a public political posture, if you will, which was quite a
different change for him?
must say that my husband had wanted to speak out against the war in
for many years before he actually did do so. He always -- he understood the
conflict that existed in
from its inception. And he realized that it was an unjust war in the first
place. Then it was being fought against, you know, people of color who were
poor. And wars, of course, for him didn't solve any social problems but created
more problems than they solved.
He felt that this particular war was not -- we could not win. Of course, history
proved him right within a very short period of time after he spoke out. As a
matter of fact, one year after he spoke out against the war, he was vindicated
in that the nation had reversed itself and its policy toward that war.
was April 4th, 1968, when he actually spoke out against the war in his first
public statement. But he said he had to do it because his conscience -- he could
no longer live with his conscience without
a position. He felt that doing so, perhaps he could help to mobilize other
public opinion in support of his position, which was, again, against the war.
you recall the reaction of other civil rights leaders at that time when he came
out against the war?
Yes, I do. Civil rights leaders, other opinion makers, all criticized him, both
black and white. It was certainly -- certainly he expected it, but he probably
didn't expect some of the people who criticized him to do so publicly. His way
in the non-violent way was to privately disagree and to go and talk to persons
which are having a disagreement, but to be attacked publicly was very difficult
for him. He also knew that if he spoke out, it would probably affect the
support, the financial support, for his organization, the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference. And, of course, it did very profoundly. He knew that
before he took that risk and that position. So it wasn't
there much discussion at the time about him running for public office because he
was being pushed forward as a third-party candidate with Dr. Benjamin Spock as
an alternative to Lyndon Johnson's being returned to office at that time? What
do you recall about him moving in that direction of more serious political
Well, I was aware of the fact that there was talk about his running for public
office. It was interesting because from what I knew of him, I never thought that
he would run for public office. Just knowing the kind of person he was, and
because, you know, politics is very important and necessary, but he would be
freer to make statements according to his conscience if he didn't run for public
office, and because he was Christian minister and because he took his commitment
so seriously, I felt that it would have been difficult for him. But at the same
time I remember him
that because of the criticisms that he had gotten as he had spoken out against
war, the media had stopped carrying any of his statements and they didn't
no one was getting his message, because the message wasn't being carried forth.
There were a number of critical articles and some cover stories that were very
critical of him at that time. Time magazine, for instance, did one in 1967 that
was extremely critical. He had been the Time man of the year in 1964 after the
Peace Prize, and 1957 was the first time, so it
was, again, very painful for him not to be able to get his message out. So he
said if I did run for office, it would be one way of getting my message out
because I would have to be given equal time. The interesting thing about my
husband, he always considered, you know,
every aspect of an issue, both the pros and the cons. And then he would make his
mind up as to what he would do.
night before his departure to Memphis, that last trip, any indications that he
had of potential danger or the seriousness of the task that he faced in Memphis?
don't remember specific comments in that regard. But he had -- after he returned
from Memphis after the violence broke out, which was like on a Friday evening,
he went back on a Tuesday -- he went back on --
arrived on a Wednesday, the 3rd.
on Wednesday morning. But in between that time I was aware of how heavily it
weighed on him, the problem of -- this whole problem of the sanitation workers'
conflict and what he could do to help by getting his staff united. Because some
of the staff didn't feel he should go to
in the first place. He was very strongly in favor of that.
came home late -- I guess it was Tuesday evening he came in. There was not time
to talk. He got up very early Wednesday morning to go to
. He always called me, you know, almost every
when he was on trips, so he didn't say whole lot about it, but I could tell that
he had a lot of anxiety and it was very heavily weighing on his mind.
he go through these times, and particularly this last year, manifesting an
awareness that his life was in danger, that he had taken a path of action now
that might have brought his life into danger?
Yes. I think he was aware of that certainly. I might say he was aware from the
early days after Montgomery,
forward, but I think as he got closer toward this period of his life, he was
even more acutely aware. Given the positions that he had taken, he realized
that, you know, he could be killed at any time, but for him, his commitment to
what he believed and to a higher authority was such that he didn't mind giving
his life for a cause that he believed in.
used to say that the end of life is not to be happy but to do God's will, come
may. So for him being happy was when he could come out against the war against
. He said to a colleague, and I heard this on the telephone, I was the happiest
man in the world when I could come out personally against this evil and immoral
war, because I came to a point where I felt that silence was betrayal.
that was -- I think that was his position.
Mrs. King, on March 10th, 1969, one James Earl Ray entered a guilty plea and was
sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison for the assassination of your husband.
stayed in prison until he died. But he tried continually to get a trial. At one
point the family decided to support an effort for a trial for Mr. Ray. Why did
the family take that position that late in the day at that point in time?
Well, as a matter of fact, it was because he of new information that we had
received and largely because of the efforts that you had put forth to
of these leads that had come out and found that they were reliable enough. When
we looked at it and investigated it, we felt then that we had to take a
position. For years we hoped that somebody else would find out, find the
answers. We wanted to know the truth. But
the truth was elusive.
wanted to go on with our lives. We felt the only way we could do it was to
really take the position that we did take, because the evidence pointed away
from Mr. Ray, not that he might have not had some involvement but he was not the
person we felt that really actually killed him.
COURT: Just a moment. I see this man aiming a camera at my jury. I don't know
that he has been told not to.
JAMES: I've instructed him not to take it of the jury.
COURT: All right. Go ahead.
MR. PEPPER) What was the general reaction to the family as a result of that
Were there animosity? Were there attacks, lawsuits? What happened to the family,
yourself and the children and the organization as a result of that position?
Well, there were a number of media articles that were negative toward the
family. As a result of that -- there were several really and over a period of
months, and as a result of it, we feel that there was some -- it had affected
some of the support that we might have been able to receive for the King Center.
Financial support, yes.
that similar to what happened to SCLC back in 1967?
Mrs. King, why is the family bringing this action now thirty -- almost
thirty-one years later against the defendant, Mr. Jowers?
realized the extent of Mr. Jowers' involvement. So we felt that it was important
to bring it now. We're all getting older, I'll say, and, of course, we wanted to
be able to get the truth, as much of it as we can, out before it gets later.
don't know how much longer any of us will be around. That's not given. But the
fact is that my family, my children and I -- I've always felt that somehow the
truth would be known, and I hoped that I would live to see it. And it is
important I think for the sake of healing for so many people, my family, for
other people, for the nation. I think Martin Luther King, Jr., served this
nation. He was a servant. He gave his -- he willingly gave his life if it was
necessary. It is important to know, actually not because we feel a sense of
revenge -- we never have.
have no feeling of bitterness or hatred toward anybody. But just the fact that
know the truth, we can be free, and we can go on with our lives.
Mrs. King, is the family seeking a large monetary award from Mr. Jowers as a
result of this action?
it is not about money. That's not the issue. I think what we're concerned about
is the fact that certainly there is some liability by Mr. Jowers, but we're
concerned about the truth, having the truth coming out, and in a court of law so
that it can be documented for all. And we were hoping that this would be one way
of getting to the truth.
PEPPER: Mrs. King, thank you very much.
GARRISON: If we could possibly take a short break before I ask my questions.
COURT: Very well. We will take a fifteen-minute recess.
COURT: All right, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to read to you before we
begin here the Court rules on taking notes. You are permitted to take notes
during the trial. You may take notes only of verbal testimony from witnesses,
including witnesses presented by deposition or videotape. You may not take notes
during the opening statements or closing arguments or take notes of objections
made to the evidence. You may not take notes during
breaks or recesses. Notes may be made only in open court while witnesses are
testifying. Your notes should not contain personal reactions or comments but,
rather, should be limited to a brief factual summary of testimony you think is
do not let your note-taking distract you and cause you to miss what the witness
said or how the witness said it.
that some testimony may not appear to be important to you at the time. The same
testimony, however, may become important later in the trial. Your notes are not
evidence. You should not view your notes as authoritative records or consider
them as a transcript of
the testimony. Your notes may be incomplete or may have certain errors and are
not an exact account of what was said by a witness.
right. You may proceed, Mr. Pepper. Oh, would you like to cross-examine, Mr.
Good morning, Mrs. King.
King, you and I met before and we've talked a few times. I've talked to your
sons several times. Let me say this to you: I know it isn't easy for you to be
the mother of four
children, but they are all fine, honorable
and daughters, very fine, honorable people and I know you are pleased with them.
I know Dr. King would be.
ask you, Ms. King, you've never been afforded the opportunity to come into a
court of law such as this and be able to be a witness as a part of it, have you?
When Mr. Ray had a hearing, you were not a party to that hearing, were you?
never had an opportunity to come into a court of law before this to have a jury
decide the issues in the case. Am I correct, please, ma'am?
me ask you, did Dr. King before his assassination, sometime before he came to
, did he receive a lot of threats that you are aware of that may be hearsay? Was
aware of a lot of threats?
