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Wednesday, August 26, 1998 Published at 21:27 GMT 22:27 UK

World: Americas

New inquiry into Martin Luther King killing

King's family: Fresh evidence about slaying

A new inquiry into the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King has been ordered by US Attorney General Janet Reno.

The Justice Department will conduct a limited review of King's murder 30 years ago on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.

But the inquiry falls short of the national commission sought by his family, who have doubts on whether convicted killer James Earl Ray was soley responsible for the shooting on April 4, 1968.

Ms Reno said: "We hope this review will provide answers to new questions that have been raised about a tragedy that still haunts our nation.''

Ray, who was imprisoned for the murder until his death from liver disease in April, retracted his initial confession and spent years futilely seeking a new trial.

[ image: Ray went to his grave denying killing]
Ray went to his grave denying killing
Justice Department officials said the inquiry will review allegations by former FBI agent Donald Wilson and former Memphis bar owner Lloyd Jowers suggesting there may have been a broader assassination conspiracy.

Ms Reno's announcement comes after President Clinton asked her to meet the King family in April.

In March, Mr Wilson claimed papers he took from Ray's car after the killing supported the conspiracy claims.

Mr Wilson, who worked in the FBI's Atlanta office in 1968, said he found an envelope containing two pieces of paper with the name "Raul" written on them in the car.

Ray had claimed he was set up by a shadowy gun runner identified as "Raoul", a man whose existence has never been verified. The FBI have dismissed his story.

Bar owner says he hired assassin

In 1993 Mr Jowers claimed on ABC's PrimeTime Live in 1993 that he hired King's killer and it was not Ray.

Mr Jowers used to run Jim's Grill, a cafe across the street from the motel where King stayed and a few doors down from a boarding house where authorities say the fatal shot was fired.

He said the killing was arranged by a now-deceased Memphis produce dealer with reputed ties to organised crime, but he has refused to comment since the broadcast.

Rodney King lawyer heads inquiry

A seven month investigation by Memphis District Attorney General Bill Gibbons recently concluded there was no evidence anyone other than Ray assassinated King.

[ image: Mrs King wanted broader review]
Mrs King wanted broader review
A 1977-78 investigation by the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations also determined Ray was the killer.

The new inquiry will be lead by Barry Kowalski, the civil rights lawyer who prosecuted the Los Angeles police officers for the 1991 videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King.

King's widow, Coretta Scott King, and his children had asked Ms Reno and President Clinton to set up a federal panel like South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The commission gave amnesty to former officials who confessed their roles in South Africa's brutal, former system of racial separation.

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