IV. JOWERS' ALLEGATIONS
For several years beginning in the late 1960s, Loyd Jowers
owned and operated Jim's Grill, a tavern located below the
rooming house on South Main Street where James Earl Ray rented a
room on the day of the assassination. In the late 1940s, Jowers
was briefly a Memphis police officer.
Subsequently, he made his living on and off over the years as a
taxi driver and through ownership of a string of small
businesses in Memphis, including Jim's Grill, another bar, and
Memphis taxi cab companies. In the early 1990s, Jowers left
Memphis for his hometown of Martin, Tennessee, where he opened a
small convenience store. In late 1993, he moved to Arkansas.
For the first 25 years after the assassination, Jowers
maintained in several statements to law enforcement officials
and defense investigators that he was behind the counter serving
customers in Jim's Grill when Dr. King was shot. He did not
claim any involvement in or provide any significant information
about the assassination.
In December 1993, Jowers appeared on ABC's Prime Time
Live, radically changed his story, and "confessed" to
having participated in a plot to kill Dr. King. Since that
appearance, he has given additional statements about the
assassination to the media, Dr. King's son Dexter King, Ray's
attorney, a law enforcement agent, relatives, friends, and
courts. In these statements, Jowers has repeatedly changed key
aspects of his new story, disavowed his confession, and even
retreated to his long-standing account of the previous 25 years.
The investigative team analyzed the contents of Jowers' many
statements. We also interviewed numerous witnesses and reviewed
tens of thousands of pages of documents, including transcripts
from the King v. Jowers trial, to
determine whether there is credible evidence to support any
aspect of Jowers' varied accounts. Finally, we attempted to
interview Jowers, but he refused to speak with us.
B. The Origin Of Jowers' Allegations
1. Statements between 1968-1992
Jowers spoke to the Memphis police and the FBI a total of
four times within five days of the assassination. He later
talked to investigators working on behalf of James Earl Ray. In
each of these accounts, Jowers consistently described his own
uneventful activities at Jim's Grill on the
afternoon of the assassination. He told authorities that he
arrived at the tavern around 4:00 p.m. and noticed a white
Mustang in his usual parking spot in front of the grill. At
around 6:00 p.m., while behind the counter in the front of his
tavern, he heard a loud noise and went to the kitchen to
investigate. When he saw nothing unusual, he returned to serve
his customers. He was behind the counter when the police arrived
minutes after the shooting.(8)
During the next quarter of a century, Jowers revealed nothing
about the assassination that was materially different from his
original accounts. In discussions with HSCA staff and Ray's
investigators, as well as in testimony in a legal proceeding in
which Ray sought to withdraw his guilty plea, Jowers focused
exclusively on his observations of the Mustang and potential
witnesses in the rooming house and the grill.(9)
2. The Evolution of the Alleged Confession
In 1992, Jowers hinted that his story was about to change.
That year, Home Box Office (HBO) and Thames Television of London
initiated a project to produce and televise a mock trial of
James Earl Ray. The producers hired Ray's real-life attorney,
Dr. William Pepper, to represent him, and Hickman Ewing, the
former United States Attorney in Memphis, to be the prosecutor.
From the show's $3 million budget, they gave each side an
expense account in excess of $100,000 to hire investigators,
pursue leads, and prepare its case. As the investigators and
production crew came to Memphis, public interest in the King
assassination increased substantially. The program, which
included the mock jury's verdict of not-guilty, ultimately aired
in April 1993, on the 25th anniversary of the
In December 1992, Jowers met in his attorney's office with a
prosecutorial investigator working on the mock trial. In the
reception room, without his attorney, Jowers repeated the story
he had been telling for years. He added that the gunshot had
come from inside the building since he believed that he would
not have heard a noise from outside.
Immediately after the reception room conversation, the
investigator met with Jowers and his attorney, Lewis Garrison.
During the meeting, Garrison revealed that Jowers had
information that would put "a different slant" on the
assassination. He would not, however, disclose the information.
Instead, he stated that Jowers wanted more compensation than the
standard $40 per day witness fee provided participants in the
In January 1993, Jowers testified at the mock trial for the
defense. He essentially repeated what he had been saying since
1968. Jowers was somewhat unclear as to whether he had actually
heard a gunshot, but again claimed that he went to the kitchen
to investigate a noise. Significantly, he denied telling anyone
that he had found a gun and kept it under the
counter at Jim's Grill after the assassination.
In the fall of 1993, Garrison forwarded a written request for
immunity to the Shelby County District Attorney General on
behalf of five unnamed clients, later determined to include
Jowers, his former girlfriend Betty Spates, and two of his
former co-workers in the taxicab business, James McCraw and
Willie Akins. The request provided very little detail and stated
that an unnamed person (Jowers) received money to hire Dr.
King's assassin. It further maintained that immediately after
the shooting, the assassin passed the murder weapon to Jowers,
who disassembled and hid it. The request also stated that Jowers
"had close contact with some persons employed by the Memphis
Police Department" and included representations from Garrison's
other clients inculpating Jowers in the plot. The District
Attorney General was not persuaded by the limited proffer and
did not grant immunity to any of Garrison's clients.
After submitting the request for immunity, Jowers and
Garrison met with Jack Saltman, one of the producers of the
televised mock trial. Jowers revealed his alleged involvement in
the assassination and, for the first time, provided details of
the alleged plot, including the names of the alleged assassin
and other co-conspirators. Because Jowers did not have immunity,
his statement to Saltman was an admission that could be used
against him in a criminal prosecution.