Well, the morning that he was to come back to Memphis that second time, which
was the final time, his plane was delayed because of threats that had come to
that -- well, of course, over the years there had been threats on his life many
you recall, Ms. King, when Dr. King would appear at a place such as
here who would plan his security? Do you know who was in charge of that or how
they arranged for security for him? Did he have someone in his group that was
responsible for it or did they rely on the local police department? Do you know
how that was done?
really don't know how that was handled except usually when he went into cities,
the people who -- when he went to towns, the people locally, the committee
locally that invited him, would handle the security.
me ask you, Ms. King, when Dr. King returned from Memphis after the march, do
you recall -- was there any particular group or any particular person that
insisted he come back here a second time? Did he ever mention to you anything
about any particular person or any group that insisted on him
don't know about his coming back specifically, but I know about his coming
initially. I think what he had said publicly before he left was that he was
planning to come back. So I think there was that understanding that he would be
coming back. How it came about I'm not sure.
mentioned earlier I believe that he seemed to be agonizing over the fact that he
would return to
. Was that because of the threat or because of the conditions here?
not because of the threats but just because it was so important that he lead a
non-violent demonstration. Of course, there was an injunction. He had to get
past the injunction as well. He took those -- his responsibility very, very
seriously, because he knew that the nation and indeed the world was watching. In
his own conscience he wanted to be clear that he was doing the right thing.
that Mr. Jowers had met and conferred with Mr. Dexter King, your son, on one
occasion, then again with Mr. Dexter King and Ambassador Young on another
occasion. You have heard about that, I'm sure?
you aware of the fact that Mr. Jowers stated to them each time he met with them
that he was not aware of any of the acts he did that would lead up to the
assassination of Dr. King, that whatever acts -- there was no mention of that to
him, that he had no idea that whatever acts he may have been called upon he had
no idea would lead to the assassination Dr. King? Are you aware of that?
not aware of the conversation as much as I wasn't involved with it. So I
couldn't speak to the detail of that.
GARRISON: I believe that's all. Thank you, Ms. King.
at the time of the assassination of Martin Luther King?
the time of the sanitation workers' strike?
when were the Invaders formed?
formed that group?
formed that group along with Charles Cabbage and John Smith.
What was the purpose of the Invaders? What was their organizational purpose?
purpose was to provide an organizational format for young people, for people in
the City of
. We really formed as a result of the Meredith march in
, which is when I first met Dr. King. Many of us who had gone down became active
in organizing and became proponents of the black power movement. We saw
ourselves as agents for liberation of our people throughout the country.
don't know whether people can really remember this, but in 1966 and 1967 it was
extremely unsafe to walk the streets in cities like
and southern cities across the country, cities all over. So we saw ourselves as
an organizing tool to make people aware of the fact that we were a free people
with all the rights and privileges of Americans, to operate and seek prosperity,
equality and all the other things that were rightfully ours by law.
the Invaders were a local community-organizing group?
were the Invaders funded? How were they financed?
of our own pocket. We received no real funding. We received one grant for the
black organizing project, which is a grant I wrote in 1967. We received some
jobs from the War on Poverty Commission. Cab and I were hired as
thirty-dollar-a-week organizers in 1967, a job from which we were fired because
Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.
What was the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee?
was a national organization which spent -- which really developed out of the
civil rights movement which at its inception provided the foot soldiers for the
civil rights movement, the young men and women who went out and desegregated
lunch counters, students from all over the country, many from Memphis,
incidentally, who became the cannon fodder for the movement, as a matter of
fact. We would go out and do the organizing work, go into the rural areas, go
into the cities, the colleges, the prisons, everywhere there was a need really
to let people know the kinds of things that Dr. King and others had talked about
you see yourself in a sense as foot soldiers, community-based foot soldiers, in
Well, you know, now that I'm a gray-haired old man, I don't want to be vain
enough to say that. We really thought that we were a chosen few on a mission. We
really saw ourselves as helping fulfill the American dream.
were idealists for the most part. We were people born of desire to change the
concept in America from its desegregated biased roots and its hatred for
African-Americans to people who understood that we should enjoy the right to
vote, the right to speak freely, the right to come and go as we please, to live
where we wanted to, to seek an education, all those little things that people
now seem to say we take for granted.
With this background and this history and this organizational activity, was
there a time when you associated -- became associated
When the sanitation workers started their -- we did the basic street organizing,
you might say, for the events that led up to the sanitation workers' strike. We
went out and got the -- we told grown men that they had a right to petition
government, to question police, to do all kinds of things. Then when the
organization, the AFSCME, which is the American Federation of State, County,
Municipal Employees, started to organize its membership, many of its leaders
came to us and they accepted our efforts to go out in the communities and gain
support for the kind of people who needed this help. When you say this to
probably sounds -- I don't know how to really describe it because this was a
thing to do. You didn't have a right to go and talk to the city government about
organizing its employees. That was against
law. You did not have a right to question a policeman if they stopped you and
talked to you or if they asked you a question. And people were afraid. We didn't
have many lawyers, judges, anything else, who would actually stand up to the
kind of abuse that we were subjected to here in
when the sanitation workers got together and decided they would organize, they
offered a list of things that they wanted, to be recognized as a union, to
receive the same pay as white employees, other kinds of things, that seem so
mundane to us now. That platform that they used, we had been using it for a few
years since a man who is now a judge ran for public works commissioner.
were involved in this process actively trying to get it together. And that year
when we became -- when the union kind of put itself together, the real hell
broke loose in
. The mayor decided that it would never be recognized. A group of
got together and decided that they would work in support of the union. We worked
hard to get them to come in. And because we were having such great difficulty
with the white community resisting this whole effort, with many people in the
black community being threatened and who were afraid, the leadership of the
strike itself decided to invite Dr. King here.
King was not only the greatest leader that we've ever had, he was a person who
by his bearing and presence brought a kind of calm to the entire community, to
those who were opposed to us. We understood because of our youth and our
exuberance that sometimes we were not perceived as being ready to lead. There
were people who were afraid of us because we would stop and ask questions.
-- or because we would even resist the kinds of pushing around that we received.
Several days after the start of the strike itself, the sanitation workers had a
, and the police took their
you know -- excuse me for interrupting. Do you know the date of that particular
I don't remember the exact date. But it was --
it in February of 1967 or March of 1967?
would have been in February.
Early on in the strike?
Yes. Very early in the strike. A number of sanitation workers were injured.
Before that happened, two men were killed, were crushed, in a garbage truck, one
that automatically closed down and collected the garbage. That set off a fierce
to resistance, a fierce resistance. When they had to march down
and the police attacked them, dogs,
clubs, guns, beat the hell out of a lot of them, we really decided to ask for a
more militant stance from the union itself.
probably sounds pretty mundane, but prior to that time the religious leaders
not want to approach this as if it were a regular strike. Many of us had grown
up in the -- with roots to the labor movement, just as we had to the civil
rights movement. We believed, for example, that ASCFME should operate its strike
just like the AFL-CIO or the Teamsters or anybody else and that we should stop
the flow of trucks that were being driven by strike breakers, that we should end
this garbage collection that was designed to break the strike. Well, we found
ourselves in a greatly divided strike effort.
of the ministers and some of the black leaders in town were much more interested
in compromising and going along with the edicts of the city administration. We
did not want to see that occur. We wanted a full and legitimate recognition of
the union. We wanted to make
sure that the rights of these employees were protected. Most of these men were
West Tennessee, had been driven off the farm, had come in from places like
they had been driven off the land in what we call the
will be testifying in these proceedings. So we can move from that. But let me
move you onto the association with Dr. King. What was the relationship that
emerged between the Invaders and SCLC, Dr. King's organization here in
, related to the sanitation workers' strike?
Originally when Dr. King's people got here there was a kind of an uneasiness
between the two organizations. In fact, there were -- there was a brief
struggle, skirmish, that kind of occurred, some bad feelings, some other things.
It took Dr. King's arrival here to ease those problems out, to kind of smooth
insisted on following the same principles that we had learned from Dr. King
Meredith march in
and other places.
the Invaders with its relationship with SCLC play a role in the
march that Dr. King led here on the 28th of March, 1967, on behalf of the
sanitation workers' strike?
did not play an active role in that march because the night before, Reverend Jim
Lawson and reverend H. Ralph Jackson came to the steering committee and
presented a letter with bullets in it and said that they had been sent by the
Invaders and that we had
threatened them. Consequently I ordered the members of our organization off the
streets, not to participate.
the clergy-led steering committee received from somewhere --
a letter with some bullets in it?
that was represented as having been sent by the Invaders?
was taken as a threat by the more traditional civil rights groups here?
Yes. They were very annoyed with us. They didn't like our style. They didn't
Now, let me ask you, did the Invaders disrupt that march?
was that march disrupted? Who disrupted that march, to the best of your
Strike that. Let me rephrase that. Did you conduct as an organization an
Yes. I personally conducted an investigation. I ordered a complete investigation
to see if any of our people were involved. As I said, I put an order out that
our people would not attend the march because we had already, once that letter
had been sent with the bullets in it, we knew that we would receive the blame.
