The complete title of this book is The 13th Juror: The Official Transcript of the Martin Luther King Assassination Conspiracy Trial. And unless you were around at the time the trial took place, and/or subscribed to Probe, there is a prologue to this 1999 civil trial. It is necessary to summarize that prologue to fully understand how and why the trial took place.
In December of 1993, a man named Loyd Jowers went on national television to confess a role in the 1968 conspiracy to murder Martin Luther King. At the time of King's killing, Jowers was the owner of a small restaurant called Jim's Grill, which was in very close proximity to the Lorraine Motel, the site where King was killed. To this day, no one knows exactly why Jowers appeared on television to make his public pronouncement. The best guess is that he felt that a team of investigators preparing a special for British television had begun to get close to what had actually happened.
British documentary and docudrama producer Jack Saltman had done a previous one-hour special on the King case in 1978. He had also constructed a courtroom trial that had actually not taken place. This was a program on the Kurt Waldheim affair. Around the time of the Jowers appearance, Saltman was preparing another courtroom reconstruction. This was on the King case. It was called Guilt or Innocence: The Trial of James Earl Ray. It actually took place in a Tennessee courtroom. It was broadcast in April of 1993. Ray testified from a Nashville jail. Out of over 70 hours of testimony, a three-hour HBO special aired in America, England, and 34 other countries throughout the world. It was much closer to a real trial than the earlier Vincent Bugliosi/Gerry Spence fiasco. And the jury ended up siding with defense attorney William Pepper in acquitting James Earl Ray. But the real impact of the Saltman production was that, unlike the Bugliosi/Spence farrago, Saltman actually did some real research. New and important witnesses had surfaced. Consequently, the mock trial brought the King case to life after years of dormancy. Some people on the scene, like Wallace Milam, ventured to say that Jowers might have felt pressured by the attention that Saltman and Pepper had brought to the case. It was through new witnesses that Saltman had uncovered Jowers. Jowers may have felt that the local and state authorities were about to look into the case again. He was wrong about that, but by going on TV he was to provide an opportunity for Pepper to try to formally reopen the King case.
He did try. And the amazing thing is the he almost got James Earl Ray a new criminal trial. As chronicled in Probe, Pepper was lucky enough to get Judge Joe Brown for his evidentiary hearing to test the alleged rifle the authorities say was used to kill King. The first round of rifle tests came back inconclusive. Brown then ordered a second round of tests. This time with the rifle barrel cleaned out so there would be no ambiguity about how the markings on the fatal bullet originated. At this point, and predictably, the city of Memphis, the state of Tennessee, the national and local media, and Washington DC began a relentless campaign to 1.) Remove Brown from the case, 2.) Stop any further criminal court proceedings, and 3.) Tar and feather Pepper in the press. Why do I say it was predictable? Because anyone familiar with what had previously happened to Jim Garrison and Richard Sprague in the JFK case, understood what was in the cards if Pepper and Brown got too close to the truth. These combined forces, and the death of Ray in early 1998, successfully stopped Pepper's criminal proceedings.
But with the help of the King family, especially Dexter King, Pepper decided to pursue the case in civil court. He represented the King family in a wrongful death case against Jowers. The proceedings began in mid-November of 1999. They ended at 3:10 PM on the afternoon of December 8th. The jury found for the plaintiffs, meaning that Jowers was found liable for his role in the conspiracy. They also found that "others, including governmental agencies, were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant(s)". (The 13th Juror, p. 752) In other words, Pepper had proved his case. Of course, the standard in a civil case is not the same as in a criminal case. But the fact that the jury deliberated for 150 minutes shows that Pepper would have had a shot at winning in criminal court.
But that is only half the story of what happened at the civil trial. The other half is how the media treated this epochal event dealing with a national tragedy. For the only representative of the press who was in court for each day of the proceedings was Jim Douglass, reporting for Probe. Let me repeat that fact: The only journalist in court every day for the civil case concerning who killed King was Probe's Jim Douglass. No one from the New York Times, Newsweek, or even The Nation was with Douglass. Which, of course, tells you all you need to know about why the MSM has gone into eclipse. And also why very few people are lamenting that decline. But it's worse than that.
There appears to have been a deliberate gag order from both the national and local media not to divulge any of the important testimony at the trial. For instance, not even the local media was allowed to stay in court with Douglass. Marc Perrusquia had been the Memphis Commercial Appeal's reporter on the King case in the years leading up to the civil trial. But he stood outside the courtroom during the proceedings and asked questions of Douglass when he emerged each day. Court TV had announced they were going to tape the trial and carry it on a daily basis. For some reason, they pulled out at the last minute.
