INSIDE STORY: WHO KILLED MARTIN LUTHER KING? (TV)
One in this series of in-depth informational programs. This installment examines the possible conspiracies surrounding the April 1968 death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His accused killer, James Earl Ray, speaks from a Missouri prison and reasserts his innocence, suggesting that he was framed as a "lone nut" to cover up a larger conspiracy. Ray, who escaped from prison in 1967, was rearrested in London in June 1968 and was given an extremely short trial, at which he pled guilty to King's murder. His lawyer, Percy Foreman, denies urging his client to plead guilty, though in a letter written to Ray at the time, Foreman implies that he would protect Ray's brother from criminal charges if Ray agreed to the guilty plea. Ray's other lawyer, Hugh Stanton, also represented the state's key witness, Charles Stephens, implying a conflict of interest. Ray asserts that, while on the run in Canada, he met a mysterious figure named "Raul" for whom he performed small criminal tasks; Raul eventually instructed him to buy a rifle and rent a spot in the rooming house from which he allegedly fired the fatal shot.
Journalist Harold Weisberg also questions the discovery of Ray's "bundle," dropped during his flight immediately after the shooting, noting that three different policemen claimed to have found the murder weapon mere minutes later and arguing that the discovery of evidence seems "implausible." A reporter who spotted an unknown man outside of King's hotel was never questioned by authorities, and the sole official eyewitness, Stephens, does not recognize a photograph of Ray. Elsewhere, a ballistics expert asserts that Ray was insufficiently experienced with firearms to make the fatal shot, noting that a "dent" in the windowsill is far from conclusive evidence. Author Philip Melanson states that Memphis police officers assigned to protect King were intentionally pulled back shortly before his death, though Inspector Sam Evans denies the order, and Fletcher Prouty, Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Kennedy, argues that the cops behaved with uncharacteristic inactivity right after the killing, further suggesting that they were instructed ahead of time to take no action.
Memphis Detective Ed Redditt explains that, on the day of the shooting, he was quickly escorted home when a Secret Service agent reported a threat on his, Redditt's, life, and Melanson points to the false alarm as yet another "distraction" engineered to keep cops away from the crime scene. Melanson adds that the official files about the killing were later doctored to omit any mention of the "hidden network" of government spies in King's immediate entourage, adding that Memphis Police and Fire Director Frank Holloman formerly worked for FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, who nursed an infamous and obsessive grudge against King. Former FBI agent Arthur Murtagh recalls Hoover's use of wiretapping to monitor King's alleged Communist activity – and then his extramarital affairs – and describes his own shock at hearing another agent stating that "we finally got him" upon learning of King's death. Prouty also suggests that "Operation Mongoose," the covert plan in which Mafia hitmen John Roselli and Sam Giancana were to kill Fidel Castro, presumably did not end when the FBI changed its plans for the Cuban leader and likely turned its attention to King. Informant Jay Richard Kennedy argues that King was "under the control" of European Marxists, a claim likely believed by the FBI, according to Prouty.
Also in question are the origins of Ray's various aliases in Canada, including that of Eric Galt; Melanson asserts that Ray lacked the ability and resources to track down four uncanny lookalikes whose names he could use while undercover and states that they were "provided" to him, though Ray denies receiving the names from an outside source. Turning to the mysterious "Raul," CIA "spear-carrier" Jules "Ricco" Kimble speaks from prison and confirms that he performed undercover work for the government and escorted Ray to Canada with fake IDs and also assisted him after the assassination, but Ray does not recognize Kimble's photo, again calling the existence of Raul into question. Melanson points out that Ray and Kimble were likely not told all of the pertinent information about the conspiracy to prevent their confessions if captured and concludes that "Raul" is a composite of various figures affiliated with the crime. Kimble agrees that Ray was used as a "pawn" in the killings, and Martin Luther King III admits his own doubts about Ray's guilt and professes his hopes of someday uncovering the truth. The program concludes by noting that another CIA agent confirmed that in 1967, there was an asset in Canada with expertise in forging identifications: "Raoul Miori." Commercials deleted.
- NETWORK: BBC (United Kingdom)
- RUNNING TIME: 1:03:44
- COLOR/B&W: Color
- CATALOG ID: B:20618
- GENRE: Education/Information
- SUBJECT HEADING: International Collection - United Kingdom; African-American Collection - News/Talk; Education/Information; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Conspiracies
- SERIES RUN: BBC - TV, 1989
- COMMERCIALS: N/A
- Paul Hamann … Executive Producer
- John Edginton … Producer
- John Sergeant … Associate Producer
- Philip Tibenham … Narrator
- James Earl Ray … Interviewee
- Martin Luther King III … Interviewee
- Bill Pepper … Interviewee
- Harold Weisberg … Interviewee
- Sam Evans … Interviewee
- Philip Melanson … Interviewee
- Fletcher Prouty … Interviewee
- Ed Redditt … Interviewee
- Arthur Murtagh … Interviewee
- Jay Richard Kennedy … Interviewee
- Eric Galt … Interviewee
- Jules "Ricco" Kimble … Interviewee
- Fidel Castro
- Sam Giancana
- Percy Foreman
- Frank Holloman
- J. Edgar Hoover
- John F. Kennedy
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- John Roselli
- Hugh Stanton
- Charles Stephens