Our people started to report the influx of other individuals who were coming in
with Illinois license plates who were seen about town, who were seen on Beale
Street by our affiliates on Beale Street, and who were members of several
organizations, some the
Egyptians out of East St. Louis, some reported to have been Blackstone Rangers
these were strangers that came to
just prior to this march. Is that what you are saying?
would they have come to
have no idea, because usually when organizations came to town, they would
contact us. The Black Egyptians did. Chuck Cohen and some other people did in
fact contact our people in an appropriate fashion. The ones we were concerned
about were unidentified.
is very unusual, because the nature of the movement was such that people relied
on each other for housing, for accommodations, for transportation, for
information, for all kinds of things. The nature of the movement was a very
communal kind of thing. Everybody helped everybody if we could.
of that march and what do you know about -- from personal knowledge do you know
about how that march was disrupted?
That march was disrupted, in my opinion, by police and by agents from parts
unknown who came here specifically to embarrass Dr. King and to disrupt the
march. The FBI reports, classified reports that have since been released,
indicate to me that through the informants that they -- they always black out
the name of the informants -- always indicate that there were plans to disrupt
our activities, to single out the individuals in my organization and
several other organizations as the kind of fall guys.
were supposed to be the ones who would be blamed. Some indication was that the
march was supposed to be stopped at Main Street and turned south on Main instead
of being allowed to turn north where we were supposed to have had a warehouse
with weapons in it and we were going to start a race war.
a result of the violent disruption of the march, Dr. King decided to come back
the Invaders established yet a closer working relationship with him?
Were you going to work closely in the preparation of the next march?
Yes, yes. There were some essential problems with that first march. There were
no marshals. There were no people on the march route who would establish what
the perimeters of the march would be. In a disciplined march, you always have to
have someone organize the flanks to keep the people separated from the
pedestrians, so to speak, who would stand there, even though we encouraged
people to join the march, the idea is you have to have very disciplined people
will not break windows, who will not run, who will not panic, who will not be
afraid, in case we met force. The marshals were instructed to protect people, to
show them how not to panic and cause themselves to be hurt. That didn't exist in
the first march. In the second march, Dr. King made an agreement for the
Invaders to participate in the march, to be marshals for the march, to protect
individuals and to make certain that we were not blamed for things that
ultimately happened in the first march.
Just reverting quickly to the break-up of the first march, do you know which
hotel Dr. King was taken to when that march turned violent?
Yes. He was taken to the Rivermont. It was a Holiday Inn flagship, which is now
an apartment building. But when our people went up there, he had no guards on
his room, they went straight to the room and were able to see Dr. King without
anybody protecting him. We thought that was horrendous. We
that that was -- we really were very afraid for Dr. King at that time.
the planning in which you were engaged in the second march, the march that Dr.
King never made, the march which in fact became a memorial march for his death,
did you take up rooms under the -- with the financial support of his
you take up those rooms at the Lorraine Motel?
very place where Dr. King was assassinated?
Yes. As a part of the organization.
you recall how many rooms the Invaders had there?
They had two rooms.
how many Invaders were in those rooms at that time?
total numbers probably ran to about twenty, from ten to twenty Invaders. Some
would leave and come back. Other people would come. But around ten to twenty.
Some Invaders were still there, but once put out of the room, the main body of
our group had to do what they were asked to do. At the time that I received the
report from the people in the field, they were also concerned about a number of
was no police presence. It was a very confused situation. We did not know who
was in charge. Some of -- I could not get a clear answer about who gave the
order to put the Invaders out of the hotel.
may come to that with other witnesses. But were you surprised that you were
asked to leave the hotel?
This was not in accordance with your arrangements with Dr. King?
it was not. Dr. King had agreed to involve the Invaders. He had chastised his
people for making it difficult for the Invaders to operate along with them. We
had a very good relationship.
Lawson and Dr. King are the reasons that I have spent almost thirty-five years
of my life in the movement.
PEPPER: No further questions. Your witness.
COURT: Do you expect your cross-examination to be lengthy?
GARRISON: I don't think it will be terribly long. I'll go on if you want me to.
COURT: I'll take about five seconds. Then you can continue with your
COURT: Mr. Garrison.
Smith, if I may ask you a few questions, I would appreciate it. Let me ask you,
during the time that you were working with Dr. King's group, were you made aware
of any threats against Dr. King by any source?
when there was a march and there was a riot and he had gone back to
, are you
aware of the fact that he planned to come back or said I'll be back? How was
was aware that Dr. King was going to be back. We were extremely interested in
making sure that the march worked, that the sanitation workers' strike was
Among the group that you were with, Dr. Smith, the Invaders, was there a
gentleman whose name was Merrell McCullough?
What part did he play in this?
Merrell McCullough was our director of transportation. He had the only car and
the only gas. So we made him the minister of transportation. That should have
made us leery right there. We're talking about some poor youngsters in a very
poor town. I guess you can say that
is still a poor town.
didn't have anything. We didn't have any money. We got around the best we
which was usually to bum a ride. In fact, the police would sometimes have to
give us a ride. The ones that were watching us would sometimes give us a ride.
McCullough was a very accessible person. He would come to my home every day, as
he would go around all the Invaders. When I met him, he was introduced to me by
what we call the
Invaders, who brought him into the organization.
you later learn that he at that time was working undercover for the Memphis
Yes. I was invited down to the police department after Dr. King was
assassinated, and I was introduced to him by inspector types of the Memphis
Police Department as Officer Merrell McCullough.
would it surprise you to learn that he was brought into Mr. Jowers' restaurant
by another officer and introduced as Officer Merrell McCullough?
did not know about that until much later on, but I was extremely surprised. I
one of the reasons I was surprised is because we felt that there were people who
would infiltrate our group, but we did not have any idea that the infiltration
was of a nature broader than the local police department.
knew that many members of the -- many men who are now members of the police
department, in fact, the former police director who has just recently resigned,
was also an undercover agent in our organization.
Smith, the day that the assassination occurred, you were along with some other
members of your group in a room or two rooms at the Lorraine Motel. Am I
members of my organization were there.
What floor were you on?
the second floor.
right. Was there a time that day that you had occasion to look across the street
to see what was down on the street
the motel and across over there on the other side? Did you have any occasion to
do that that day that you recall?
did not. On that day I had to leave to maintain what we call our information
center. What I had to do was to receive the information from around the city
from our various locations where we thought the strategic information that told
us what was happening with the strike itself, with the plans for events and
activities, in preparation for the strategy team's meeting and that sort of
the time that you were at the hotel and the going and coming, do you ever
remember seeing anyone in that brush area there across from the hotel? Do you
ever recall any activity, seeing anyone in that area?
I did not see anyone in that area.
GARRISON: Dr. Smith, I had hair once like you. Thank you.
want to do is I want to move on with you. Would you tell us what your position
was in the Invaders around the time of 1968?
Around 1968 -- first of all, let me try to clear something up here as far as the
name "Invaders" goes. My title was execute secretary of the Black
Organizing Project, which was a project that we had put together and made up one
of the groups we organized. The press actually just gave us the name
"Invaders" and it kind of stuck. You know, it kind of stuck. A lot of
people can kind of relate to that.
we were referred to as the Invaders about, but actually my title was executive
secretary, Black Organizing Project.
What was your role in the Black Organizing Project and that group in particular?
Well, basically training street organizers, going on to campuses, trying to set
up various and different groups,
trying to empower black people basically, trying to make an impression on the
structure, the power structure, as it was at the time, generally raising the
consciousness of black people at that time period. We were basically facing
Now, when the march Dr. King led on the 28th of March broke up into a riot, did
you and any of the members of the organization meet with Dr. King shortly after
did. We met afterward. We had made an effort to meet with him before then,
before the march. There were many indications that there was going to be a
serious problem, but we were unable to reach him at the time. After the riot
occurred, we made an effort to meet with him then. We knew he was staying at the
Rivermont. That was public knowledge at the time. So a group of us we
when we decided to go, that's the first thing we thought about, how were we
going to get past the security, because we knew that there would be some. So one
of the fellows that was with us at the time, he said, well, we'll try and see if
we can't get through the back door. We walked through the back door. Lo and
behold, the back door came straight open, I
mean, no problem at all. We walked right into the door, upstairs to his room,
knocked on the door, never saw a soul, no one.
went directly up to his room?
knocked on the door?
there any security inside the room?
answered the door?
think Reverend Abernathy answered the door. No, wait a minute. Let me get this
straight. Was it Bernard Shaw that was with him at the time. You have to help me
I think Bernard answered the door because I think Dr. King was in the bathroom
putting on his tie. I think Reverend Abernathy was standing in the background. I
introduced myself, told Mr. Shaw my name is Charles Cabbage, I'd like to talk to
Dr. King, I represent the Invader organization. Reverend Abernathy immediately
said, stop, no, the doctor does not want to talk to you all now. At this
particular time I heard Dr. King call out from the bathroom, he said, no, let
him in because I want to talk to him. So we went in the room and sat down and we
had a nice long talk.
