Coalition Demands Release of King Assassination Files, Public Review of Evidence
Press Release, Coalition on Political Assassinations, 6 April 1997
Coalition on Political Assassinations
For Immediate Release
Washington, DC - The recent, historic meeting of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s son, Dexter King and James Earl Ray, the alleged assassin of Dr. King underscored both the legacy of nonviolence and truth that Dr. King exemplified and the need for a re-hearing of the case and a resolution to the serious questions that remain concerning guilt and responsibility for Dr. King's death. A national coalition of researchers, authors and medical experts, the Coalition on Political Assassinations, is supporting the current call by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s family and civil rights leaders for a re-hearing of the case against alleged assassin James Earl Ray. In addition, the Coalition is calling for full disclosure of all government records relating to the assassination and official investigations. Thousands of independent researchers agree that serious unresolved questions remain in the murder of Dr. King, and the guilt of James Earl Ray.
"Even if the Tennessee Court of Appeals fails to grant testing of the alleged murder weapon and fatal bullet," notes researcher and author Philip Melanson, Ph.D., a board member of the Coalition, "or the tests are inconclusive, other legal options exist that go beyond the legal appeal rights of James Earl Ray in this case. Even if Ray dies from his current illness, the case should not." Melanson points to several other legal options, including a Tennessee law that would allow the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to appoint a "private prosecutor" who can then call witnesses and hear evidence.
"At the federal level, US Attorney General Janet Reno can convene a grand jury to hear evidence, or appoint a special prosecutor," Melanson notes, "and we will initiate a national petition to encourage her to act on the case."
Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, MD, JD, president of the Coalition, and former president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, notes that, "Regardless of the legal status of the case, we must push Congress and the Clinton administration to release all government files pertaining to the death of Dr. King and the subsequent investigation by federal agencies and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. It is unjustified that these files remain locked away while files pertaining to the murder of John F. Kennedy are being released. We need full disclosure in all major political assassinations."
The Coalition has called for full release of all government agency and investigative files relating to Dr. King's life and death, including some 650-750,000 pages still kept secret by the House of Representatives as part of the House Select Committee on Investigations probe in the 1970s. Tens of thousands of citizens have already signed a national petition for their release. Under House Rule 36, HSCA Chairman Louis Stokes sealed these files for a period of 50 years, until 2028.
The Coalition is calling for a campaign to insure a public re-hearing of all the facts of the case against Ray, as well as new evidence pointing to the real conspirators. "Should all other legal avenues fail," says Melanson, author of several books on the murder of Dr. King, "the American public has a right to hear the facts of the case. We will work to insure that public forums make this evidence visible to the average citizen. History and the legacy of Dr. King demand no less."
The Coalition on Political Assassinations includes the Assassination Archives and Research Center and the Committee for An Open Archives in Washington, DC, and Citizens for Truth About the Kennedy Assassination" in Los Angeles, California, with thousands of members in the United States and around the world who seek to open the files and resolve the questions surrounding the murders of John and Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.
Justice Demands Reopening of the Martin Luther King Assassination Case: New Forensic Tests and Trial for James Earl Ray, Full Disclosure of Government Records
(Washington, DC 3/25/97) Dr. William Pepper, the attorney for James Earl Ray, with the support of the wife and family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as many civil rights leaders who were associated with Dr. King, has succeeded in convincing Tennessee Criminal Courts Judge Joseph Brown that new scientific testing methods may be able to establish the innocence or guilt of James Earl Ray, and that their results may allow a new trial for the accused assassin of Dr. King, who has long maintained his innocence of the murder and his role as a patsy in the case. The final decision rests with the Tennessee Court of Appeals, which has the power to administer the new forensic tests on the rifle and bullets allegedly used to kill Dr. King, and to require a new trial for James Earl Ray. If the Appeals Court fails to act in a timely fashion in favor of James Earl Ray, he may succumb to a life-threatening liver disease which has twice made him comatose. Under Tennessee laws, Ray's rights to new tests or a trial will end if he should die first.
Dr. Pepper, a featured speaker at the 1996 national conference of the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA) is joining with our organization in calling for a quick, favorable decision in these matters by the appeals court, and a full trail for James Earl Ray, who pled guilty at his 1969 trail and then attempted to reverse his plea following conviction. Hard ballistic evidence has failed to date to conclusively link Ray to the murder, or the alleged murder weapon to the bullet that killed Dr. King. The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that Ray had been the assassin, but had not acted alone in planning the murder. However, their conclusions were not based on solid forensic evidence, but on Ray's guilty plea and subsequent testimony to the HSCA. William Pepper, Esq. will speak on the case again this year at the National Conference of COPA, June 13-15, 1997 at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
In addition, the HSCA Chairman, Congressman Louis Stokes, used House Rule 36 to seal all investigative files and records used in their study of the King assassination until 2028. These files number 650-700,000 pages in the National Archives, and should be fully available for release. Other records doubtless exist in the files of government agencies relating to the assassination, the COINTELPRO program of the FBI, and military intelligence spying on Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. Dr. Pepper's investigation suggests that film and photographic records of the assassination are hidden in government repositories. The Committee for an Open Archives, a member group of the Coalition on Political Assassinations, has distributed a national petition since 1990 for the release of these records and repeal of House Rule 36, which allows Congressional committee chairs to seal investigative files for 50 years. The Coalition now calls on Congress to implement full disclosure of all records relating to the King assassination, using as a model the JFK Assassination Records Act of 1992. The establishment of an independent civilian review board, including distinguished members of African-American community, legal scholars, historians and archivists, and independent researchers in this case is required to restore public confidence and to pursue historical truth.
Members of COPA and others are urged to write or fax the Tennessee Court of Appeals, demanding that new ballistics and forensic tests be performed, and that a new trial be granted immediately for James Earl Ray. A sample letter written by author and researcher Philip Melanson, Ph.D. follows, and can be copied for your use or rewritten. In addition, we urge you to contact your local Congressional and Senate representatives to urge that the appropriate government operations and oversight committees draft new legislation to release the files relating to the still unsolved murder of Dr. King. Justice and history demand no less.
Tennessee Court of Appeals
I urge the court to act swiftly and positively in the pursuit of truth and justice in the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Allowing new scientific tests to be performed on the alleged murder weapon and fatal bullet, and ordering a trial for alleged assassin James Earl Ray are essential in resolving the serious, unanswered questions concerning Dr. King's death. Inaction or negative decisions by this court would constitute a disservice to the King family, the public and our nation's history, as well as to our system of justice.
Letters and faxes to Congress should be addressed to:
Senator Ted Stevens, Chairman
Congressman Dan Burton, Chairman
For more information on your local representatives who serve on these committees, call or contact COPA, P O Box 772, Washington, DC 20044 (202) 785-5299 or 584-2010 (FAX). Our on-line address is firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Web at http://www.nicom.com/~copa. The Coalition on Political Assassinations represents thousands of forensic and ballistics experts, medical doctors, academics, authors, researchers and citizens who believe that serious questions remain in regard to the deaths of John and Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We support full disclosure of all government files relating to these murders, and work toward a resolution of these mysteries. Our regular membership is $35 annually, and includes occasional issues of our newsletter Open Secrets.