Ray's death won't end assassination controversy
April 23, 1998
||From a CNN interview with Ray's attorney William Pepper:
"The truth will ultimately exonerate Mr. Ray ..."
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Will Ray's name ever be cleared? Pepper's answer:
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On his last conversation with Ray
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Web posted at: 6:34 p.m. EDT (2234 GMT)
(CNN) -- The death Thursday of James Earl Ray won't end the
controversy over the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King
Ray confessed to the killing, but later recanted his
confession. He was serving a 99-year sentence when he died.
Ray's attorney, William Pepper, has worked for years to try
to get the state of Tennessee to get Ray a trial, and the
King family has supported those efforts.
CNN talked with Pepper about Ray's death, and how it might
affect attempts to learn more about the slaying of the civil
Pepper denounces state for refusing trial
"James, I can assure you, took no material secrets with him
to his grave," said Pepper. He knew only what he had to
know, what he was told to know in terms of the role of an
unknowing patsy. And it's regrettable not only that the state
of Tennessee denied him a trial that he'd been trying to get
for over 20 years, but they didn't even have the decency to
let this man spend his last days outside of prison when he
was terminally ill, and allow him to die in the bosom of his
Will still seek 'the truth'
"There's no petitioner now for a trial, so there cannot be a
trial," Pepper said. "(Ray's death) does not end the attempt
of the Ray family and the King family to seek out the truth
in this case. The truth will ultimately exonerate Mr. Ray if
we are given the opportunity to seek it out through one or
another forum. And the leading possibility at this point in
time is Mrs. (Coretta Scott) King's request for a national
reconciliation commission to look into all aspects of this
case and all of the new evidence."
King reiterates call for investigation
The assassination scene at the Lorraine Motel
The King family said it was "deeply saddened" by Ray's death.
"This is a tragedy not only for Mr. Ray and his family but
also for the entire nation," the family said in a statement.
"America will never have the benefit of Mr. Ray's trial,
which would have produced new revelations about the
assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as establish
the facts concerning Mr. Ray's innocence. The King family has
asked President Clinton and Attorney General (Janet) Reno to
conduct a full investigation of all new and unexamined
evidence related to the assassination and to establish a
truth and reconciliation commission that would grant amnesty
and immunity from prosecution for all those who come forward
"We make this appeal not only for our families but for the
entire nation," the statement said. "We are more determined
than ever to find the truth about the tragedy which has had
such a profound impact on our society. It is regrettable that
Mr. Ray was denied his day in court. The American people have
a right to the truth about this tragedy and we intend to do
everything that we can to bring it to light."
Speaking to reporters after learning of Ray's death, Martin Luther King III, the son of the assassinated civil rights leader, said, "We certainly send out our condolences to the Ray family."
"At this time, although Mr. Ray is deceased, we do still believe that there is enough information that if a thorough job is done, we can only hope and pray that the truth one day emerges," he said.