Basically what was the nature of that conversation?
had brought along some literature, discussing, you know -- explaining our
position on certain issues, describing our organization, its structure, some of
our goals and objectives.
were really trying to demonstrate to him that the rumors that had been spread
us were untrue and unfounded, that we were really not out to create any kind of
disruptive behavior in the City of Memphis, that we were really about basically,
like I said, consciousness-raising, introducing the concept of the empowerment
of black people at the time generally referred to as black power. That was
almost a criminal offense at that particular time. We felt there was some work
that needed to be done. In the process of presenting our literature to him, we
also presented parts of a program that we had put together that we wanted to try
to establish into the community called the Community
Unification Program. We were seeking funding at that particulars time.
the conversation never really got into the literature itself. They looked it
over and went immediately to the march and what happened.
did Dr. King react to this conversation that you had with him?
all the way. His first reaction was, and it kind of shocked me in a way, because
I was expecting him to be hostile and I was expecting him to be a bit defensive,
you know, because the information that he had received was that we were opposed
to everything he stood for, and the first question he asked me was, you know,
Brother Cabbage, why did you all do this to me? I explained to him, I said, Doc,
we did not do this to you.
intention from the very beginning has been, first of all, we did not want you to
come here because we had been organizing around -- we had been organizing around
not a non-violent theme at that particular time. For him to walk into
trying to lead a non-violent demonstration on the occasion we're talking about
was just walking into the jaws of a tiger. It was in our best interest as well
as his for him not to be here. We wanted him
because we really just didn't have the voice that we wanted in the meetings and
strategy sessions that were being held at the time that was controlling the
strike and those events.
There came a time as a result of this meeting and other discussions that your
organization came to agree to work with Dr. King in terms of the following
march, the next march that was planned?
this was discussed -- all this came about that day in that meeting, because,
know, after I had told -- I don't want to make it sound like I'm giving Dr. King
advice, but I tried to inform him as best as I could of what the situation was,
the volatility of the situation and some of the things that he could do to be
able to come into Memphis and be able to have a non-violent demonstration. I let
him know that we had been organizing around counter-themes for at least a year,
that a lot of people were aware of it, and in order for him to be able to pull a
non-violent march off here in Memphis, that he needs to pull up all the way, go
back to Atlanta, reorganize, send in some workers to begin to teach non-violent
doctrines and discipline, because in order to be able to do and accomplish what
they were setting out -- what they were attempting to do would take some serious
When you met with him and were agreeing to work together, you took up residence
in the Lorraine Motel as a means of a place for working with him for manning the
second march. Is that right?
suggestion was one of the things we need to do then was probably try to work
together. He said, what I will do is we will go back and I'll send some people
in and we're going to put you and maybe some of your people on the staff. We
agreed immediately, you know. From that point on we decided when they came back,
they were contacted. When they came back, I don't remember the exact time line
on this, but we took up in the
Motel, we took the two rooms on the top floor, the right-hand side of the
you know how many people were in those two rooms?
just had the two rooms. At that time we were young. They just stayed full all
Those rooms were on the balcony level, the upper level?
Balcony level, yes.
same level on which he was assassinated?
there come a time when you were asked to leave those rooms?
When was that?
This was after the third meeting that we had had. Let me try and explain this.
After the organizers for SCLC had come to
, had come back to
after Dr. King had left, Reverend Orange, Carl Reader (Phonetic) and some of
the others at that
we began to go out into the community and have workshops. So we began to get to
be quite friendly. We got along well. So when Dr. King came back, we began to
in the dining room. We had two meetings downstairs in the dining room. We had
one in his room. And in the meeting we were discussing how we would be able to
pull the march off.
one of the things that we had decided that would be necessary would be that the
Invaders would be involved in actually marshalling the demonstration. I had
problems with that initially because I didn't think I could sell that to the
group. So when I took this back to our board up on the second floor where we
were staying, we had heated arguments about it, but eventually got this over to
the entire group and we agreed to marshal the parade. This is after the second
meeting we probably -- finally came to a decision and we were on board to act as
After the third meeting somehow you were told to leave the hotel?
Now, John had to remind me of this. After the second meeting after we had come
to the conclusion that we were all going to work together on this, that we had
as much at stake in it as they did, so, therefore, it would be the right thing
for us to do, we had sort of an impromptu meeting in Dr. King's room where we
had some final points to work out. That meeting lasted maybe about five to ten
minutes. We go back to the hotel, to our rooms, and we discussed it a little
bit, and we sat around, and here comes a knock on the door.
took us about twenty minutes to clear the room.
it took you twenty minutes to clear the room?
What is the significance of that? What time does that make it?
weren't really keeping no watch or time on this. We weren't really watching the
clock per se. But from some of the things that I read from some of the
investigations that had been carried out since then, I think we left out about
ten until six or eleven until six or something like this.
were told to leave?
Sometime within a half hour, thirty-five minutes, of the killing you left?
left at ten minutes to six, which is about eleven minutes before the killing?
always felt that as we were pulling out -- it took us a little while to get
organized to get out of the room. There were quite a few of us there. We got out
as quickly as we could. We weren't ready to go. We were there all day for
meetings and everything.
was only one car there, that was mine. We threw things in the car, got in the
car. As soon as we got in the car and drove up Mulberry, this is when I heard
Very shortly after you --
Before I could make it to
were you asked to leave the motel within minutes of the killing?
There is a lot of conjecture on that. I do not know. I mean, it is illogical. It
doesn't make any sense. Check-out time is the next day.
Yes. I mean, SCLC was taking care of the entire bill.
they had paid for it through the evening?
don't know what their records indicate, but I would assume if they had already
rented the room, you know, then -- they don't rent them by the half day. It was
just a totally illogical move. It didn't make any sense.
gave the orders for you to leave the motel?
Izzy answered the door. I wouldn't have been the one to answer the door. Izzy
answer the door. Izzy, from my best recollection, says that one of the maids had
come by to clean the room and asked us to leave, they said that you all would
have to leave. Next came Reverend Orange and came in and explained to us that,
hey, man, you all will have to leave. Nobody asked why because -- you know, we
had feelings that there was something very, very wrong because
never questioned that. I assumed by him handling the money it was a clear-cut
decision for him saying -- the way it came down, we were not paying for the
room, Jessie was not authorizing payment for the room anymore, so you all have
They already had paid for the room apparently?
This I realize now, but at that particular time we never knew how serious these
minutes and seconds were, you know, to a significant historical event. I mean,
in hindsight we can see these things, but as they occurred, you know, who would
take time to remember anything like that and write it down or jot it down.
Charles, I put it to you your testimony this afternoon is that you were asked to
leave late in the day close to the time of the killing, you did leave --
and then you heard the shot within a short time after you left?
soon as I pulled off the lot and made a right turn, got beside the fire station,
the shot rang out. We all ducked down in the car. Normally we would make a right
turn to go down to
and turn left to get on the interstate. This time when we heard the shot we
immediately began -- See, we had a different route from leaving the hotel. At
night we would take a different route because of the police surveillance around
the hotel at night. So we took a left turn, took Calhoun, went toward the river,
took a back street to Florida street, got to Crump, went back over to Castle, I
think it was, and went over the railroad tracks and back alleys and made it all
the way to south Memphis.
you notice any security, any police presence or security, in the motel late that
afternoon before you left and after you left?
There was none. There was never any security, never.
PEPPER: No further questions, Your Honor.
BY MR. GARRISON:
Mr. Cabbage, I have two or three questions I would to ask you if you don't mind.
Before this date of April the 4th when you were asked to leave the room, did you
ever learn of any threats against Dr. King? Was it common that you heard any
threats against him?
it a pretty much common day-to-day thing?
this was a direct knock on my front door to my house, which made it even more
expedient for us to try and get to him and let him know. There was a gentleman
that knocked on my mother's front door. We were
in the house. He came inside and introduced himself. He was from
. He came in and sat down, sirens wailing, fires going off all over the city,
curfew on. This man came into our house, sat down and talked to me and told me,
said, Charles, I'm going to tell you something, they are going to kill Dr. King
. I done about passed out.
that the day before the assassination?
can't recall that date. I really can't.
it the general feeling of the Invaders that it was unsafe for Dr. King to come
didn't want him to come here?
we did not.
that because it was not safe to come?
was unsafe, and we knew that because of the position that we had taken
that if anything went wrong, that we would be the one to blame for it.
They would blame it on your group?
you recall a gentleman in your group named Merrell McCullough?
Yes, I do.
What part did he play with your group?
Merrell first came into the organization because of the activities that we were
conducting out at
. We were organizing the Black Students Association out there. Merrell I think
was attending classes out there. I think John B. Reddin told him.