According to Douglass, the story of Wendell Stacy epitomizes the orders sent down from the editors about covering the King civil case. Stacy was a well-respected local TV reporter who was interested in the case and really wanted to cover the trial. But his station, owned by Clear Channel, would not allow him to stay in court to do a complete and thorough job. According to Douglass, Stacy was there for perhaps half the proceedings. And his reports on TV were only summary in nature, not the kind of in-depth coverage he wanted to do. Later on, he became a consultant to French and German television productions about the King trial. He now began to get death threats over the phone. His house was ransacked more than once. One day, as he was going to work, his car blew up as he opened the door. Clear Channel eventually fired him. He sued and won in court, but Clear Channel refused to pay him. He had to file a separate action to recover. He was in the act of recovering when he died a couple of years ago. (Jim Douglass interview, 3/15/10)
According to Douglass, there was another reporter in court for about five days. But she was not American. She was from Portugal. She was there for two reasons. First, when Ray fled the USA after the shooting, Lisbon was one of the places where he spent some time. But more importantly, Ray's mysterious handler named Raul was originally from Portugal. Pepper's detectives thought they had tracked down who Raul actually was. Their evidence also led to Lisbon. They determined he was in the arms trade there until 1961. (The 13th Juror, pgs. 255-56) Pepper's detectives managed to secure a picture of this man. Pepper tried to get the man to appear in court. But he managed to get a Rockefeller Center law firm to fight the subpoena. So when Pepper heard that this woman had done some work on the Raul angle, he forced her to testify against her will. Her name was Barbara Reis and she had been on the King case for about two years. (ibid, p. 296) She had done two articles on the man suspected of being Raul. She also interviewed members of the family in the USA as this was where Raul was now living. The family members told her that it was all a case of mistaken identity. But they also told her that agents of the US government had visited them on three occasions and mentioned that "they are protecting us". Reis felt that this was a way of telling her to "go away. You won't get anything from me and, plus, we are protected." (ibid, p. 297) Reis continued by saying that she discovered that not only was the government looking over the family, but that the government was also tapping their phone calls.
As mentioned earlier, the Commercial Appeal stayed outside during the actual trial. Yet oddly, they wanted to be in court for the voir dire jury selection process. (ibid, Douglass interview.) In fact, they actually sent an attorney to court to argue their motion on the issue. (The 13th Juror, p. 2) They were not allowed to stay. So they then wanted the transcript to the voir dire hearings. This was also denied. (ibid) Douglass feels that this strange dichotomy, wanting full knowledge of the jury selection process, but not caring about he actual trial proceedings, indicates the paper wanted to try and apply some kind of pressure on the jurors.
When it was all over, and the jury found for the plaintiffs, the Washington Post sent in Gerald Posner to smear the proceedings. (ibid, Douglass interview) Posner then went on a TV media tour to do the same. Predictably, no one asked him how he could critique the trial if he was never there. Or how he could have read the complete transcript that fast.
During the actual proceedings, Lewis Garrison represented Jowers. And contrary to what Posner later said, Garrison did cross-examine many of the witnesses Pepper presented. Garrison's defense included a long deposition of Ray from prison. During which he was clearly looking to challenge elements of Ray's story. And in his summation, Garrison clearly insinuated that although there was a plot, Ray was the triggerman.
The problem for Garrison – which Posner tried to ignore – was that his client had confessed to a role in the conspiracy not once, but twice. In addition to the previously mentioned appearance on TV, Dexter King and Andrew Young interviewed Jowers on tape. It was a long, revealing, and interesting interview that was played for the jury. (pgs. 174-204) So Garrison's defense was at a severe disadvantage from the start – but it then got worse when this tape was played.
Jowers' essential story is this: He had been given a hundred thousand dollars by a local mobster named Frank Liberto to play a role in King's murder. James Earl Ray's handler Raul, was maneuvering Ray throughout Canada and the southeastern quadrant of America, and he had dropped off a rifle to Jowers. (p. 186) On the day of the murder, Jowers retrieved the rifle from the bushy area across from and below the Lorraine Motel. The man who did the shooting was Earl Clark, a policeman who was a crack shot. (ibid) Jowers wrapped the weapon up and placed it in the storeroom. Raul came by and picked the rifle up the next day. Since Raul had been with Ray that day, he knew where he was staying. And it was directly adjacent to Jim's Grill. Knowing that he had directed Ray to purchase a rifle previously, it was very likely Raul who dropped the incriminating bundle of evidence, with fingerprints – including the rifle he asked Ray to purchase – in front of Canipe's amusement store. This is a part of the case that no one has ever been able to figure out to any logical degree. If Ray had shot King, why would he have dropped the package right near the scene of the crime, knowing it would incriminate him?
Well, one of the bombshells of the trial went directly to this point. It was what the owner of Canipe's had told Ray's original lawyers, Arthur Hanes and son. Namely that this incriminating package had been dropped in front of his store ten minutes before the shooting! The guy who dropped it then hightailed it down Main Street. (p. 210) Hanes Jr. revealed that, on the strength of this testimony, the state offered Ray a plea bargain. Ray would be out on parole in ten years. His lawyers advised against it. They thought they could do better. (p. 208) As most people know, Ray then made a huge mistake. He replaced the Hanes team with the nationally known Percy Foreman. It was a move he regretted forever after. (ibid)
This is crucial testimony. It not only shows how Ray was set up by Raul – who has all the earmarks of a CIA agent involved in the guns and drug trade, in which Ray was used as a courier – but how Ray then panicked and fled the country. As Ray testified in his deposition, Raul arranged to meet Ray at Jim's Grill the day of the murder. When he met him there, he asked Ray if he brought his white Mustang, which Ray had done. Raul also asked Ray if he brought some other paraphernalia, like binoculars. He then made sure he had rented a room upstairs of Jim's Grill at Bessie's Boarding House. (p. 663) Before the shooting, Ray had gone to a gas station to fix a leaking tire on his Mustang. Significantly, Pepper produced a report that said two people saw a white Mustang leave the scene at around 5:25. (pgs. 725-26) He also produced a witness who saw a white Mustang in front of Jim's Grill with Arkansas plates. Ray's Mustang had Alabama plates. (pgs. 58-60) This backs up Ray's story of being gone from the scene at the time of the shooting.
