After the assassination, King"s family did not trust the result of the FBI, which had harassed the Civil rights leader if he to be alive.

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On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To be shot when standing top top the balcony the the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. One hour later, the was declared dead. For nearly 50 years, the federal government has preserved that James Earl beam was the gunman that assassinated King the day. However within young name Luther King’s family, there remains a persistent id that beam is innocent, and was collection up to take it the fall.


FBI investigators at the time traced the shot come a rooming house throughout the street, and witnesses command them to a big bundle dropped on the sidewalk after the shooting. It had a pair of binoculars, a newspaper with a story around King continuing to be at the Lorraine Motel, and also a .30-06 Remington Gamemaster that had actually fired one shot. All 3 bore the fingerprints of one escaped convict named James Earl Ray.

Ray, a white support of segregationist George Wallace, was a job criminal who’d to be convicted at least 4 separate times because that robbing a cafe, a taxi, a post office, and a grocery store store. A year before, he’d escaped from Missouri State Penitentiary while serving a 20-year sentence, and was on the lam at the moment King was shot. An worldwide manhunt resulted in his capture in June 1968 in ~ Heathrow airplane in London, wherein he was captured carrying 2 fake Canadian passports. Ray confessed to the crime on in march 10, 1969 and received a 99-year jail sentence, which raised to a 100-year sentence after ~ he summary escaped in 1977.


But within a couple of days the confessing, Ray started to claim his innocence, arguing that that he had been set up through a man he knew just as “Raoul.” It to be Raoul, beam said, who had directed him come buy the gun and the binoculars, and rent the room across the street native the motel. Ray said he wasn’t in the room when King was shot, however he to be unable to consistently explain where he had been, or save other crucial details in his story straight. Over number of decades, commonwealth investigators have routinely concluded that Raoul doesn’t exist.


This doesn’t mean that beam couldn’t have received assistance. Some human being had trouble, because that example, believing Ray had actually arranged his global escape every by himself, because he had a track document of getting recorded for an ext minor crimes. When authorities caught him in London, he’d been planning to take trip to Rhodesia, a previous African state ruled by a white minority in contemporary Zimbabwe.

But also if Ray had help, the evidence strongly pointed to him pulling the trigger. Ray’s fingerprints were the only ones discovered on the gun, and also there to be no witnesses who had actually seen him v Raoul throughout the nine months castle supposedly knew each other (Ray’s summary of Raoul also adjusted a couple of times).


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The house Assassinations Committee analyzing evidence in the death of martin Luther King, Jr. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)


An FBI Conspiracy?

It’s not clear when Coretta Scott King, widow of King, began to believe in Ray’s innocence. But practically immediately after she husband’s assassination, she suspected that the FBI, which had actually investigated the murder, was affiliated in it.

“There is abundant proof of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of mine husband, martin Luther King, Jr.,” Coretta King stated at a press conference in 1999, according to The King Center. It to be a theory she maintained until her death in 2006 that has actually so far never to be proven. Yet offered the means the bureau had treated her and her family, her apprehension of the FBI and also its conclusions around her husband’s killer come from a very reasonable place, states John McMillian, a background professor in ~ Georgia State University.

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During the 1950 and also ‘60s, the FBI surveilled and harassed King, his family, and his associates. The office wiretapped his phone and also monitored his movements, taking advantage of times as soon as he seemed an especially upset or depressed. In one instance, the FBI sent out him a tape that allegedly included audio the him having actually an affair. V it come a letter threaten King through public exposure if that didn’t death himself, and also claiming that the sender had evidence of other affairs.