3. Jowers' 1993 Televised Prime Time Live
In December 1993, after his discussion with Saltman, Jowers
agreed to an interview with ABC journalist, Sam Donaldson. The
interview aired on Prime Time Live on December 16,
1993. At Jowers' request, the network partially shaded his face,
but broadcast his full name and the fact that he was from
Memphis. Jowers' attorney, Lewis Garrison, also appeared on the
During the interview, Jowers announced that he was
"indirectly" involved in a conspiracy to kill Dr. King. He
explained that Frank Liberto,(10)
a Memphis produce dealer, asked him to "hire someone to
assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King." Donaldson also reported
that Jowers claimed to have received approximately $100,000 as
part of the assassination plot at his grill sometime before the
Jowers further asserted that a man with a name sounding like
Raoul "brought a rifle in a box" and "asked [him] to hold [it]
[un]til * * * he made arrangements or we made arrangements, one
or the other of us, for the killing." According to Jowers,
Liberto said that the police "wouldn't be there" and "it'd be
set up where it looked like someone else had done the killing."
Jowers also added that he did not believe that James Earl Ray
knew he was part of the plot. When Jowers revealed that he had
hired the killer, his attorney Garrison abruptly terminated the
interview, saying Jowers has "gone as far as we can." In an
off-camera interview with program producer Ira Rosen, however,
Jowers specifically named the assassin, identifying an African
American man who was found on South Main Street by the police
after the shooting.
4. Subsequent Statements
Since Prime Time Live, Jowers has made several
statements to the media and private parties regarding the
assassination. Additionally, his attorney Lewis Garrison has
made statements to the media, private parties, and an attorney
with our investigation. Garrison also advocated
Jowers' position in both King v. Jowers and Ray
v. Jowers, an earlier false imprisonment civil suit filed
by Dr. Pepper on behalf of Ray. Nonetheless, Jowers would not
speak with our investigation and did not testify during King
v. Jowers, where he was the only party sued.
In November 1994, Jowers testified under oath in a deposition
in Ray v. Jowers. In April 1997, he spoke about
his allegations in a recorded telephone conversation with Mark
Glankler, an investigator with the Shelby County District
Attorney General. Jowers also talked to Dexter King, Dr. King's
son, on two occasions, in October 1997 and March 1998, joined by
Dr. Pepper and Ambassador Andrew Young, respectively. In April
1998, Jowers appeared a second time on Prime Time Live.
Additionally, since 1993, Jowers has spoken about his conspiracy
claims on several occasions to friends and a close relative.
Garrison filed answers to the complaints in Ray v.
Jowers and King v. Jowers in October 1994 and
October 1998, respectively, and amended the latter in 1999.(11)
In March 1995, in Jowers' presence, Garrison spoke with Dr.
Pepper, and in April 1997, without Jowers, he
talked to author Gerald Posner. In March 1999, Garrison
discussed Jowers' allegations with an attorney from our
investigation. He also represented Jowers' position at the trial
of King v. Jowers and on several occasions made
comments to the media regarding Jowers' claims.
On three occasions when Jowers spoke about his conspiracy
claims, he essentially disavowed them. In his 1994 deposition
-- the only statement he has
made under oath -- Jowers repeated the account he originally
gave soon after the shooting, and did not claim any involvement
in the assassination. He also repudiated his conspiracy
allegations in separate conversations with District Attorney
General investigator Glankler and a close relative.
Jowers' remaining statements are inconsistent with both one
another and the original Prime Time Live interview.
Among other things, Jowers has vacillated about the identity of
the assassin, his own role in the alleged conspiracy, the
disposal of the alleged murder weapon, and the degree to which
Memphis police officers were involved. To the extent there are
any common elements to his varied accounts, he has maintained
that he participated in a plot with Liberto, Raoul, and Memphis
police officers to smuggle money and a rifle into Jim's Grill.
Jowers also has alleged that the assassin fired from behind the
grill and that he received and concealed the murder weapon from
him immediately after the shooting.
Garrison's statements on Jowers' behalf, including his
closing argument in King v. Jowers, are
inconsistent with each other and Jowers' own varied accounts.
Additionally, when speaking to an attorney from our
investigation, Garrison acknowledged that Jowers had lied.
C. Analysis Of Jowers' Statements Since 1993
Since 1993, Jowers' statements have deviated significantly
from both the account he gave on Prime Time Live and
1. Statements Rejecting Conspiracy Claims
a. Statement under oath
Jowers has never made his conspiracy claims under oath. In
fact, although he was the only party being sued, he did not
testify in King v. Jowers.
In his only statement under oath since his 1993 revelation,
Jowers did not confess. Specifically, in a
November 1994 sworn deposition in Ray v. Jowers,
approximately a year after his initial appearance on Prime
Time Live, Jowers refused to adopt his televised
confession. When asked about the truth of his comments on
Prime Time Live, he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege
against self-incrimination. He did not, however, resist
discussing the events surrounding the assassination. Rather, he
retreated to his 1968 account. Repeating what he had said many
times before, he testified that while serving customers at Jim's
Grill, he heard a noise, briefly inspected the kitchen, and
immediately returned to the counter.(12)
b. Other repudiations
Central to Jowers' conspiracy allegations are his claims that
he concealed the murder weapon after the assassination and that
James Earl Ray was not the shooter. Together, these assertions
necessarily imply that the 30.06 rifle with Ray's fingerprints
found by the police in front of Canipe's store was not the
weapon that fired the shot that killed Dr. King.