Ray failed to repair his bad tire at his first stop. He was looking for another place to fix it when the first report came on the radio that King had been shot. A few minutes later, another report came across saying that the authorities were chasing a white man with a rifle in a white Mustang. Ray, a longtime petty thief, put two and two together: Raul had set him up. (pgs. 675-685) All the way down to the white Mustang. For it was the second Mustang that pulled out after the shooting with a white man in it. (pgs. 60, 678)
Generally speaking, what I have described above is what Pepper outlined to the court as elements of the "local conspiracy". But I should add, Pepper actually began the trial in that aspect in another regard. As everyone knows, the main reason that King had gone to Memphis in April was because he had been there previously in March. And it had not turned out very well. There was a sanitation workers strike going on, and he had been there for a previous demonstration. The demonstration had turned ugly, and rioting and looting had taken place. Many observers had attributed the violence to a local Black Nationalist group called the Invaders, modeled on the Black Panthers. Pepper had two former members of the Invaders take the stand early in the trial, Cobey Smith and Charles Cabbage. Some interesting information was elicited from these two men. First, in March, King had stayed at the Rivermont Hotel. But in the interval between King's two trips, the FBI had ridiculed King for staying at this white middle class hotel. So his lodgings were changed to the Lorraine. And further, King's actual room at the Lorraine was later changed by an unidentified person. It was this change that allowed King to be out on a balcony on the third floor, therefore exposed to a sniper from below. Whoever made the change claimed they were from King's camp. (pgs. 85-86)
Both Invaders' witnesses testified that informants and agent provocateurs infiltrated their group. Smith said that someone sent King's agency, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a letter with bullets enclosed. Whoever sent it, said it was form them. He also said that the disruption of the first march was not by the Invaders, but by the police and by disruption agents sent in from the outside. In fact, Cabbage did not even want King back in Memphis at the time. (pgs. 22-30) But most interestingly, both men said that on the day of the murder, they had members of their group at the Lorraine, talking to members of the SCLC. The members were asked to leave right about 5:50 PM. Just a few moments before the murder.
Which now brings us to Merrell McCullough. McCullough was one of the informants masquerading as an Invader. Secretly, he was a police informant who was also connected to the FBI. It turns out that, before the murder, Merrell was introduced to Jowers as a policeman. (p. 184) Right before the assassination, McCullough had been in Jim's Grill meeting with four other men. (p. 188) One of whom was another member of the police force named Lt. Zachery. (p. 204) One of the extraordinary disclosures made at the trial concerned Sam Donaldson, the reporter who originally broadcast Jowers revelations in 1993. As we will see later, there was a backup hit team in town from military intelligence. We also know from a famous photograph that McCullough immediately ran up to the balcony after King was hit. In that picture, while others are pointing to where they think the shot came from, McCullough appears to be calmly checking King for vital signs while looking across the way. According to what Donaldson told Young, McCullough was on the balcony to check King's pulse and make sure he was dead and signal the military sniper team that no second shot was needed. (p. 192)
What made this moment possible? On each previous visit to Memphis, King has his own personal security detail. Which was made up of black detectives. Security expert Jerry Williams headed it up. On April 3rd, Williams was told not to form this regular unit. He was told that a group of white officers would protect King this time around. Williams testified that he would never had let King stay at the Lorraine overnight. They felt it was too dangerous. (p. 105) One reason was because of the thicket of bushes below, which provided good cover for a sniper. At least four witnesses saw a man or smoke in those bushes either during or right after the shooting. (pgs. 109, 110, 288) Including New York Times reporter Earl Caldwell. At 7 AM on the morning after the murder, those bushes, which provided such excellent cover, were ordered cut down. (p. 144)
The late Professor Philip Melanson testified to another part of this security collapse. Melanson had interviewed a policeman named Sam Evans. Evans was in charge of what was called the police Tactical Units, these were automobile units designed to be used as riot control agents. There were four of them stationed at the firehouse near the Lorraine. The morning of the murder, they were told to disperse. In one of the more troubling pieces of testimony presented at the trial, Evans told Melanson that it was Memphis Reverend Billy Kyles who told him they were not needed. (p. 113)
Kyles was a friend of King's who had been a pastor at the Monumental Baptist Church since 1959. He was part of the local contingent who persuaded King's advisors to help the sanitation workers. Kyles helped arrange the venue for King's great "Been to the Mountaintop" speech on the evening of April 3rd. The next day, Kyles had arranged for King and his closest advisers to dine on a home-cooked meal at his home. Kyles' story has been that he was in the room with King and Ralph Abernathy from 5 PM. The three preachers just talked for an hour. Abernathy then went into the bathroom to shave, and then Kyles left the room for his car, telling everyone to hurry up. (Time, 3/31/08)
Kyles had a rough time of it at the trial. Willie B. Richmond was part of a police surveillance team on King, which was not his actual security detail. He was stationed across the street from the Lorraine at a firehouse. When King's entourage arrived at the airport, Richmond recalled someone – he thought it was Kyles – telling his partner that King did not want any security protection this time. As Pepper commented, what made this so odd is that Kyles had no real position in King's hierarchy at that time. (p. 357) Although Richmond's partner, Ed Redditt, was called back to headquarters on a phony pretense, Richmond stayed behind and kept notes on what he observed at the Lorraine. Pepper produced the notes in court and went over them with Richmond.
