Justice Moving Toward New Probe Of MLK Slaying
By Pierre Thomas/CNN
WASHINGTON (June 25) -- The Justice Department is moving toward taking a formal look at new allegations that have been raised about the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., CNN has learned.
Justice officials are considering options which include the appointment of a presidential commission or an internal fact-finding review by the department, during which new witnesses in the case would be interviewed.
King was murdered on the balcony of a Memphis motel in 1968. James Earl Ray, who died in April, pleaded guilty to King's slaying and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. But he later recanted his guilty plea and launched a quest for a trial, claiming he did not kill the civil rights leader.
In the last months of Ray's life, members of King's family joined Ray's crusade, saying they, too, had questions about his guilt and whether there might have been a wider conspiracy behind King's murder.
Last week, King's widow, Coretta Scott King, and three of his children met privately with President Bill Clinton, making their case for a presidential commission.
Any new investigation into King's death is likely to center around two new witnesses. One-time restaurateur Lloyd Jowers claimed in 1993 that he recruited someone other than Ray to kill King. And Donald Wilson, a former FBI agent, said that during the initial investigation of the murder, he found a note with the name "Raul" scrawled on it.
Ray had long asserted that a shadowy figure named "Raul" was involved in King's death. However, the accounts of both Jowers and Wilson have been challenged by people familiar with evidence in the case.
The Justice Department and Congress have previously conducted investigations into King's murder. The congressional probe concluded that Ray had killed King but that the murder arose out of a conspiracy.