In April 1997, in a tape-recorded conversation with Shelby
County District Attorney General's office investigator Mark
Glankler, Jowers disavowed this key aspect of his story and
characterized it as "bullshit." Jowers had telephoned Glankler
to complain about investigators interviewing his relatives
Jowers: Well tell him [Jowers' attorney
Garrison] you heard all this from my relatives, okay?
Jowers: But now you can believe this. What
I've told you so far, which wasn't very much. Now I, I got to
tell you this. I got to tell you this. That rifle -
Glankler: Yes sir.
Jowers: Is the one that killed Martin Luther
Glankler: Which - which one? The one that in
Glankler: Evidence room now?
Glankler: That is or is not?
Jowers: That is.
Jowers: There was no - there was no
Jowers: All that bullshit they come up
with a second rifle or a second firer -- that's
Glankler: Uhuh (indicating yes)
Jowers: There wasn't no second one.
The timing of Jowers' disavowal may be significant. The
conversation occurred not only when Jowers' allegations were
under investigation by the District Attorney General, but also
at the time of the court hearings concerning Ray's motion for
additional testing of the rifle, referred to in the above
conversation as the rifle in the evidence room.
Jowers'attorney later offered an explanation for Jowers'
comments. Garrison told an attorney with our investigation that
Jowers falsely stated there was "no second rifle" because he
wanted to stop the prosecutor's office from interviewing his
family members, and he hoped to influence Ray's pending motion
for additional testing on the rifle. According to Garrison,
Jowers reasoned that, if the judge doubted the existence of a
second rifle, he would be more inclined to grant Ray's motion.
If Garrison is wrong and Jowers told Glankler the truth,
Jowers' allegations are in fact false. If Garrison is right,
then Jowers lied to influence an ongoing court proceeding.
Either way, Jowers' claims about a second rifle and a different
shooter are suspect. In the first scenario, Jowers has expressly
conceded the central features of his allegation are false. In
the second, by lying -- and doing so with an unquestionably
unlawful motive -- he has severely undermined his own
Jowers also repudiated his conspiracy claims in a one-on-one
conversation with a family member, with whom he speaks
frequently. Sometime after his first appearance on Prime
Time Live, the relative asked Jowers whether he was
actually involved in the assassination. According to the
relative, Jowers answered, "Hell, no." The fact that the
response was spontaneous and occurred during a private
conversation with a very close relative suggests that it was
2. Contradictory Conspiracy Claims
Setting aside Jowers' repudiations of his conspiracy
allegations, his statements claiming involvement in the
assassination contradict each other on almost every key issue.
a. The man who allegedly shot Dr. King
Since 1993, Jowers has identified different people as Dr.
King's assassin. He has alternatively claimed that the shooter
was: (1) an African American man who was on South Main Street on
the night of the assassination (the "Man on South Main Street");
(2) Raoul; (3) a white "Lieutenant" with the Memphis Police
Department; and (4) a person whom he did not recognize.(13)
Initially, during a 1993 interview with HBO mock trial
producer Jack Saltman, Jowers identified the assassin as an
African American man, whom the police ushered into Jim's Grill
from South Main Street minutes after the shooting. He named the
same man during a subsequent interview with Prime Time Live
producer Ira Rosen. Jowers, however, dropped the allegation
shortly thereafter once the man, whom the media located and
interviewed, passed a polygraph examination in which he denied
any involvement. According to Dr. Pepper, Garrison later claimed
that one of Jowers' friends, Willie Akins, who appeared on
Prime Time Live with Jowers and Garrison, had actually
concocted the story and that Jowers "[went] along" with it.
In April 1997, Garrison met with author Gerald Posner and
suggested a new assassin -- Raoul. Speaking on behalf of Jowers,
Garrison suggested that Raoul
fired the fatal shot from behind Jim's Grill. Garrison stated,
"Raoul came in [Jim's Grill] around five thirty and took the gun
and went out back. Later, he gave the gun to Jowers after the
Later, when speaking to Dexter King in October 1997 and again
in March 1998,
(14) Jowers did not repeat Garrison's claim about
his taking the rifle from Raoul after the shooting. Instead, he
accused someone else of being the assassin who handed him the
rifle after the shooting. This time it was the "Lieutenant," a
conveniently deceased, white, high-ranking Memphis police
officer. Jowers claimed that he was close to and regularly
hunted with the "Lieutenant," even though he previously
testified under oath that he had never associated with him.
In the same conversation, Jowers hedged about whether the
"Lieutenant" actually shot Dr. King. He said, "I'm sure it was
[the "Lieutenant]"; "I couldn't swear that it was [the
"Lieutenant,"] * * * but I believe it was"; and "I'm almost
positive, but -- but now, as far as seeing his face, I did not."
In April 1998, only a month after his second conversation
with Dexter King and Ambassador Andrew Young, Jowers backed off
all of his earlier allegations that he knew the identity of the
assassin. Appearing on Prime Time Live a second time,
he told a polygrapher -- who concluded he was deceptive when
claiming involvement in the assassination -- that he did not
recognize the assassin when he received the rifle from him
behind Jim's Grill.