The notes recorded that at 5:50 PM several members of the Invaders opened the door of their room, gathered their belongings, walked downstairs, and placed them in the trunk of their car. His notes then read as follows: "Immediately after the Invaders left, the Reverend Kyles came out of room 312 and went to the room where Martin Luther King was living. He knocked on the door and Martin Luther King came to the door. They said a few words between each other and Reverend Martin Luther King went back into his room closing the door behind him, and the Reverend Kyles remained on the porch." (p. 357)
This contradicts the story that Kyles has told for decades. According to these contemporaneous surveillance notes, Kyles was not in King's room for a continuous hour prior to the shooting. He was in a different room, emerged, went to King's door and knocked for him at 5:50 PM. He did this right after the Invaders left. And after King answered, Kyles did not saunter downstairs to his car. He waited for him to return. (ibid)
Pepper then had Richmond read the next entry in the notes: "At this time, Reverend Martin Luther King returned from his room to the gallery and walked up to the handrail. The Reverend Kyles was standing off to his right. This was approximately 6 PM. At this time I heard a loud sound as if it was a shot and saw Doctor Martin Luther King fall back on the handrail and put his hand up to his head." (p. 358)
According to these surveillance notes, Kyles was not in the room from 5 to 6 PM; and he did not go downstairs after he notified King they were leaving. He was on the balcony for the full ten minutes up to the time of the shooting.
It got worse for Kyles. He did appear at the trial, but he had to be subpoenaed – even though he was sought by the defense. (p. 513) On the stand, Kyles slightly revised his "hour in the room" story. He said that King and he went out onto the balcony at around 5:45 and greeted some people. Someone said it was going to be cold that night. So King turned around, went to the motel door and told Ralph Abernathy to get him a coat. King then returned to the balcony and continued greeting some people. Kyles then said, "Let's go." Kyles turned and got about five steps when he heard the crack of a rifle. (p. 518)
Although Kyles has revised this version, it still differs from Richmond's surveillance notes. It eliminates Kyles emerging from 312, and going to the door and knocking for King at 5:50. And in this Kyles version, although he has not started down the stairs when the shot rang out, he has turned and walked a few steps. This differs from the Richmond notes, which depict him standing right next to King.
Pepper did not cross-examine Kyles. His assistant, Julia Hill-Akins did. She told him that the Richmond surveillance notes did not have him approaching the King room – which was number 306 – until 5:50. But they did reveal that he had been in the adjacent room, number 307, at around 2:30 that afternoon. Kyles said he didn't recall any of that. (p. 523) He also denied Richmond's notes, which depicted him as leaving room 312 at 5:50 and then knocking on King's door. (p. 526) Pepper's assistant then asked Kyles if he had been one of the planners of the mass celebration in Memphis about King's life the year before. Kyles said he was. So a video was played of him speaking in advance to promote it. Kyles described King's last hour in his revised version, which he had testified to already. That is, with King coming outside at about 5:45 and talking to people in the courtyard. Kyles then said this: "He stood there, and I stood there. Only as I moved away so he could have a clear shot, the shot rang out." This was quite a peculiar thing to say or admit. Its almost as if Kyles knew what was going to happen. When asked whom he was referring to when he said "he", Kyles said it was James Earl Ray. He was not asked how he could have known that on April 4th.
Andrew Young had asked the local DA to give Jowers immunity for his testimony. The DA refused to do so. Young said that the intent was to shut everything down. (p. 177) Which is what they did with the Judge Joe Brown proceedings. From just this description of one part of the trial, the local conspiracy part, the reader can see why Jowers was not granted immunity. Consider the credible evidence that Pepper has advanced so far through multiple witnesses. It shows the following:
- King's security was compromised once he got to Memphis
- His room was changed to expose him to a sniper
- Ray was manipulated to be the fall guy by Raul
- The Invaders were made to look like King's enemies
- Jowers was paid off to assist the real gunman
- Someone planted evidence in advance to incriminate Ray
- Knowingly or not, Kyles maneuvered King into perfect position
This reveals a well-planned plot. If I were a DA, I wouldn't want to open up that can of worms about my city either. And if I were the New York Times and the like, I wouldn't want the public to know about it. Especially since I had been part of the cover up for decades.
