9 – King’s Family Supported Ray’s Calls for a New Trial
Despite the fact that every piece of evidence pointed towards Ray as the killer, King’s family still supported his plea for a new trial. What they expected to learn is unclear but shortly after Ray’s death in 1998, King’s widow, Coretta Scott, lamented the fact that America would never receive the benefit of a new trial for Ray which would have provided new revelations about the murder. Ray tried to get a new trial throughout his life, and in 1997, he met Dexter King, the son of the murdered reverend.
The King family has always maintained that the assassination was carried out by elements of the government. There had been doubts about the case against Ray from the beginning, and since he never had the opportunity to speak at a trial, the King family believed he could shed new light on the assassination if given a chance. The House Select Committee on Assassinations re-examined the case in 1976. The Committee was chaired by Louis Stokes, and in its final report, it suggested that Ray may not have been a lone gunman. However, the report also stated that there was no convincing evidence of government involvement in the death of King.
In 1993, William Pepper staged a mock trial on television which found Ray ‘not guilty.’ The aforementioned meeting between Dexter and Ray was televised, and King’s son was convinced that Ray was innocent. Despite the support of the King family, Ray was never given his day in court, and he died in prison on April 23, 1998. However, even his death didn’t close the lid on the case as another individual claimed involvement and was on the receiving end of a civil suit.
Given the evidence against Ray, it is puzzling that the King family believe he is innocent. We can understand if they think Ray had help when murdering their father but to suggest total innocence is a gigantic stretch. He was an avowed racist, and there is every chance that he found out about the $50,000 bounty on King’s head. It was offered by a segregationist lawyer named John Sutherland who lived in St. Louis. Ray could have learned about the bounty while in prison, either through the grave vine or from his brothers.
His brothers also said that Ray outlined his intention to kill King. Even though he was on the run after his escape from prison, he was obsessed with killing the reverend and probably started stalking him from March 17, 1968, onward. He definitely purchased the rifle and rented the room across from King. Perhaps he would have gotten away with it if he didn’t panic after seeing two police cars parked in the fire station close by. He threw away the evidence and fled the scene; the police used it to identify him. If Ray were part of a conspiracy fronted by professionals, he would never have survived 30 years in prison. They would have killed him to ensure he didn’t give the entire game away.