Recently, during King v. Jowers, William
Hamblin, a former taxicab driver who worked for Jowers,
confirmed that Jowers and his friend James McCraw (see
Section IV.D.1.c. below) named several different people as
the assassin. Testifying about Jowers' and McCraw's allegations
about the assassin, Hamblin remarked "they've named every
policeman in the graveyard. Every time they get scared, they'll
name another policeman as being the murder man."
b. Disposal of the alleged murder weapon
Jowers has given numerous contradictory accounts about the
ultimate disposal of the murder weapon. Initially, the morning
after the assassination, Jowers told Bobbie Balfour, a waitress
at Jim's Grill, that the police found the murder weapon shortly
after the assassination. According to Balfour, Jowers bragged
that the police had actually found the rifle in the backyard of
his grill. In fact, the police had found a rifle with James Earl
Ray's fingerprints in front of Canipe's music store.
In 1993, when he first claimed that he was part of a
conspiracy to murder Dr. King, Jowers maintained that the police
did not have the actual murder weapon. When speaking with TV
producer Jack Saltman, Jowers said that he himself received the
murder weapon from the assassin immediately after the shooting,
hid it in his tavern, and then later took it away in the trunk
of his car.
By 1994, Jowers was no longer claiming that he personally
disposed of the alleged murder weapon or knew precisely what had
happened to it. In March of 1995, Garrison, in Jowers' presence,
told Dr. Pepper that the day after the assassination, Raoul had
actually come to Jim's Grill and picked up the rifle.
In 1997, Jowers did a complete about-face during a private
telephone conversation with an investigator from the Shelby
County District Attorney General's office. Implying that he had
not participated in any conspiracy to assassinate Dr. King, he
disavowed the existence of any murder weapon other than the
rifle discovered by the police with Ray's fingerprints. During
the conversation, Jowers told investigator Glankler, as
previously noted, that the story about "a second rifle or a
second firer -- that's bullshit." See
Section IV.C.1.b. above.
In March 1998, Jowers returned to the version presented by
Garrison in 1995. He told Dexter King that Raoul came into his
grill on the day after the assassination, "picked it [the rifle]
up," and "[w]alked on out the front door with it." A month
later, according to Jowers' close friend, cab driver James
Milner, Jowers repeated his claim that he gave the rifle to
Raoul the day after the assassination.(15)
On a related issue, Jowers has also given different stories
about his alleged receipt of the murder weapon after the
shooting. In 1995, Garrison, speaking in Jowers' presence, told
Dr. Pepper that Jowers picked up the rifle off the ground from
the bushes behind Jim's Grill. A few years later, when speaking
to Dexter King and later to the ABC polygrapher, Jowers said the
assassin threw him the rifle at the backdoor of the tavern.
c. Jowers' alleged hiring of a hit man
Jowers has claimed fundamentally differing roles in the
conspiracy. In his initial revelations to Saltman and on
Prime Time Live, he alleged that Liberto gave him $100,000
to find and hire the assassin. Jowers told Saltman he paid the
hit man $10,000 and kept the rest for himself. He retreated from
this claim, however, when the media tracked
down "the Man on South Main Street."
Once Jowers abandoned the hit man story, he was nonetheless
left with his allegation that he had been given $100,000. In an
apparent effort to account for Jowers' prior claim, Garrison
told Dr. Pepper and author Gerald Posner in 1995 and 1997,
respectively, that his client merely held the money for Liberto
until it was picked up by a co-conspirator. Garrison said Jowers
agreed to the job for forgiveness of a debt. In March 1998, when
Jowers spoke to Dexter King, he acknowledged holding the
$100,000, but failed to mention the alleged debt.
In April 1998, just a month later, Jowers not only
contradicted his statement to Dexter King, but also managed to
make two inconsistent statements about his alleged role within a
span of twenty minutes. In a conversation with the polygrapher
shortly before his second appearance on Prime Time Live,
Jowers denied that Liberto gave him $100,000 to kill Dr. King.
Later, on camera, he flip-flopped, returning to his original
story that Liberto gave him money to hire a "hit man."
d. The purpose of the alleged conspiracy
Jowers has also been inconsistent as to when and whether he
knew the object of the conspiracy. During the first Prime
Time Live interview, Jowers stated (emphasis added):
Jowers: He [Liberto] asked me to handle some
money transactions, to hire someone to assassinate Dr. King.(16)
Donaldson: To kill Dr. King?
Jowers: Yes, sir. He asked me if I knew
someone. I told him I thought I knew someone who would probably
Donaldson: And he gave you some money?
Jowers: Yes, sir.
In recent versions of his story, Jowers has done a complete
about-face, claiming that he did not know that Dr. King was the
intended victim or even that an assassination was the purpose of
the plot. In March 1998, Jowers specifically told Dexter King
and Ambassador Young that Liberto never told him the reason for
his receiving the money. Rather, Jowers explained, "I figured
[the money] was to buy a gun or dope, whatever it was he was
dealing in." He further elaborated that when Liberto finally
informed him -- after the assassination -- that the "ton of
money * * * that's what it cost me to get King killed," he was
so surprised he "almost dropped the damn phone."
After Jowers left the room, Garrison explained to Dexter King
that his client had failed to acknowledge that he knew Dr. King
was the target because of his discomfort in making the admission
directly to Dr. King's son. Several months later, however,
Garrison contradicted that explanation. In October 1998, the
Memphis Commercial Appeal quoted Garrison as saying
that Jowers' defense to the King family's wrongful death suit
was "that he was involved but that he did not know it was Dr.
