Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April Excerpt: The Cause and Meaning of Martin Luther King's Murder

If a Tree Falls 
Matthew Witt
The Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
PHOTO: Stuart Seeger

“We have done what we can to reveal the truth, and we now urge you as members of the media, and we call upon elected officials, and other persons of influence to do what they can to share the revelation of this case to the widest possible audience.”
–Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dec. 9, 1999.

The Guilty Verdict

A little past 3:00 p.m. on December 8, 1999, in the otherwise quiet Memphis courtroom of the Thirtieth District of Shelby County, Tennessee, after about one hour of deliberation, a jury returned a guilty verdict in the case Coretta Scott King, et al v. Loyd Jowers, et al. The jury found that Loyd Jowers did conspire with several government agencies to “do harm” to Martin Luther King, Jr. Evidence shared with the court placed Jowers at the scene of the crime–his bar and grill adjoined the passageway from which the fatal shot was fired. Jowers’ own testimony made clear that he received the weapon used to kill King immediately after the fatal shot was fired. He then hid the gun and made provisions for its removal from the crime scene.

Like the score of others implicated by this trial in the murder of Martin Luther King, Loyd Jowers is otherwise unknown to history, and the King family had no interest in prosecuting him except as a means of having the extensive evidence of government involvement presented in court. The court fined him a token amount, and he died a few months later.

Jowers’ only previous public act had been his very brief media debut in 1993 on the national broadcast of ABC’s Prime Time Live. This program featured evidence that had not been included in the original trial of James Earl Ray. [Jowers’ testimony, as presented in that program and the 1999 trial, suggested that Ray was not the shooter. Other evidence suggested that he may have been set up as the “fall guy” for King’s murder.] 

The 1999 jury verdict against Jowers and “unnamed others” was a matter of major historical importance. But it was ignored by the media. Since then the press has paid little or no attention to the Memphis court’s findings. This raises questions and concerns as to why a court decision of this magnitude of importance has been so little reported. Is it possible that authorities have wanted the public to remain ignorant of the findings of the 1999 jury trial and about what occurred April 4, 1968? What would they have wanted to hide?

Read more by ordering the April 2013 magazine here (or purchasing in your local bookstore).

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