The extension of the local conspiracy into a larger one can first be illustrated by a fact that investigative reporter Doug Valentine found out: McCullough's intelligence reports were forwarded to the FBI. Secondly, as Dexter King found out in the course of his investigation, there was the instance of the fake broadcast of a second white Mustang headed the wrong way out of Memphis. The broadcast said the Mustang was headed north, while Ray was headed south. This phony bulletin broke into a police broadcast frequency. On tape, King commented to Jowers that something like that almost had to be done by a military type of broadcast overriding a local police band. (p. 200)
There is another utterly fascinating tale of how powerful the forces behind the King cover-up were. A cab driver named Paul Butler was outside the Lorraine Motel the night of the murder. He was unloading someone when he heard a shot and saw King dead. Butler then called his dispatcher, who told him he would call for an ambulance. Butler also told the dispatcher he had seen someone running from the scene as he looked around. (p. 410) So a colleague, Louis Ward, told him to meet him at the airport. Two police officers were there, and Butler told him his story. He said that as he looked around, he saw someone running from the shrubbery area below, scale a wall, jump into a police car and hightail it out of the area. After he told his story to the cops, squad cars went to the dispatcher headquarters and told him to report to the police the next morning for a formal statement. (p. 412) He never got there. The next morning, at about 10:30, they found Butler's dead body across a bridge in the state of Arkansas. (p. 413) The coroner said he had been thrown out of a car. (p. 201)
What makes this tale even more fascinating is this: Ward looked through every local newspaper for days for an obituary about his friend. He never found one. (p. 414) Pepper's investigators searched for documentation on the death in Arkansas and Tennessee. He sent an assistant to both Memphis and Little Rock looking for a death certificate. There was none to be found. (p. 418) When Pepper's investigators tried to find Butler's employment record, or traces of it at the cab company, nothing was there. (p. 201) Yet Butler had been a regular driver for Yellow Cab for several years. (p. 409) Years later, when Ward tried to tell his story to he DA, the DA hung up on him.(p. 414) When you can eliminate any trace of a death record from the papers and the records of two states, its not just a local conspiracy.
Doug Valentine was one of the very few writers who penned a story on the King trial. It was for Robert Parry's online journal, The Consortium. Valentine was also a witness at the proceedings. He had uncovered some interesting and relevant information about the King case while writing his book on the infamous Phoenix Program of systematic assassination in Vietnam. Some of the men who were involved in Phoenix were later transferred home and served in military intelligence groups in the USA. According to Valentine, they now "began to conduct surveillance and Phoenix type operations against anti-war demonstrators and people in the civil rights movement." (p. 360) As in Vietnam, they were given lists of people, not just to follow, but also to act as agents provocateur against in their movements. Some of the more famous ones were Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. (p. 361) In this function, they cooperated with police so that when the disruptive acts occurred, their police allies and informants would be there to arrest the targeted people.
Valentine said the domestic military intelligence activities covered the entire continental USA. But the 111th group governed the sector of the southeast. A man who Valentine interviewed said he had heard that the 111th had 24-hour surveillance on King and that their agents had been in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Further, that they had actually photographed King's murder. (ibid) Another interesting revelation by Valentine was that a member of a different military intelligence group was also in Memphis the day previous to King's murder. And they were involved in the removal of officer Ed Redditt from the firehouse across the street form the Lorraine Motel. As noted earlier, Redditt was Willie Richmond's partner. We know this is true because of the corroborating testimony of police intelligence officer Eli Arkin. Arkin testified that in early April, three or four military intelligence agents moved into the Memphis Police Department. He observed them taking copious notes. On the day of the murder, Arkin was the man who was sent to remove Redditt personally from the firehouse. This was over a bogus threat phoned in from Washington about an assassination plot on a black police officer. When Arkin got Redditt home, the bulletin came on the radio about King being shot.
One of the most fascinating witnesses of the entire proceeding was former CIA contract agent Jack Terrell. Terrell was involved in the whole illegal arms for drugs trade as part of the Contra resupply effort under the Reagan-Bush regime. When the Boland Amendment outlawed any supplies going to the Contras in Nicaragua, the CIA began to get around that law by sending down arms and coming back with drugs as illegal payment. According to Terrell, Vice-President George Bush was fully cognizant of the illicit trade. Part of Terrell's function was as an extension of Phoenix, except it was called Pegasus. And this included a program of systematic assassination against the ruling and democratically elected Sandinista party command structure in Nicaragua. (p. 398) In fact, Terrell said that Bush was up to his neck in this operation. One of Bush's assistants supervised his operations. After Terrell testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about what he knew, there were two attempts on his life. (p. 399) When those failed, the smear campaign began. He was branded as an intelligence officer of Fidel Castro. He was also indicted on phony charges that were eventually thrown out of court.
But earlier in life, Terrell had run a successful business in Mississippi. One of the people who worked for him was a man named J. D. Hill, who was a reserve member of the 20th Special Forces group. They did covert operations, except in civilian clothes. One of their operations was being trained as part of an assassination team. They were taken via aircraft to West Memphis, Arkansas. They were placed on standby and told they were going to do a job in Memphis. But right before they were to be flown in, the operation was cancelled. (p. 402) When he got back to Mississippi, Hill picked up the paper and was shocked. The headline was that King had been killed in Memphis. Pepper managed to get a roster of the 20th from that time period. Hill's name was on it. But Terrell also recognized several other people who Hill had told him about.
Terrell had developed a reputation in news media for being quite credible. One reason was that he never failed a polygraph. He was interviewed by ABC when they did a special on the King case. The interview lasted for three hours. (p. 405) Forrest Sawyer, ABC's cover up man on the King case, conducted the interview. Not one minute of Terrell ended up on Sawyer's Turning Point special in June of 1997.