While Jowers did not testify in King v. Jowers,
Garrison presented Jowers' current position in his opening and
closing statements. Garrison, making alternative arguments,
claimed both that Jowers did not know Dr. King was a target and
that even if he did, he was merely "a small-time greasy-spoon
cafe operator who played a very insignificant part in this case,
e. The alleged additional co-conspirator
Jowers has consistently claimed that in addition to Liberto
and the assassin, another person was involved in the plot.
Jowers, however, has been inconsistent as to both the
co-conspirator's identity and role.
In his initial statement about the alleged conspiracy to
producer Jack Saltman, Jowers used both the names "Hardin" and
"Royal" to refer to the alleged co-conspirator. Jowers did not
actually articulate the name Raoul until he spoke with Dexter
King years later. Even then, however, when King asked Jowers
about Raoul, Jowers replied, "[t]hat's what they said his
name was. I don't believe that's his name * * * Why would a man
use his own name when he is involved in something like
[this]?"(emphasis added). Garrison then interjected that his
client had misheard the man's name to be "Royal," and Jowers
agreed. A month later, when a polygrapher asked Jowers the same
question about Raoul during his reappearance on Prime Time
Live, he similarly responded, "I don't know, his name was
Jowers also repeatedly changed his account of what the
alleged co-conspirator did. In his initial story to Saltman,
"Hardin" or "Royal" had nothing to do with the rifle once he
delivered it to Jim's Grill. Rather, according to Jowers, the
alleged assassin -- the "Man on South Main Street" -- retrieved
the rifle prior to the assassination, used it to shoot Dr. King,
and immediately gave it back to Jowers to conceal.
Once the media discredited Jowers' story about the "Man on
South Main Street," Jowers modified the alleged additional
co-conspirator's responsibilities. In a conversation with Dr.
Pepper in March 1995, Garrison said that Raoul not only
delivered the gun to Jim's Grill, but also picked it up two
hours before the assassination and returned the next day to take
it away. Subsequently, Jowers slightly altered the account,
telling Dexter King that he only assumed Raoul picked up the gun
prior to the assassination, but did not actually see him do so.
Jowers also expanded the other co-conspirator's role with
respect to the money. In his first Prime Time Live
appearance and in his prior discussion with Saltman, Jowers
claimed that he gave part of the money to the "Man on South Main
Street" -- not to Raoul -- and kept the remainder for himself.
In 1998, however, after discarding his claim about hiring a hit
man, Jowers told Dexter King that Raoul picked up the money
after the assassination and "walked on out the front door."
f. The alleged role of Memphis police officers
Jowers has given different accounts of the alleged
involvement of Memphis police officers in the plot to
assassinate Dr. King. In his 1993 interview with Saltman, Jowers
reported that "Hardin" or "Royal" explained that an African
American "Undercover Officer" would "coordinate things" with the
police. A few months later on Prime Time Live, Jowers
added that Liberto "[s]aid they [the police] wouldn't be there
that night." Again in 1995, when speaking to Pepper through
Garrison, Jowers maintained that the police "would be nowhere in
In 1997, Jowers expanded his allegations regarding the role
of the Memphis police. In April 1997, Garrison, who claimed to
have recently spoken to Jowers, told author Gerald Posner that
several police officers met in Jim's Grill to plot the
assassination. According to Garrison, Jowers did not name all
the officers who participated, but did identify a specific
"Undercover Officer," who had been near Dr. King at the time of
the shooting. He also named a "Homicide Inspector" and a "TACT
Inspector," who led the tactical (TACT) patrol units established
because of the sanitation workers' strike.
In October 1997 and March 1998, when meeting with Dexter
King, Jowers altered and further expanded Garrison's account.
First, Jowers named different officers than those identified by
Garrison as the participants in the meeting at Jim's Grill.
Specifically, Jowers related that an officer, who had been his
"Former Partner" when he was a policeman, was also involved in
the meeting, but he did not name the "TACT Inspector," whom
Garrison had identified as a participant.(17)
More significantly, Jowers claimed not only that the officers
plotted the crime in his tavern, but that one was actually the
assassin. He asserted that a now deceased, high-ranking
"Lieutenant" both participated in the meeting and later shot Dr.
Section IV.C.2.a. above. In his conversation with Gerald
Posner, Garrison had not mentioned the "Lieutenant" at all.
Subsequently, Jowers abandoned his claims about the police
altogether. When he spoke to the polygrapher with ABC in
preparation for his April 1998 Prime Time Live
appearance, he did not mention the meeting at Jim's Grill or the
"Lieutenant." As previously discussed, he contended that he did
not recognize the man who threw him the rifle. In response to a
question about the police's involvement, he also said that he
was not "absolutely sure" whether they played any role
3. Summary of Jowers' Statements
Jowers has never adopted his conspiracy allegations while
under oath. Rather, on the one occasion where he was
sworn to tell the truth, in his deposition in Ray v.
Jowers, he retreated to his 1968 account of what occurred.
He has also stated that his conspiracy claims are false during
private conversations with both an investigator with the Shelby
County District Attorney General's office and a close relative.
Moreover, when Jowers has confessed to the media and private
parties, he has been dramatically inconsistent on virtually
every aspect of the alleged conspiracy. His attorney has also
given contradictory versions of the story and admitted that
Jowers once failed to tell the truth. Thus, on their face,
Jowers' allegations about a plot to kill Dr. King appear to be
unworthy of belief.
