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The BBC's Yvette Austin
"It was the verdict the King family had long campaigned for"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 23:05 GMT
Jury backs King conspiracy theory
King speaking King's family believes more than one person was behind his murder

A US jury has found that the civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King Junior was the victim of a murder conspiracy and not a lone assassin, when he was shot dead over 30 years ago.

The King family has won a wrongful death lawsuit it had brought against Loyd Jowers, a retired Memphis businessman, who claimed that he paid someone other than James Earl Ray to shoot Dr King.

James Earl Ray confessed shortly after the murder in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968 but later recanted saying he had been set up.

James Earl Ray James Earl Ray recanted his murder confession
His confession was upheld eight times by state and federal courts. He died in prison last year.

However, the aim of the King family has been to find evidence of a conspiracy and so lend support to their call for a new investigation into the murder.

The decision on Wednesday by the jury of six black people and six white to find against Loyd Jowers was just what they were hoping for.

The jury awarded the Kings just $100 in damages. The family had asked for a token amount in the wrongful-death lawsuit because what they wanted most was for the jury to find evidence of a conspiracy and lend support to their call for a new investigation into the killing.

"If we know the truth, we can be free and go on with our lives," said Dr King's widow, Coretta Scott King.

Television claim

The King family filed a wrongful death lawsuit last year against Mr Jowers, who said on television in 1993 that he hired the killer of the civil rights activist.

Mr Jowers has refused to name the person he believes murdered Dr King, but insists it was not James Earl Ray.

Dr King was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.

Mr Jowers, who owned a restaurant on the ground floor of a building from where the fatal shot was fired, said he was paid $100,000 to hire the killer.

Mr Jowers has alleged that the fatal shot was fired from behind the restaurant and that the killer handed him the rifle moments after the assassination.

He has said he gave the weapon to an unidentified conspirator the next day.

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See also:
16 Nov 99 |  Americas
King assassination conspiracy trial begins
26 Aug 98 |  Americas
New inquiry into Martin Luther King killing
26 Apr 98 |  Americas
King family invited to Ray's funeral
23 Apr 98 |  Americas
Questions left hanging by James Earl Ray's death
07 Apr 98 |  Americas
US considers new inquiry into Dr King's murder

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