Pepper called Carthel Wedeen to the stand to certify the testimony of Arkin, Valentine, and Terrell. Wedeen had been with the local Fire Department for 31 years. He started as a private and ended up as a District Chief. (p. 364) In 1968, Wedeen was Captain of Fire Station No. 2, down the street a bit and across from the Lorraine Motel.
On the day of King's murder, Wedeen was running the station. He was approached by two army officers who identified themselves with military credentials. They wanted a lookout vantage for the Lorraine. So he suggested the roof of his fire station for that function. (p. 365) He actually went up with them at first. He said they were carrying heavy briefcases. When he asked them what they were going to do, they replied they were going to take some pictures. Where he placed them provided an unobstructed view of the motel. Incredibly, no researcher for the House Select Committee on Assassinations – or any other official body – ever talked to Wedeen. But from his testimony, the pictures Valentine was told about likely do exist.
Who would have thought that anyone would have ever tracked down the mysterious but central figure of Raul? I never did. But it seems to have happened. And one of the first cracks in the wall was made possible by Jack Saltman. When the first United Kingdom broadcast of the mock trial of Ray occurred, a man named Sydney Carthew was watching. Carthew had been a seaman in the British Merchant Navy from 1956-73. One of the most frequent routes he sailed was the North Atlantic, from Liverpool to Montreal. (p. 270) The ship would stay in Montreal for one week when it docked. After the ship landed, there were two bars which the men usually frequented: the Seaman's Mission, and the Neptune Bar. The latter, of course, was the name of the tavern where Ray said he first met Raul in 1967. Well, Carthew was also in Montreal in 1967. And he testified that one night at the Neptune, he also met a man who introduced himself as Raul. (p. 271) Raul asked him about jumping on board a ship to leave Canada for England. On another evening, he met Raul again. This time he was talking about shipping four boxes of guns out of the country via ship. When Carthew saw the tape of the mock trial, he saw Ray and the prosecutor jousting over whether or not Raul was a real person. Carthew jumped up and said, yep he sure was since he had also met him, and at the same place Ray met him. When Carthew finally met Pepper, the lawyer showed him six photographs and asked him to identify the man he met as Raul. As we shall see, Carthew's identification was the same one that all the other witnesses identified, including Ray. (p. 275)
John Billings was a private investigator who came into the MLK case through a fellow investigator named Ken Herman. Herman was hired to do research by Saltman. (p. 251) He recommended the hiring of Billings, and Billings did a lot of work on tracking down Raul. Until the time of the trial, Billings had little on the man except Ray's meetings with him at the Neptune Bar and the fact he was Latin in appearance. After the airing of the mock trial, two people got in contact with Billings. They were a married couple, Glenda and Roy Grabow. (p. 252) As youths, Glenda's family had moved to Houston. There, she and her brother Royce met a man who introduced her to someone she called Dago and to his uncle named Amaro. Dago dealt with many odd pieces of contraband, including pornographic films and also arms, which they would pick up at the docks. Glenda and her brother Royce – who later identified a photo of Raul – did some messenger work for the two. (p. 253) But the rumor inside the circle was that somehow Dago was involved in the King assassination. One day Glenda was looking through a little rotating toy viewfinder at pictures of King, RFK and JFK. Dago came in and took it from her and looked through it himself. He commented that he had had King killed once already. He then dragged her in a room and sexually molested her.
The thing that impressed Billings about her story was the details she included. And every time she told it, the details stayed consistent. Billings said that this is one way he tested witnesses: Could they keep a detailed story straight? Because it is difficult to tell a complex lie the same way every time.
When Billings told Saltman about this story he was initially skeptical. But he decided to send Billings to Houston to do a field investigation on the matter. Billings had some contacts in New York and Miami in the judicial system. They helped him open doors in Houston to people like retired judges, and later, theater owners. The more people he interviewed the more he became convinced the Grabows were telling the truth. Because most of them recalled Glenda. One even produced a photograph of her. (p. 254) The witness trail eventually allowed them to track down a pension plan held by the now deceased Amaro, through his previous work on the docks. Then, interestingly enough, through a tip from the Memphis police, they got a fact sheet on Raul. (This is fascinating because it reveals that the local police had done work on this part of Ray's story, found out there was something to it, but went ahead and convicted Ray anyway. See p. 255)
The trail on Raul began in Lisbon in 1961, where he was in the arms manufacture and sales business. (p. 256) He then came to America. And Billings attained a naturalization/immigration picture of the man. It was this photo that Billings used to show to witnesses amidst a spread of five other photos. Billings did this with Ray. (p. 257) And Ray picked out Raul's photo as him. But surprisingly, Ray added that he had seen this picture before. Someone had been passing it around the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1978, and he had seen it at that time. Further, Ray recalled a newspaper article which noted that he had made this photo ID back then. And Billings produced the article in court. This, of course, tells us that the HSCA inquiry had a photo of Raul. And that their probe into the King case was about as good as its JFK inquiry.