D. Analysis Of The Evidence
Apart from analyzing the content of Jowers' statements, the
investigative team considered whether there is any evidence to
corroborate Jowers' claim that he and his purported
co-conspirators carried out a plot to assassinate Dr. King. To
make our assessment, we set aside the numerous contradictions in
Jowers' conspiracy claims and examined the central, factual
questions that Jowers has raised: (1) whether Jowers received a
rifle behind Jim's Grill from the assassin; (2) whether Jowers
concealed the rifle after the shooting; (3) whether Liberto gave
Jowers money to conceal in Jim's Grill; and (4) whether Memphis
police officers were involved in the plot.(18)
Focusing on these four areas, we interviewed every available
civilian witness and law enforcement official known to have been
at Jim's Grill, the Lorraine Motel, or the general area of the
shooting on the night of the assassination, as well as other
individuals who might have information pertinent to Jowers'
claims. We also inspected the crime scene and reviewed tens of
thousands of pages of documentary evidence, including numerous
witness statements, transcripts of testimony in King v.
Jowers, photographs, and reports.
1. The Murder
a. Jowers' alleged receipt of the assassin's rifle
According to Jowers, a co-conspirator instructed him to be at
the backdoor of Jim's Grill at 6:00 p.m. on the evening of the
Jowers claims that while standing at the door, he heard a shot,
and then, depending on the statement, either retrieved the rifle
from the ground or caught it when the assassin threw it to him.
(1) Implausibility of Jowers' knowing the time of the
On April 4, 1968, Dr. King and his associates were scheduled
to have dinner at the home of Reverend Samuel Kyles, a Memphis
minister. Reverend Kyles told our investigation that he expected
everyone around 6:00 p.m. but invited his guests
for 5:00 p.m., because Dr. King always ran late.
Consistent with Reverend Kyles' account, several of Dr. King's
associates confirmed that at close to 6:00 p.m. they began
assembling in the parking lot of the Lorraine. Dr. King, who was
also preparing to leave, exited
his second floor room onto the balcony with Reverend
Kyles and made casual conversation with his associates below.
Dr. King was then shot.
Jowers' allegation that a co-conspirator instructed him to be
at the back of Jim's Grill at 6:00 p.m. presumes, first, that
the co-conspirator knew that the assassination was to occur
precisely at 6:00 p.m. and, second, that someone in Dr. King's
party was part of the conspiracy and arranged for Dr. King to be
on the balcony at that time. Both presumptions are implausible.
Unless someone from Dr. King's group knew and advised the
alleged conspirators in advance that Dr. King would leave for
his scheduled 5:00 p.m. dinner exactly an hour late, a
co-conspirator would not have known to instruct Jowers to be at
the rear of Jim's Grill at the precise time of the shooting.
The presumption that a co-conspirator received information
from someone in Dr. King's party is also completely
unsubstantiated. While there have been accusations over the
years, and during the King v. Jowers trial, that
associates of Dr. King were implicated in a plot to kill him, we
are aware of no reliable evidence to support such speculation.(20)
Indeed, our investigation discovered nothing to suggest that Dr.
King's 6:00 p.m. presence on the balcony was anything but
coincidental or that Jowers or anyone else anticipated his being
there precisely at that time. Accordingly, Jowers' claim that he
was directed by a co-conspirator to be at the rear door of Jim's
Grill at 6:00 p.m. is not credible.
(2) Absence of corroborating evidence
Jowers contends that he received the murder weapon from the
assassin immediately after the shooting. In most of his
conspiracy claims, he has maintained that the assassin gave or
threw him the rifle in the area of the backdoor of Jim's Grill.
According to Dr. Pepper, however, Jowers also twice stated --
once through Garrison and once himself -- that he went to the
brush area of the backyard and retrieved the rifle from the
No physical evidence exists to support Jowers' inconsistent
claims. As discussed in more detail in
Section IV.D.1.b.(1) below, within minutes of the
assassination, the police searched for footprints in the
backyard of Jim's Grill. Although they left their own footprints
because the ground was wet from the previous night's heavy
rainstorm, they did not find any prints consistent with Jowers'
story. In fact, while they located one pair of footprints
pointing away from the Lorraine in an alley adjacent to the
grill, they found none by the backdoor. The absence of such
physical evidence undermines Jowers' claim that he was behind
Jim's Grill at the time of the shooting.
Eyewitness evidence also fails to support Jowers' claim that
he was behind Jim's Grill at the time of the assassination.
While the balcony of the Lorraine offered an excellent view of
the grill's backyard, including its backdoor, three persons with
that vantage point reported seeing nothing to support Jowers'
claim. Reverend Samuel Kyles, whom we interviewed, was a few
feet away from Dr. King when the shot was fired. According to
her 1968 interviews with law enforcement investigators, Ceolar
Shavers, a maid at the Lorraine whom we were unable to locate,
was also on the balcony. Additionally, Joseph Louw, a South
African news producer, whom we also interviewed, emerged onto
the balcony from his second floor room seconds after the
shooting. All three looked into the backyard -- Kyles and
Shavers immediately after hearing the shot and Louw after he
went to the doorway of his room. None reported seeing anyone or
anything unusual in the backyard area.
Witnesses on the ground level of the Lorraine could not see
the backdoor of Jim's Grill because of the elevated backyard.
However, right after the shot, Ambassador Andrew Young and other
members of Dr. King's party rushed up the stairs from the
parking lot to the balcony to assist Dr. King. Like Shavers,
Louw, and Kyles, none of these additional witnesses who looked
from the balcony reported seeing anyone or anything unusual
behind Jim's Grill.
