Coretta Scott King says conspiracy trial attempt at 'truth'
November 17, 1999
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (CNN) -- Coretta Scott King testified Tuesday that a civil suit against a Memphis man is aimed at finding the truth behind the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. more than 30 years ago.
"We're concerned about the truth, having the truth come out in a court of law," said Mrs. King, widow of the slain civil rights leader.
Mrs. King was the first witness called in the King family's civil case against a man who the family alleges has said he played a role in the assassination.
The King family charges there was a conspiracy involved in the April 4, 1968 assassination in Memphis, and that Lloyd Jowers, a 73-year-old former restaurant owner, was part of it.
Jowers owned a cafe that overlooked the Lorraine Motel where King was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony.
In his opening statement, King family lawyer William Pepper told jurors there has been a cover-up of the evidence in the assassination.
"I suggest to you that some of the evidence you hear may go to the essence of this republic," he said.
According to the lawsuit, Jowers told Dexter Scott King, son of the civil rights leader, that he played a role in the alleged conspiracy, handling funds on behalf of a businessman who wanted King killed, and handling the rifle he said was used.
Jowers' lawyer, Lewis Garrison Jr., told jurors that there was indeed a conspiracy. He said he agreed with 80 percent of the allegations, but he minimized Jowers' role.
"I think you'll find he was a very small part -- if any, if any -- in the assassination of Mr. King," he said in his opening statement.
James Earl Ray, who pleaded guilty to killing King and quickly recanted, died last year. Toward the end of Ray's life, the King family accepted his claims of innocence.
In testimony on Tuesday, one witness, Nathan Whitlock, told the court that he had been told by a businessman, Frank Liberto, who has since died, that Liberto had ordered King's assassination and that Ray had not committed the crime.
Some scholars are skeptical of Jowers' account and say there is ample evidence that Ray did commit the murder.
Law enforcement authorities in Tennessee have maintained they believe Ray was the killer.
The suit claims Jowers said there was an area near the restaurant where the killer was supposed to stand in order to shoot King. Jowers allegedly said he took a still smoking gun and hid it.
He said a man named Raoul brought him a gun used in the assassination, the suit says.
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