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Justice Dept. Says James Earl Ray Acted Alone in King Assassination

Aired June 9, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Important news now out of Washington, the Justice Department, in particular. It's releasing the results of a two-year investigation into the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was there a conspiracy? That was the focus of this investigation.

And CNN's Pierre Thomas now joins us, live from the Justice Department with more on this report.

Pierre, what have we found out?

PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Bill, the bottom line, no conspiracy in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Justice Department has released a 100-page report documenting their two-year investigation. They interviewed more than 200 witnesses, many of the people who claimed that there was an assassination attempt fueled by conspiracy gave conflicting statements. They simply did not find the evidence to back up those claims.

Now Barry Kowalski, who was the lead investigator, just told us a few moments ago in the background briefing that simply we found no credible evidence of any conspiracy -- Bill.

HEMMER: Pierre, this was ordered from the White House about two years ago on the 30th anniversary of that assassination on Dr. Martin Luther King. Why did the Clinton administration feel it was necessary and important to go ahead and look into this matter further?

THOMAS: Well, there were two primary allegations. One came from a man by the name of Loyd Jowers, who was a Memphis restaurateur, who claimed that he and others conspired to kill Dr. King. But when they interviewed him, he gave conflicting statements and they found that his statements were simply not credible.

There was another claim from an FBI agent -- former FBI agent, a man by the name of Wilson, who claimed that he found some notes on the day that the car was found of James Earl Ray. Now the FBI and law enforcement officials have long maintained that there was no conspiracy. The Justice Department checked out his story. Simply did not find the evidence to corroborate the story, and in fact, found evidence that contradicted his testimony.

HEMMER: Pierre, and again, I asked you last hour, any reaction thus far from the King family on this?

THOMAS: Again, I've not been informed of any reaction. We are pursuing that vigorously to see what they think. Because, again, this has been a story that's gone on for more than 30 years, many people feeling like that there was many more people involved than James Earl Ray who killed Dr. King.

But again, the Justice Department, in the latest of many reports, is saying that's just not the case.

HEMMER: Dating back to April of 1968 again, Pierre Thomas, in Washington. Thanks, Pierre.

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