(3) The alleged corroborating witness
We found no corroboration for Jowers' allegation that he
brought a rifle through the backdoor of the tavern immediately
after the shooting, except a single witness -- Betty Spates. At
the time of the assassination, Spates was 17 years old, Jowers'
girlfriend, and a part-time waitress at Jim's Grill. In 1993,
Garrison represented both Jowers and Spates, and, at least until
that time, his two clients maintained regular contact.
In an affidavit dated March 8, 1994, prepared by Dr. Pepper,
Spates claimed that at just after 6:00 p.m., while in the
kitchen of Jim's Grill, she saw Jowers come through the backdoor
holding a rifle with a scope. She said that Jowers carried the
rifle by his side into the public area of the tavern and hid it
under the counter. According to the affidavit, this was the
second rifle Jowers had in Jim's Grill that day. The first
rifle, which Spates said she saw around noon, was longer,
lighter in color, and had no scope.
(a) Contradictory statements
Spates gave a sworn statement to District Attorney General
investigators a little over a month before executing the March
1994 affidavit and testified under oath in a deposition several
months thereafter. In each of these sworn statements, she
contradicted precisely the points in her affidavit that
allegedly support Jowers' claims about the conspiracy.
In her January 1994 sworn statement to the District Attorney
General's office, Spates unequivocally denied both that she was
at the grill around 6:00 p.m. and that she saw Jowers with a
rifle at that time. Additionally, instead of claiming that she
twice saw Jowers with different rifles, she said he had only one
and that was at noon.(21)
In her other sworn statement, a deposition given under oath
in November 1994 in Ray v. Jowers, Spates again
contradicted her affidavit and gave still another version of
events. When asked whether she was at the grill at 6:00 p.m. on
the day of the assassination, she initially testified that she
did not know. Later, when reminded of what she had alleged in
her affidavit, she stated, "I just don't remember these times."
She similarly equivocated about whether she saw Jowers with a
rifle at any time on the day of the assassination. Thus, after
having earlier denied and then admitted under oath details
crucial to Jowers' allegations, Spates suddenly did not know or
could not remember what had occurred.
Spates also conceded that she had no information linking
Jowers to the assassination during a tape-recorded conversation
with her sister, Bobbie Balfour, just over a month before she
signed the affidavit. In that conversation, which unbeknownst to
Spates was lawfully tape-recorded by District Attorney General
investigators, she said that she was not at the grill at 6:00
p.m. on the day Dr. King was killed. When speaking about Jowers
and the assassination, Spates added, "[p]eople think we know
something we don't."
Spates did not testify in the trial of King v.
Jowers. Nor did she speak with our investigation. See
Section IV.D.1.a.(3)(c) below. Thus, her statements,
including those under oath, remain contradictory.
(b) Evidence refuting the account
There is no independent evidence to support Spates'
intermittent claim that she was at Jim's Grill at 6:00 p.m. on
the day of the assassination. In fact, evidence establishes
Within minutes of the shooting, a deputy sheriff entered
Jim's Grill and instructed Jowers to lock the door. Thereafter,
police investigators compiled a list of every witness inside.
Spates' name does not appear on that list.(22)
Moreover, no witness places Spates in the grill at the time
of the assassination. In fact, none of the patrons we
interviewed remembered seeing Spates. Jowers, too, has claimed
that Spates was not at the tavern. In his deposition in Ray
v. Jowers, he testified under oath that Spates did not
work on the day of the assassination. Similarly, in several of
his accounts, he denied that Spates was in the grill.(23)
Jowers' representations are particularly significant, because
they refute the only corroboration for the unsubstantiated story
he has sought to promote.
While none of the key points in Spates' March 1994 affidavit
are corroborated, at least one is implausible on its face.
Spates claimed that Jowers, without taking any precautions,
carried the rifle, uncovered and at his side, from the kitchen
through the bar area of Jim's Grill and hid it under the
counter. It is doubtful that Jowers, allegedly attempting to
hide the murder weapon, would have taken it from a private
kitchen into a crowded, public area. It is equally implausible
that he would have carried the rifle into a room full of
witnesses without concealing it and without anyone seeing it.
(c) Other indicia of unreliability
Spates' contradictory claims about the King assassination are
not new. Thirty years ago, she reportedly accused her boss
(presumably Jowers) of involvement in the assassination. Days
later, when investigators from the Shelby County District
Attorney General's office confronted her with the accusation,
she claimed she never made it.
In early 1969, prior to Ray's guilty plea, two bail bondsmen
advised law enforcement officials that Spates claimed that her
"boss man," who had been Jowers, shot Dr. King and that Ray was
innocent. According to them, Spates made the comment while
arranging to get her brother out of jail. The bondsmen's
purported tape recording of the telephone conversation with
Spates cannot be located.
Investigators from the District Attorney General's office,
including Clyde Venson, questioned Spates about the bondsmen's
report shortly after they received it. According to Venson, whom
we interviewed, Spates denied both making the statement and
having any knowledge about the assassination. Venson's
recollection is confirmed by a transcript of Spates' interview,
dated February 12, 1969.
Spates' conduct in 1994 duplicated what she appears to have
done in 1969. At both times, she made a critical allegation
about the assassination but, when confronted by law enforcement
officials, denied ever making the allegation and refuted its
Spates' reliability is further undermined by the fact that
she has not been forthright with our investigation. By
telephone, Spates agreed to a meeting at her home in Memphis in
April 1999. When members of our team arrived, however, Spates
denied her identity and said "Betty Spates" was not at home but
would be back later. When members of our team returned after an
hour, Spates again stated that "Betty Spates" was not at home
and misrepresented her identity, claiming her name was "Sharon."