Billings eventually located Dago/Raul. He was living in New York. Billings and Herman called him posing as businessmen. They wanted to use him as a supplier, since he was in the liquor trade. They flew up to meet him with Glenda in tow, so that she could get a good look at him. But Billings said, once they got up north, someone had clearly tipped off Raul. He failed to meet with them as planned. So they set up surveillance on his house from morning until midnight. Not one person came in or went out. Then on a Sunday morning, when a local paper carried a story about their possible discovery of Raul, a moving truck pulled up to the house and spent three hours loading up. Billings later found out the housekeeper had read the article and decided to leave. (p. 260)
The invaluable Jack Saltman also took the stand on this issue. Saltman had developed a genuine interest in the King case from the two shows he had put together. So after the second one aired, he spent some of his own time and money doing his own inquiry into the matter. (p. 303) Through contacts he had developed in law enforcement in Texas, he had found a lawyer who was involved in gun running cases in the sixties. And this man recalled that the name of Raul had come up in the investigations of several of those cases. He specifically recalled that Raul had been involved in the shipping of arms to the Somoza regime in Nicaragua. (p. 305) This corroborated what Gloria had told him about the activities of Raul and Amaro. Saltman also secured a photo of Amaro, and he discovered the two men shared the same last name. (p. 307)
Saltman ended up inadvertently corroborating Ray's testimony about seeing the photo of Raul in 1978 during the HSCA proceedings. One night, while in Memphis, he had a former lawyer for Ray at his hotel room. He had accidentally left several pictures on the table. One of them was the naturalization photo of Raul. The lawyer leaned over and picked it up. She stared at it and said she had seen the picture in 1978, during the time of the HSCA when she was representing Ray. One of the HSCA investigators had shown it to her. (p. 308)
Saltman was now persuaded they had the right man. He tried to talk to Raul at his home. He said the front door was one in which you could not clearly see inside, you could only make out silhouettes. But those inside could see out. A lady started yelling at him in Portugese through the door. Then someone else started taking his picture through a window. He yelled through the glass that he wanted her to identify the enlarged picture he had of Raul. And he held it up. She said words to the effect that anyone could get naturalization photos, and if he got that, he could get further information too. Saltman thought this was a curious reply. Because it tended to reveal that she could see the photo and she recognized it from before. (p. 310)
Glenda could not testify. She had been in a serious auto accident previously. (p. 423) But her longtime husband did testify. Roy identified the same photo the others had – Carthew, Ray, Royce, Ray's lawyer – as Raul. She recalled the man his wife called Dago from their time in Houston. He also produced a photo of his daughter with Amaro. He then produced a photo of Amaro, his daughter, himself and Glenda. (p. 425) The photos were taken in Houston in the early seventies. They were taken at a restaurant that the Grabows and Amaro and Raul used to frequent.
The Grabows moved out of Houston per the advice of lawyer Percy Foreman. The Grabows had visited Foreman about a case concerning Roy's brother. Foreman told him that Raul had later called him and said he would kill the Grabows since they had consulted with him. Evidently, Raul had associated the visit to Foreman with the King case since Foreman had once represented Ray. (p. 427)
Roy testified to two other interesting things. First, in 1995, Glenda had called up Raul in New York and spoken to him for six minutes. (p. 428) Second, the Tennessee authorities investigating the King case had interviewed Glenda also. When they showed the couple the transcript, they had to do many corrections since her words had been altered. (p. 429)
It looks like Billings found Raul in 1993. But, disturbingly, it appears that Robert Blakey and the HSCA knew who he was 15 years earlier in 1978. Even more disturbingly, the Memphis police probably knew who he was back in 1968. But neither body would admit it. Since it would tend to bolster Ray's story of being set up.
If one is new to the King case, the question you may ask is: In the face of all this, why did Ray cop a plea the first time around? There are really two reasons for that. The first one, as alluded to above, is that Ray made a bad mistake by switching lawyers. As many authors have written, Percy Foreman essentially sold Ray down the river. What made it worse is that Foreman appears to have cooperated in this sell-out with author William Bradford Huie. (The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, p. 465) It was a pincers movement to get Ray to plead so that Huie could write his book, He Slew the Dreamer, a straight "Ray did it" story. Foreman shared in the profits garnered by the rights, which he sold to Huie. It is estimated that Foreman eventually made about a hundred thousand dollars from this deal. (ibid) He then literally offered no defense for Ray.
And make no mistake, Huie wanted to guarantee that Ray never got to tell his story in court and/or get a new trial. For in 1977, during the initial stages of the HSCA, a lawyer named Jack Kershaw represented Ray. On the stand, he told an interesting story about Huie. Huie had originally written a series of articles in Look which outlined a conspiracy featuring the then shadowy Raul. But in the last installment, Huie reversed field and made Ray the lone assassin. (The 13th Juror, p. 393) Huie contacted Kershaw and Kershaw agreed to meet with him at Thomas Nelson Publishing Company in Nashville. There, Huie offered Ray 25,000 dollars to say in public that he alone killed King and there was no conspiracy. When Kershaw told Huie that the money would do Ray no good since he was in prison, Huie said he would also get Ray a pardon. (ibid) Kershaw took the offer to Ray. He testified that his client "didn't want any part of it."