He was interested and wanted to learn more about the condition of black people
in this condition, so John brought him to the apartment where we were generally
holding these meetings, which were generally open to anybody who wanted to
attend, they could come. And Merrell came.
room before the assassination, Mr. Cabbage, was Merrell McCullough there, was he
one of the ones?
he was not there. He was with Reverend Orange.
you know where Merrell McCullough was when you left the room that day?
and Reverend Orange gone out shopping or something like this. We knew that he
was the police, but what can you do about this. You know you are going to be
infiltrated. We made him minister of transportation. He had a car. We gave him
something to do.
when we made the alliance with SCLC and began to work with SCLC, he came along
with the group. So now he is moving driving people around, some of the SCLC
staff people around. It is just of the one of the quirks the way things
happened. He ended up driving the SCLC staff around. We did not know he was as
highly connected as he was.
me ask you this: You said you were ordered to leave sometime late that
you see Reverend Jackson at the motel before you left?
Yes, he was at the meeting.
Late that afternoon?
met during the day. If you want to go into the event, we can talk about the
meeting, but he was there at the hotel that day. As a matter of fact, he was the
last person we saw as we left the meeting. He was standing down by the pool.
was down on the parking level, lower level?
did you see Dr. King talking to reverend Jessie Jackson?
at that time, no.
Cabbage, let me ask you this: You were in the room facing the street over across
from the rooming house across there, weren't you?
you ever look over there and see in the brushy area where it was raised up off
the street with a concrete barrier, I think it is, and a lot of trees, did you
ever see anyone in there moving around in the bushes that you could tell?
I never really paid any attention to it. We were constantly moving around, our
people, because we provided our own security, and no reports ever came to me
that we ever saw anything or anybody at that particular time.
When you heard the shot the day that it occurred, did you go back to the scene
or did you go ahead and leave?
immediately went to
Community. We got stopped once by a police officer, a young guy. I don't know
who he was. He was nervous. He talked to us and he let us go. That took about
five minutes. We went directly to my mother's house. She come running. As I
pulled up in front of the house, she is rushing down to the house crying,
screaming to the top of her
they just shot Dr. King, they just shot Dr. King. I immediately began to think,
oh, my God, how far is this going to go, because we were aware that the
assassination plot was on because of the fellow that had come to my house. So
what I did was I got out of the car and turned the car over to some of the other
people in our organization, sent it back down to the hotel to see in the event
anybody else would be targeted, if we could be of any assistance security-wise.
We weren't trained professionals or anything like that. Anybody in a situation
like that would try to help.
GARRISON: That's all I have. Thank you, sir.
Cabbage, do you know who the man was who came into your home and told you that
Dr. King was going to be assassinated?
didn't ask for a spelling, but there was another John Laue present at the hotel
who spelled his name L O U E, I think, but, you know, this man was an entirely
different -- a totally different description.
there man black or white?
was Middle Eastern, long brown hair. I'd remember him again if I saw him. I
never saw him again.
you know him previously?
Never seen him before in my life.
Never seen him before in your life?
Could his name have been spelled L A U E?
Something like that. I may have the spelling wrong. I didn't ask him how to
spell his name is what I'm trying to say. I do remember him saying that his name
working in. We had numerous confrontations with the police. There were armed
bands of white citizens who rode around in the community with high-powered
rifles in their car. Some of us had been shot at before. It was basically for
When you saw Reverend Jackson standing down at the swimming pool, was he doing
Well, he said -- he had his arms folded and checking the time seeing how long it
would take us to get out of the hotel.
was looking at his watch?
was checking it.
Lastly, did you have the occasion as a result of your suspicion of a white
person who wanted to associate with the Invaders to go through some personal
documents of that person?
That was an incident that occurred. This was a year prior to. A gentleman with
military intelligence -- we used to hang out at a place called the Log Cabin.
This is where we used to meet on
come stumbling in drunk, strange in the first place, because he had to be nuts
there in south
at this particular time anyway. He comes into our meeting room. He
was immediately stopped, frisked and robbed. In the process of being robbed,
his wallet. In going through the wallet, we found a military intelligence ID and
found an identification card with military intelligence officer?
Yes, I did.
This was about a year before the killing?
This would be then in 1967?
1967, yes. Yes, sir.
PEPPER: No further
COURT: All right. You may stand down, sir. Thank you.
First of all, I'd like to say my granddaddy was brought here five years before
the Civil War in chains. He was a slave. And lesser than a mile and a half from
the store, the record will show in 1867 he gave seven dollars and a half for
four hundred acres of land. We have some of that in the family yet.
John, did there come a time in 1959 or 1960 that you became involved in civil
rights activity, voter registration activity, in Fayette County and the area of
Well, I'd like to please the Court to go back a little bit further than that how
I got deeply involved. I met Gerald Estes in
, and later I met him again in 1957. In 1957 he was a young practicing attorney.
He came to
John, what opposition did you meet when you started, though, moving -- I'm
moving forward -- when you started the voter registration project in
According to the way I got the records together, before 1960 there was no
negroes registered to vote in that county. In 1957 me and Mr. Estes and the
others got together. He was the legal counsel. We ormed a league called the
Fayette County Civic & Welfare League to set out to get negroes registered
that time the negroes didn't have no chance, and the law, they would pick them
up, sentence them, and put them out on the road, and a negro didn't have no
chance. The only way we could figure out to change that landscape was through
the ballot box.
What did you do?
formed this group. It was the first -- around about April or May in 1959 to get
the negroes registered to vote. We got a small majority of negroes registered,
and we had a local sheriff election. The local man that we was supporting was
named L. T. Redbanks. He run for sheriff against the local sheriff. The Democrat
party refused to let us vote.
how it got started. That's how it got started. When they refused to let us vote,
on August the 12th, 1959, Gerald Estes filed a suit against the Democratic party
asking for us to have the right to cast our ballot.
What happened as a result of that action?
Well, that was in 1959. In 1960, the early part of 1960, we was still pushing to
get negroes registered to vote, and the local editor of the Fayette Falcon was
named Coaster. The wavy understand it, the Commercial Appeal man name here was
named Coaster. They was folks.
we got it going, he put an ad in the Fayette Falcon and the Commercial Appeal
that they was going to make a thousand negroes move off the land in 1960, that
that time in 1960, if you registered, you had to move. The leaders of the
movement, the citizen council and the Klu Klux Klan, they had a list that later
we got ahold to it through by borrowing it from the Klu Klux Klan's secretary.
Ebony magazine published the list. We got ahold of it, forwarded it -- we got a
photostatic copy of it, and the made carried it back and put it in the safe and
they never knew how we got the list.
list in this Ebony magazine had all -- had A's behind it, that you couldn't buy
nothing nowhere. I was the leader of the group, and they run me out of every
wholesale house in
Now, this was an embargo list, this was a list of people who no wholesale house
should sell any products of any sort. Is that what you are saying?
Wouldn't sell them for money at no price.
Moving on now, John, what kind of business were you in, what kind of business
did you take over?
Well, my brother, he had the store. And he had an education and always followed
saw mills and such. He said, I'm going to
I'm just going to leave. He thought he was the one that was behind the movement
all the time, and I was the one who was spearheading the movement with the
people. He moved to
and left them out there. When he moved to
, then Gulf Oil Company, they jumped in the squeeze. In 1960 no oil company
would sell no black farmers no gasoline, no oil and no seed in 1960. It was a
liberal at Eades named Ben Roafer. He told all the farmers to come down there to
him and he'd sell them what they want. He had more business than he could look
that time I made friends with the underworld. What I mean by the underworld,
they run me out of every wholesale house in
but Malone & Hyde. The bread companies wouldn't sell nothing to me. There
was a young bread man who said, tell you what you do, you meet me out there on
Summer Avenue and I'll sell you off the bread off the truck.
would come to
and meet him on Summer Avenue in
in a 1955 Ford car. That's what I had. I would come to
and meet him on Summer Avenue and get bread. They Klan would get after me every
night or two. I had -- which I'm a top mechanic myself on the old models. To
make a car run fast and turn curves faster, if you noticed, a 1955 Ford has got
a solid frame in the front. We took the torch and cut two inches out of the
frame in the front. That brought the front wheels in and let the back wheels be
wider, and we had chains on -- see, a 1955 Ford has got straight springs behind
it. That let the car wheels up when it would go around a sharp curve, it would
slide around. At that time, which I could see a
nail in the highway now, at that time my vision was better and I could drive
just like I was standing still, and when they'd get after me, I'd cut over in
them back roads, and them new cars couldn't turn good like me. At that time
wasn't no two-way radios in
John, let me stop you there. Would you just tell the Court and the jury what
Tent City, we went to Washington, and me and my attorney, Carrie Porter Boyd and
one other guy. At that time this was under the Eisenhower Administration, and
they filed an injunction against the landowners from stop making the tenant
farmers move. And this was under the Eisenhower Administration.
was in 1961. President Kennedy got elected in 1961 in November, and he took
office in 1962.
