MEMPHIS (USA), DECEMBER 9: A jury in a civil case ruled on Wednesday that a group of conspirators and not a single assassin was behind the 1968 murder of legendary civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The jury also awarded the King family 100 dollars in damages against retired Memphis restaurant owner Loyd Jowers, the alleged conspirator named in the wrongful death civil suit.
The Kings told reporters they had sought the token sum of 100 dollars to underscore the fact that they were seeking justice not money. "I'm just so happy to see that the people have spoken. It really does show that the judicial process works. The verdict speaks for itself," said Dexter King, son of the late civil rights activist, after the verdict. "Today a jury of 12 men and women decided that there was a conspiracy.
"What the jury ruled changed history today, make no mistake about it," said William Pepper, main attorney for the Kings. Pepper presented some 50 witnesses during the three-week trial to support his claimthat a conspiracy had existed between Jowers the Mafia, the military and the CIA. One of them, Memphis Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown, a self-styled expert in ballistics, refuted claims that the weapon Left at the scene of the crime by Ray, a 30.06 caliber rifle, was the one used in the assassination.
"This gun could not hit the broad side of a barn. This is not the murder weapon," he said. Lawyers for the Kings described Jowers' as a go-between liaising between the high-level planners of the assassination and James Earl Ray, the designated "fall guy" who was later convicted of the killing in 1969. Pepper said that Jowers, who first aroused attention in 1993 when he indicated to ABC News that he was involved in the assassination, also had the job of disposing of the actual murder weapon. And in his closing summation, Jower's attorney Lewis Garrison argued that if his client, now clearly ailing from the effects of a brain edema, had a role in a conspiracy, it was "a small one."
King, who spearheaded thecampaign against segregation and racial discrimination, was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, prompting riots in more than 100 American cities in the days following. In 1969 James Earl Ray, a white escaped convict, pleaded guilty to King's murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. Although many investigators have suspected that Ray did not act alone, no accomplices have ever been identified. Pepper said he hoped that the Justice Department would reopen the investigation into King's death following the verdict, offering his own files for official inspection.