Since Foreman offered no defense, Ray listened to a recital of the case against him and challenged nothing in it. But make no mistake, the official case against Ray was full of holes. Which is why the authorities offered the Hanes team a ten year deal. First there was the testimony of Charlie Stephens. He was the only person who said he saw Ray leaving the bathroom at Bessie's Boarding House, the alleged site from where the shot was fired. By all accounts Stephens was dead drunk at the time. (ibid, p. 90) And Pepper got this from a credible eyewitness. James McGraw was the cab driver who was there to pick up Stephens from the boarding house that day. He was there shortly before 6:00 PM, right before the shooting. When he got there he found Stephens passed out on the bed. So he left him there. But the driver also said that he saw the bathroom door open at the time, with no one inside. In other words, no Ray.
But the prosecution needed Charlie to put Ray in that communal bathroom at that time. Why? Because Stephens' common law wife Grace, who was there at the time, would not identify Ray. She later ended up getting locked up in a mental institution for ten years. (See Mike Vinson's article "Grace Stephens: A Sacrificial Lamb?" in Probe Vol. 6 No. 2)
But besides having no credible witness to place him where Ray had to be, the other major problem with the case against Ray was in the ballistics evidence itself. For instance, Ray's prints were found on the rifle which, as we saw, was deposited before the shooting in front of Canipe's. Yet there was no clip in the rifle and Ray's prints were not found on the shell casing, which housed the fatal bullet. (op cit, The Assassinations, p. 462) Further, if "Ray had shot King from the rooming house bathroom he would have had to be standing in a bathtub. When Paris-Match tried to simulate Ray's position, they had to pose their model on the rim of the tub toward the back, and then contort him into a position to lift the rifle to the window. " (ibid) Which would be almost comical to depict in court.
Pepper produced two witnesses to show that the state had offered phony evidence in their railroading of Ray. At Ray's hearing, the prosecutor had said that there were markings on the windowsill that matched Ray's rifle. Yet when Ray's appeals attorney, Jim Lesar, tried to get the FBI to vouch for this, they would not do so formally in writing. (p. 164) And Lesar's expert witness said he did not think such a thing was possible. When Lesar finally got the FBI documents on this issue, they revealed there were no powder residues on the sill to do any kind of matching from. (ibid)
But the most important witness on the ballistics evidence was Judge Joe Brown. Brown was in a unique position to do this since he was privy to all the evidence on the rifle from his evidentiary hearings on the case in 1997. But further, Brown was a lifetime hunter and outdoorsman who was very familiar with rifles. (p. 225) One of the reasons that Gerald Posner criticized the trial was that Brown was the ballistics expert for the defense. Let me offer this up: I have read many pages of so-called "expert" testimony on ballistics from the likes of LAPD official DeWayne Wolfer in the RFK case, and FBI agent Robert Frazier in the JFK case. Brown's testimony, in its fine detail, acuteness, and knowledge of the history of rifle and bullet manufacture in America, was superior to them both.
One of the most fascinating details Brown discovered was in the FBI documents he saw on the testing of the rifle and the ammunition. He said that the Bureau had discovered that metallurgically, the unfired cartridge cases and the fired case matched up. Also, the bullets in the bundle discarded in front of Canipe's matched. But the bullet recovered from King's body did not match the other bullets. (p. 227) And this suggested to him that the fatal bullet was not fired from the cartridge case in evidence.
Another problem for Brown was the fact that the weapon in evidence, a Remington Game Master 30.06, was pump action rifle. So why would you hold it on a windowsill to aim it? (p. 237) But further, since the 30.06 was such a common caliber, the bullet could be fired from another weapon. (p. 228) And recall, there was never any match made between the fatal bullet and the Game Master. Further, he found out that someone had actually cut up the bullet into thirds after it was withdrawn form King. Brown could not understand how and why this had been done. (p. 231)
Another very serious problem for the official story is that the Game Master is not manually sited in for accuracy. It has to be done by machine. The place where Ray bought that rifle for Raul did not have that machine. And Ray was nowhere near the marksman to come close to even trying to site the rifle in manually. (p. 234) This meant that, at the time of the shooting, the scope on the rifle was not aligned with the barrel. So when the rifle got to the FBI, it shot off to one side and low. (ibid) At the distance the bathroom was from King, Brown said that, without the rifle's scope being properly calibrated, it would not have hit the target.
One of the most effective parts of Pepper's presentation came at the very end. The second half of his summation consisted of a minute-by-minute time line of the last hour of King's life at the Lorraine Motel. A sort of countdown to assassination if you will. Pepper put all the elements he had shown occurred at trial – Jowers giving the rifle to Clark, the military intelligence team atop the firehouse, the dumping of the incriminating briefcase in front of Canipe's, Ray's Mustang pulling away from the scene, Paul Butler arriving at the motel in his cab etc etc. It was very compelling and it all smelled to high heaven of a complex, intricate plot that could only have been pulled off and planned at a high level. (pgs. 731-32)
I have only two reservations about the book. I wish that there had been more introductory material about what had happened in Memphis prior to the civil trial. Which is what necessitated that trial. Second, a book like this should have an index.
But this is a valuable book to have. Between its covers it proves by a preponderance of the evidence – and maybe more than that – how Ray was set up, and then how King was actually killed. It also shows why the media avoided the trial, and why Ray was not allowed to have his criminal case reopened. Because if that had happened, in all likelihood, Ray would have walked out of the courtroom a free man.