Well, John, let's back up a minute. It is a historical fact that John Kennedy
was elected in 1960, took office January 20th of 1961. So it is a year back.
year back. I'm just --
That's okay. Continue.
during that time that I was leading my folks and all this was -- we'd
meetings to discuss it, and I decided the only way to be successful in political
ranks would be independent from the citizen's council and the Klu Klux Klan.
What I mean by being independent, stay out of the Klan's pocketbook. When you
borrow money from the Klan, he squeeze up on you in a minute.
John, what kind of business do you run today?
run a grocery store and oil company.
long have you run that business?
I've been running that business since 960.
That's when you took it over from your brother?
That's when I took it over from my brother. But now let me run back back just a
second. Shaw, a fellow named Shaw, bought it from my brother first. He stayed in
it about a month and a half. Because of me going into the business after then --
there was an eighty-three year old man named John Lewis.
said, John, he says, they will starve us to death, we need somebody in that
business who knows how to do and feed us. At that time a test was going. If you
get Jet magazine, you can see some of the people were so poor, they were
starving. Of course, you take most of the people at that time, they had never
been nowhere or no-how to maneuver out of oppression.
Jet magazine published some pictures how poor the folks were at that time.
Let's move on. You have run this business all these years?
many days a week is your business open?
onliest time -- at that time the business was -- we were running seven days a
week. I had a family. But after I lost -- the Klan tore my family up. I only
shuts it up when I go to pick up merchandise.
you would -- why would you go there around five-fifteen every Thursday? A. Well,
you've got to understand how I made the runs. I first started with Malone &
Hyde on south -- Malone & Hyde was on
make that run, the dry grocery run. Then I would come on up and I'd have it to
put my meat on ice and produce on ice. I'd make them's two places my last
Liberto's warehouse was your last pickup?
the last pickup.
would get there around five-fifteen?
got there that day at five-fifteen exactly.
We're coming to that day. April 4th was a Thursday, the day Martin Luther King
was assassinated was a Thursday.
Would you describe what the layout of the place was and what you did when you
arrived at that warehouse?
That warehouse faced east and west, but you enter in the gate on the south side,
and when I drove around to the north side and come up about fifteen feet of the
stopped my truck. At that time I had a three-quarter ton pickup truck with a
on it, a cloth canvass over it.
When I drove up to the -- when I stopped the pickup truck out in front of the
door, this door is on the north side, and there is a big door that could you
rollback and back a truck up in.
in from the north side on the right side there is a little small office, and
when I got within ten to fifteen feet of this office, why, Latch was standing
Latch had a scar around his neck like this.
What was his relationship to Mr. Liberto?
was a handyman. I never did know, because I was always scared of Mr. Latch.
You see, if you looked at him, he had a scar from right here to right there, and
always be mean, but Mr. Liberto was always friendly. I wouldn't fool with Mr.
Latch. I would stay away from him if I could.
you walked in that afternoon, into the entrance and the office. You said you
were how far from the office?
to fifteen feet.
to fifteen feet from the office?
Then what happened next?
phone rang. When the phone rang, Latch picked it up. When Latch picked it up,
Latch said, that's him again. He give it to Mr. Liberto. Mr. Liberto said, shoot
Well, at that time they didn't have noticed me. I was just standing up a little
closer to them just looking. I was a cash-paying customer. He would always tell
me, you go get what you want and come by the office and pay for it.
warehouse hadn't been changed, the doors, you have a line formed going in there.
Let's go back over what you saw. You heard Mr. Liberto talking on the telephone?
Around what time of the day was this?
say that was around five -- ten minutes after, five-fifteen, around five
twenty-five, not quite five-thirty.
Five twenty-five to five-thirty you heard him talking on the telephone?
received a phone call. What did you hear him say once again?
Shoot the son-of-a-bitch on the balcony.
Shoot the son-of-a-bitch on the balcony. Then what happened after that?
Then he looked around and seen me. Then they said, go on and get your
merchandise. The locker is made with two doors, you open one door, then you
walks in and open another door. I went on in and got my merchandise, come on
back out. Then when I was coming back out, the phone rang again. Latch picked it
up and give it to Mr. Liberto. And Mr. Liberto told him to go to his brother in
and get his $5,000.
Liberto wrote me a ticket. I never would buy nothing from nowhere without a
bill. He give me a bill. I took the bill, put my merchandise in the truck, then
I went on the back side of the company out on that street and I come around to
hit Summer Avenue and hit old 64 home. When I got home, my wife called and says,
do you know Dr. King done got killed? I says, I know it. It all come back to me
in my mind what I had heard. That's what I told her, I know it.
John, did you tell this story at that time to anyone?
didn't tell it to no one until it got to worrying me, I wondered what they know
I heard. You know, when you gets kind of itchy -- that was on a Thursday. So on
a Friday or Saturday, no later than Saturday morning, Mr. Baxton Bryant, who was
a Baptist white minister that I know in
, I called him and told him what I had heard. So that Sunday evening he said,
John, I'm in church now. Says, I'll be there about four o'clock tomorrow
evening. When he came down about four o'clock that Sunday evening, we talked it
over, and in meantime he had contacted Mr. Lucius Burch's son-in-law to meet me
and him with the FBI down here in
did you have a meeting with the FBI and any local law enforcement people in
on that Sunday?
Well, that night, that Sunday night, we met with the FBI. Now, I didn't know
whether or not that they was local police or
else. But the only somebody I know was the FBI -- one was a tall and one was a
you tell them this story, these details?
gave them the same details. They questioned me two or three hours over the same
thing, the same thing. They questioned me two or three hours over the same
you give these details to them on any other occasion?
That Monday, two little young FBI come out to the store and stayed there half a
day questioning me the same thing. So that Tuesday Robert Powell from New
Orleans come there, which he used to run a store out there on 64 highway, and I
wasn't at the store when he came, he -- the lady where I hide was named Ms. Ida
Mae. The record will show that in my deposition with the FBI. She told them that
I was at the house. So Robert -- I stayed about an hour and a quarter from the
house, and when he come out this to the house -- I knowed him -- I never did
dealings with him, but I knowed him, and he come out there to see me, and he
talked with me, and at that time he had a big Gulf station in New Orleans tied
up with the Mafias, I know it. I wouldn't say much to him, but the onliest
questions he asked me was how to get to my house from the back roads. It jumped
curious in my mind that all this done happened and he wanted to know how to come
to my house through the back roads.
John, you told this story. What happened as a result of your giving this
information to the officials?
Well, in the meantime, Hal Flannery, which I've got his phone in my pocket right
now, he was in the Justice Department. Of course, he had been working with us on
the landowners' case.
called him that Tuesday and told him about Robert Powell had been there and I
was scared of him. See, when you buy from
has happened as a result of the information that you gave the officials? Has
anything happened in succeeding years?
First of all, Dean Milk Company run my mama down, caught her on the road, run
over the truck. After then they hired Marion Yancy and Rue Grady hired the
to beat me up, beat me to death. And they give a 1961
and three hundred fifty dollars to beat me to death.
got out at the courthouse and run me in Ms. Fair Theater's yard. That's the
person who owns the theaters in
now. They still own it. When we was fighting in the yard, she come out there
with her gun, said, if you all don't quit beating him, I'm going to kill you.
John, were you put in the hospital as a result of that?
Well, I come to my family doctor -- and I'd rather not discuss his name, because
something else I'm going to bring out, I don't want any reprisals against him --
to my family doctor, and by my grandparents on my daddy's side come up in
slavery, I learned a lot about nerve doctors. When you take mullet and boil it
down, which mullet has got a little stickers on, it looks like a catfish, you
can boil it down and take Vaseline and make a salve and take iodine salt and lay
in it and draw a sweat out. That's what I did. I come to the doctor. They
examined me and said I didn't have no -- I didn't break no bones.
John, I want to move along because of the time constraints we have.
Were you ever asked to go to
and testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations and tell what
you have told us here today?
me bring one other point up.
John, no, stay, please, with me and answer this question.
right. Gene Johnson came down investigating for the Select Committee. Me
him went over all the records. I discussed what I know, what I knew with him.
And when the time come for me to if to Washington to testify before the Select
Committee, he come out there with the papers for me to sign, and when he come
out there with the papers for me to sign, I noticed that he had gotten a little
hostile towards me.
had got, in my opinion, to him and changed his attitude. That's my thinking. I
signed the papers and got everything ready. I says, John -- he says, John, he
says, I'll call you before you come up and testify before the Select Committee.
And the Select Committee was going on. Two to three days before I was supposed
to go, he called me up and said, John, we don't need you.
the answer to the question is that at the end of the day, you were not called to
testify before the Congressional committee?
office, which is on the east side of the courthouse. Now, let me explain this to
you so you'll understand. When the assassination committee of Dr. King was going
, getting ready to go on, he went to visiting John Wilder's office regular.
the way I got ahold of it, I had some of our underground watching. Two to three
weeks before James Earl Ray broke pen out of Brushy Mountain, I called
Washington and told the Select Committee that they was going to kill James Earl
Ray or something was going to happen to him.
talked to Mr. Gene Johnson, which I've got his phone numbers, I've got Mr.
