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The BBC's Rob Watson
"Officials don't expect the report will end the conspiracy theories"
 real 28k

Friday, 9 June, 2000, 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
Luther King plot ruled out
Martin Luther King
Dr King's "I have a dream" speech changed history
The US Justice Department says it has uncovered no reliable evidence of a conspiracy behind the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr King, who spearheaded the campaign against segregation and racial discrimination in the United States, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on 4 April 1968, prompting riots in more than 100 US cities in the following days.

The Justice Department made its announcement at the end of an 18-month inquiry carried out at the request of the King family.

They had said that new evidence cast doubt on whether the convicted killer, the late James Earl Ray, had been solely responsible for the Memphis motel balcony shooting.

Investigations

"This investigation of these most recent allegations, as well as several exhaustive previous official investigations, found no reliable evidence that Dr King was killed by conspirators who framed James Earl Ray," the department said in a 138-page report.

James Earl Ray
Ray maintained to his death that he was framed
"At this time we are aware of no information to warrant any further investigation of the assassination."

The department rejected allegations by Loyd Jowers, a recently deceased bar owner in Memphis, who claimed to have been paid to arrange Dr King's murder.

'Framed'

It also investigated and rejected allegations by a former FBI agent, Donald Wilson, who said that papers he took from Ray's car after the killing supported the conspiracy claims.

Agent Wilson said he had found in Ray's car an envelope containing two pieces of paper with the name "Raul" written on them.

Although Ray pleaded guilty in 1969 to killing Dr King and was sentenced to 99 years in prison, he claimed three days later - and until his death in prison in 1998 - that a mysterious figure named Raoul, later Raul, had framed him.

And the Justice Department rejected the findings of a Tennessee jury in a civil case brought last year by the King family which found that the murder was the result of a conspiracy and not the act of a lone gunman.

Speculation

That verdict, the report said, was based on "a substantial amount of hearsay evidence purporting to support the existence of various far-reaching, government-directed conspiracies to kill Dr King".

"Questions and speculation may always surround the assassination of Dr King and other national tragedies," the report concluded.

The Justice Department's findings were in line with numerous official investigations over the years that all concluded Ray carried out the killing and was not part of a larger plot.

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