Flanders' phone numbers in my pocket now, I've got Mr. Dole's phone numbers in
my pocket now. I was in correspondence with all of them.
Justice Department, what I said before, the Justice Department covered it up.
When I said they covered up the barnyard, I mean they covered it up. Now, if
look at the records, the assistant to the United States Attorney General at that
was -- it was under the Nixon administration. He had a heavy voice. I talked to
him one time. I says, I know Dr. King's killings, who is in it, they trying to
set me up to get me killed. Mitchell, that was his name. If you ever talked to
him on the phone, he has got a gross voice like a bullfrog.
right. Let me ask you this, Mr. McFerren: Since all this started and you started
the civil rights movement, have you ever been shot?
I've been shot, I've been beat up twice. The citizen council and the Klu Klux
Klan hired a man named Benefield, gave him eighteen hundred dollars to kill me.
He got chicken and didn't kill me. He sent word to me by Reverend Frank Jones.
He came to my brother's house. He didn't even know which one of the houses I
stayed in. Myself, Reverend Frank Jones and Mr. Benefield come down here on
office was at
860 Vance Avenue
. That's Gerald Estes office on Vance. He filed -- he made an affidavit with the
law and sent it to the Justice Department that he was hired to kill me. It hit
on a dead ear. Nothing come about it.
GARRISON: I appreciate it. Thank you, sir.
it true that almost thirty-one years ago you told the same story that you have
told to this jury and this Court this afternoon?
is that story true to the best of your recollection and knowledge today as it
have you ever had an opportunity to tell this story before in a court of law?
This is the first time.
PEPPER: John, thank you very much. No further questions.
the concern an Aide De Camp Award from the other governor, the heavy-set guy. I
can't remember what his name is. I received a commendation from the city from
Mayor Herenton, stuff from the senator, letters from -- accommodating (sic)
letters from Vice-president Gore, another letter from Jim Sasser,
any of these have to do with saving an individual's life, one or other persons'
Yes, sir, they sure did.
What were those occasions, those incidents?
first one was pertaining to a passenger when I was driving a taxicab who caught
a cab up to the
downtown here and decided he was going to jump off the roof and commit suicide.
police officer -- I had radioed for the police to come. It was on top of the
parking garage. The police officer came, and there was a tussle involved, and
they both fell off the building and I climbed down the
the building and pulled them both in. That is the first time something like that
-- I received some accommodation. Then one of my neighbors was in a fight and
got his throat cut down the street from where I lived, and I kept him from
bleeding to death. I captured his assailant, too. So that was some more involved
You've been in the right place at the right time, or depending on how you look
at it, maybe the wrong place at the wrong time. Did you in the course of your
time here in
in your younger years back in the 1960's come to know a man named Frank Liberto?
in the 1960's, no, sir.
When did you come to know Mr. Liberto?
the late 1970's, approximately 1978, 1979 and 1980.
you knew him at the end of the 1970's, that's when you came to know him?
Would you describe to the Court and the jury how you come to know him, what the
circumstances of your relationship were?
Frank and myself were friends. He would come to my mother's restaurant on a
daily basis early in the morning and late in the evening he'd come back. I spent
most of my time with him in the evening time. Occasionally he would come there
a restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a pizza restaurant, and he would come and
eat breakfast with my mother and spend the rest the day with me occasionally.
the restaurant located somewhere between his work and his home?
Yes, sir, it was. It was located approximately -- Mr. Frank's -- the
Market was about a mile from my restaurant. The way I understand it, he lived
off of Graham somewhere, and we were kind of in between.
had a produce house at the warehouse at the
That's what I understand, yes, sir, tomato house.
Right. When he -- when you came to know him, he would stop at the cafe, at your
mother's restaurant, and what would you talk about? What was there between the
two of you that developed, this relationship?
Well, at the time I'd been performing in
, and Mr. Frank, he would come in and drink beer a lot. I knew how to play a
song, an Italian song, on the guitar called Malaguena. I used to play him this
song. He used to like what I would play him and he would tip me money.
it got to where Mr. Frank was -- I had a little small three-piece combo, and he
would book -- he would give me jobs, such as that, performing. He liked for me
to play music. He would talk about the old times and where he came from. He
would talk about my relationship
with my mother. I reminded himself of -- myself of him when he was young, how I
treated my mother and how we lived.
When he talked to you about the old times or his earlier years, did he tell you
where he lived or -- what experiences did he describe?
called it the old country. I remember playing him that song, he used to lay his
head back and would say, yeah, it is just like I was in the old country, that's
the way they would play it, I like that song.
the only mention of his origin he ever -- where he came from he ever
made to me directly that wasn't pertaining to the
Pertaining to the
, did he ever discuss any experiences or life when in the City of
What did he tell you about his life there?
Well, I asked him some stuff that led up to him telling me that he had come from
New Orleans, but I had heard that he was in the Mafia. And I asked him if he was
And he didn't say yes or no. He answered me by saying, I pushed a vegetable cart
in the French Quarter with Carlo Marcello when I was a boy. I didn't know what
that meant. I
let that go. It went over my head. Years later I saw the movie the assassination
of RFK or JFK with Oliver Stone, and Mr. Frank, he talked Italian, and he said,
I push a vegetable cart with Carlo Marcello when I was a boy. Carlo Marcello, I
didn't know what that meant. Then I saw that movie, and it said Carlos Marcello,
the kingpin of the Mafia from
. I said, that's Carlo, that's not Carlos, that's Carlo. That's what threw the
he confided or told you about his earlier life experience with Carlos Marcello,
did you when you first met him and you heard he was associated with the Mafia,
did you know what the Mafia was at that point?
predominantly upset about. It wasn't the subject matter of what it was about, it
was the fact that he would think that he could, you know, go to that level to
talk to her about that. That's what upset me more than anything.
When you heard about this, what did you do?
went directly to Mr. Frank about it when he showed up at the pizza parlor and
just asked him, I said, hey, Mr. Frank, did you kill Martin Luther King?
Because what had you heard that he had said to your mother?
told mama that he had killed Martin Luther King -- had Martin Luther King
killed. I didn't like him talking that to my mother. I thought he was out of
line for coming forward with that, talking to her. He could talk to me about it.
But he stepped over the line. So that's when I approached him.
became offended and you actually just went up to him and confronted him?
and wired up. I said, no, I'm not crazy. He sat there for a second. He says --
WITNESS: Your Honor, I don't want to offend anybody, and I don't know how many
people are watching this television, but I'm going to have to use some --
MR. PEPPER) Just speak clearly and plainly, just what he said.
going to use that N word nobody wants to hear. I don't want to offend anybody by
Whitlock, just say what you know.
told me, he said, I didn't kill the nigger, but I had it done. I said, what
about that other son-of-a-bitch up there taking credit for it? He says, ahh, he
wasn't nothing but a troublemaker from
, he was a front man.
didn't know what that meant. Because "front man" to me means something
different than what he was thinking about. I said, a what? He said, a setup man.
why did you kill the preacher for? He says, ahh, it was about the draft. He
says, boy, you don't even need to be hearing about this. He said, don't you say
nothing. He stood up and he acted like he was going to slap me up upside the
head. So I stood up there. Me and him are looking at each other. He has got this
glare look on his eye. I could tell he was thinking about hitting me.
through my head, you old son-of-a-bitch, you hit me, I'm going to knock a knot
upside your head, I don't care who you are. He is standing there glaring at me.
He says, you fixing to go to
, aren't you? I said, yeah. Then about that time the phone rang. I just walked
over there and answered the phone and was busy with the pizza stuff, I looked
up, and he is gone. He left his beer sitting there on the table. It was about
you ever have any other discussion with him about this matter?
time frame -- he called me, okay, on the phone, right after that, and he says,
Nate, I've got a job for you. I went, oh, man, he is going to want me to --
well, let me back up just a little bit here. Mr. Frank -- there was something
that happened over at the pizza parlor prior to this conversation I had with him
about him having Martin Luther King whacked. Something took place right prior to
that at the pizza parlor that left him open to talk to me in these kinds of
ways. It was a pretty nasty situation, but
to do what I had to do over there. I don't tell everybody what I did. About a
week or two prior to this conversation I had with Mr. Frank, some guy came in,
he looked kind of like John Wayne. He was a big guy, a redneck guy, walked in my
mother's restaurant drinking a beer.
runs over there to the door and she says, you can't bring a beer in here but
I'll sell you one. He just -- once again, I'm going to have to use some nasty
language to make it how it was. He says, I just might buy this mother-fucking
place, and he back-handed my mama.
he did, I walked around from the counter with a nightstick and knocked fire from
his tail end and knocked him through the front door, hit him across here and
busted his eye open real bad, busted his head open, knocked him out on the front
doorstep out there and whacked him again with that stick.
was a man that was working out there named Louis Bonsella. He come running
there and said, don't hit him no more, Nate, you are going to kill him. I said,
trying to kill this MF. Some other guy come running out the door and says, oh,
minute, come on, Red, talking about the guy I hit with the stick, come on, Red,
going to kill us. So I hit him in the GP.
last I saw these two knuckle-heads, they were dragging each other down the
sidewalk. Meanwhile, Mr. Frank had got me up in a truck a couple days later, he
got me up in there. Mama called the cops. They come over there. She filed a
report on the guy causing such a disturbance. The lieutenant shows up over
there. He gets me out on there on the sidewalk and
says, Nate, you are going to have to watch yourself because there is going to
start a war over here. I whacked this guy good with that stick.
Frank got me in the truck. He started asking me about this fight. He says, were
you going to kill him, Nate? I said, yeah, I was, but Louis stopped me. He said,
He said, the guy over there working at the place. He said, oh, that old dago
he says, well, it is a good thing you didn't kill him, you would have been in a
whole lot of trouble if you would have. You got out of it, but I would have
helped your mama. He said, could you do it again? I said, I guess so, if
somebody come up in the pizza parlor acting the fool and hit mama, I said, yeah,
I'll tear them up.
says, no, would you do it just in general? I said, to who? He said, mostly dope
niggers over there on around
, going up around the
. He motioned over there towards
said, I don't know. He said, could you do it for some money? I said how much
money? He said, five or ten, it depends. I said, who is it? He says, these dope
boys get these white girls over there, the families still care something about
them, either the police can't or won't do anything
it and he said that's it, that's who we want to get right there. I said, who
exactly is it? He said, there is always some nigger around here needs to be
killed. I don't know. I'll let you know.
when he called my back after we had this conversation about Martin Luther King,
he told me about that, he said, oh, I've got a job for you, Nate. Oh, God, he is
going to want me to kill some dope idiot over here somewhere.
says, get your nigger. I had a guy, a black man, that played drums for me, and
another man. He says meet Billy down at the
. He was talking about a music job.
wasn't a contract to kill somebody?
Yeah. He wanted me to play for Sheriff Bill Morris' Christmas party. I was to go
down there to the
, play this Christmas party and I get paid a check. Then he shows back up over
at the pizza parlor. That's what the conversation was about.
there come a time years later when you wrote a letter to a government official
in which you discussed or in which you stated what you have told this Court and
didn't go into detail, but I had written the governor of Tennessee with a copy
written to John Wilder, the lieutenant governor, and to the -- I sent one to the
person at the Board of Responsibility and to another Memphis attorney, yes, sir,
were there any repercussions on you as a result of that letter and what you said
about this case?
Yes, sir, it was.
What happened you to?
Well, I started having this guy follow me around in a car that was undercover
car that had a bunch of antennas on it. I was working my taxicab. He was
constantly following me for about two days. Then I got down here at Poplar and
and I called my mother-in-law, ex-mother-in-law up on the phone in Shelby
Forrest, and I had a bunch of cops roll down on me, a bunch of police. I said,
heck, there is a robbery somewhere, I better get out of here. I hung up the
phone and took off.
didn't know they was there for me. I get around the corner and I'm pulled over.
I had three squad cars with loads of police with guns to my head. They hit me in
the groin twice, smashed my face up against the back of the car, stretched me
out. One of them cops -- I used to wrestle a couple years ago at the Coliseum,
and one of the cops recognized me from when I
wrestling. He said, wait a minute, this is Nate. They was working on the hood
smashing my face down in that thing, you know. I was just taking it. They didn't
put anything on me that I hadn't hardly had before. So I'm just taking it
however I can take it. But the one cop stopped it. The guy had a gun to my head
while the other one
working on me. He said, wait a minute, Nate, what is this about? I said, I don't
know, man, I guess it is my ex-wife or something. I didn't know what it was
didn't put it together at that point?
at that moment, no, I didn't. The top cop that knew me, he put me in his squad
car and looks back at me, he said, Nate, have you been making phone calls to
Nashville? I said, ug-huh, not me.
jerked me out of the car again. They said, how much change you got on you? I had
like eighty cents in change. They are all looking like he ain't got enough money
to make a long-distance phone call. I said, what are you talking about? He says
-- the cop asked me, he says, do you -- have you been making bomb threats? I
said, I can't even set my VCR much less make a bomb. I don't know what you are
talking about. This is the cop I know. He says, have you been trying to embezzle
money out of anybody, some
guy? I said, no, ma'am, what the heck is this? Then all of a sudden this guy
that has been following me, he pulls up there real quick in this unmarked car,
because they are on the radio saying -- I said, if this is all what is going on,
you've got the wrong guy, you need to go back over there wherever he is on the
phone and see if you can find him, because you've got the wrong person here.
when that took place, the cop that put all the regular Memphis police on me, the
undercover guy, he come wheeling up and blocks his face so he can't see me and
walks by the car and said, here is the number he is calling. I'm listening out
the window to them. I call him a lying SOB when he walks by the door because
that's what he was was. I ain't called anybody in
Well, the upshot of it all was that this was serious harassment that happened
That's an understatement. Then they got me downtown, read me my Miranda rights.
said, am I under arrest? He said, boy, you in a lot of trouble. He said, you
can't get no lawyer, you can't get no bond. He said, why does the Secret Service
have a hold on a cab driver?
is that cop up there named Johnstone, eleventh floor, bomb unit. I says, I can't
tell you. He said, well, you going to have to tell me. I said, I'll talk to the
AG about it because he told me not to say a word to nobody about this. He said,
you ain't talking to nobody until you tell me why the Secret Service has ahold
on this cab driver right here. I said, okay if you really want to know it, I'll
give it you. There are entities within the
government -- he is taking a statement. They give my give me my Miranda rights.
sure if I'm under arrest or not. Then I give the statement. You can't make a
unless I done read you your rights, he said. I said, fine. Okay. I guess I was
why they doing this to me is there are entities within the United States
government that don't want me to say what I know about the assassination of
Martin Luther King. He almost fainted. He walked out of the room. I saw him
through the window. He was on the FAX machine and he was working the FAX
machine. I read the heading of the paper he had. It had something on there that
. He walks back in there with the FAX. Him and Larkin, the other major up there,
they read it, and they said, get the hell out of here. I was arrested with guns
to my head, hit in the groin, read my Miranda, then un-arrested and kicked loose
all at the same time.
goodness. Nate, thanks very much for coming down here this afternoon.
PEPPER: No further questions.
WITNESS: Dr. Pepper, you don't have to thank me for telling the truth.
your opinion at the time when you interviewed him, within minutes of the
killing, after the killing, would he have been capable of making that kind of
sir. No way.
Because of his intoxication?
sir. I don't think he could. I didn't think enough of his statement that I took
to take him downstairs, downtown and take a formal statement from him and so put
it in my arrest report that he was intoxicated to the point there was no sense
in bringing him downtown.
put that in your report?
that report ever reflected in the Memphis Police Department investigation
Yes, sir. It is quite full of the investigation. We all wrote our little part
that we had in it.
and did you ever see the comments that you have made just now included in that
sir. I have never read the report. I never had my hands on it. Well, I did have
my hands on, it but I never had time to read it. When I was promoted in charge
of the homicide squad, there was a report in the office, and I took it out of
the desk -- out of the file and put it in my desk drawer where I could securely
lock it up.
it was later taken from me by Chief John Moore. He called me one day and asked
me if I had it. I said yes, I did. He said, bring it to me. I carried it down
there. I haven't seen it since.
you know what happened to it?
final line of questioning. Were you over in the hospital at the time when the
body of Martin Luther King was present in a morgue room?
COURT: Ladies and gentlemen, let me probably admonish you. You probably have
heard some things you have never heard before about this case. You are not to
discuss this evidence, not with your family, not among yourselves or anyone
been first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:
Good afternoon, Mr. Hurley. It has been awhile.
Would you please state your name and address for the record, please.
2595 Cedar Ridge Drive
Virtually opposite the rooming house in question?
therefore virtually opposite Jim's Grill, the restaurant at the bottom of the
Yes, I believe that would be correct.
What was your practice on a usual day when you finished work?
Well, what I would do is I would go downtown and pick up my wife. I worked down
on South Florida Street, which is not really very far from there, and we had one
car at the time, so that's what our usual practice was to do.
the 4th of April, 1968, Thursday afternoon, did you go downtown to pick up your
you recall what time of day that was?
normally got off about four-thirty. It is probably fifteen or
begin in the morning. One has come from
, but he is prepared to stay over. It is at Your Honor's discretion, whatever
GARRISON: Your Honor, his testimony may not be quite as brief. I will have some
cross-examination on him.
COURT: Very well. You've answered the question I might have asked. Ladies and
gentlemen, we're going to stop at this point. We will resume tomorrow at ten
o'clock. Again, please don't discuss the testimony with anyone. That also goes
for the witnesses who have testified here. You are not to discuss your testimony
on the stand here with any of the reporters or anyone else.