Subsequently, we sent a letter to Spates, memorializing what
had occurred, reiterating our purpose, and inviting her to call
if she changed her mind about speaking with us. Someone signed
for the letter with a name Spates also uses, "Betty Eldridge."
Spates never contacted us, so we were never able to question her
about her inconsistent statements.
In sum, Spates has been untruthful under oath, related
information that is both contradicted by reliable evidence and
implausible, made and then denied accusations about Jowers'
involvement in the assassination, and has not been forthright
with our investigation. Consequently, her isolated,
self-contradicted account that she saw Jowers with a rifle after
the shooting is not credible.
b. The alleged shooting of Dr. King from behind Jim's
Although Jowers has made contradictory claims about the
identity of Dr. King's assassin, he has consistently alleged
that the assassin fired the fatal shot from behind Jim's Grill.
(1) Absence of footprints behind Jim's Grill
We found no physical evidence to corroborate Jowers'
allegation about the assassin's location when he shot Dr. King.
We did, however, find physical evidence contradicting it.
In 1968, the backdoor of Jim's Grill opened onto a backyard
area bordered on the left by the wall of an adjoining building
and on the right by a five-foot high chain-link fence enclosing
an adjacent parking area. The backyard sloped up from the door
to its center point and then fell off toward the top of an
approximately eight-foot high retaining wall above Mulberry
Street. Brush grew along the top of the retaining wall. Across
Mulberry Street was the Lorraine Motel. The rear of Fire Station
No. 2 was on the corner of Mulberry Street, next to the parking
area. A narrow, open pathway between the parking area and the
fire station permitted passage to the top of the retaining wall
behind the station. See
Attachment 2, diagram of the area surrounding the Lorraine
Attachment 3, aerial photograph of the area surrounding the
On the night of April 3, 1968, Memphis had a severe rain
storm. The next evening, at the time of the assassination, the
ground behind Jim's Grill was still muddy. Within minutes of the
shooting, Patrolman Torrence Landers, now deceased, climbed the
retaining wall on Mulberry Street and searched the area for
evidence and footprints. He specifically looked in the backyard
behind the grill and in the brush along the retaining wall.
Afterward, he reported the results of his investigation to the
Memphis Police Department and the FBI. According to those
reports, Landers found no footprints in either the backyard or
the brush area between the parking area fence and the retaining
wall. He also explained, "[t]he ground was wet, and if anyone
had been walking in this lot, they would have left footprints,
because we left footprints when we checked it." Landers' report
was corroborated by J.B. Hodges, another deputy who joined the
search for evidence in the backyards. Hodges told us that the
ground was soggy.
Investigative reports show that Landers found only two,
isolated footprints in the entire area he searched. Confirming
these reports, J.B. Hodges told us and testified in King
v. Jowers that the only two footprints discovered were
located near a cellar door in an alleyway around the corner of
the building from the backdoor of Jim's Grill.
These footprints were not located in either the backyard or the
brush area, and they were pointing away from the Lorraine. The
police photographed the prints and cast them in plaster. See
Attachment 3, aerial photograph of the area surrounding the
Lorraine Motel, for location of footprints.
If Jowers' story were true and the assassin had fired the
fatal shot from behind Jim's Grill, the escaping assassin would
have left a trail of footprints in the muddy backyard, not just
a set of two footprints around the corner in an alleyway. The
trail would have led from the spot where the assassin stood when
he fired the fatal shot, to the backdoor of the grill where he
met Jowers, and then away from the door along his escape route.
The complete absence of any such trail undermines Jowers' claim
that an assassin shot Dr. King from behind Jim's Grill.
(2) Absence of corroborating eyewitness evidence
As with the physical evidence found at the scene, eyewitness
reports do not support Jowers' claim that the assassin fired
from behind Jim's Grill. None of the witnesses located at the
Lorraine, or anywhere else nearby, claim to have seen a shooter,
a rifle, or Jowers anywhere behind Jim's Grill. Likewise, as
discussed previously, witnesses on the balcony with the best
vantage point of the area behind the South Main Street buildings
-- Joseph Louw, Ceolar Shavers, Reverend Kyles, and those who
immediately went to Dr. King -- all reported seeing no one and
nothing unusual behind Jim's Grill.
(a) Eyewitness observations of activity in the brush
Two eyewitnesses -- Solomon Jones and Earl Caldwell -- have
reported that after they heard the shot, they saw a person in
the brush above the retaining wall in the general area behind
We have concluded that neither account actually supports Jowers'
allegation that the assassin was in that area.
Jones, Dr. King's now deceased driver, was in the parking lot
of the Lorraine at the time of the shooting. He told the police
on the night of the assassination that "[a]fter the shot, and
Dr. King fell, instead of me going up where Dr. King was, I ran
to the street to see if I could see somebody and I could see
somebody, I could see a person leaving the thicket on the west
side of Mulberry with his back to me, looked to me like he had a
hood over his head and that's all that I could see." Jones did
not explain precisely when he made this observation.
During the HSCA's investigation of the assassination in 1978,
Jones testified under oath. At the outset, he provided a time
frame for his observation, asserting that he did not see what he
reported until "minutes" after the shot was fired, "almost" at
the same time as the police arrived. He explained that he looked
across Mulberry Street only after he was pulled to the
ground by Andrew Young, saw blood running off the balcony, got
up, saw Young point across the street, and noticed Young racing
up to the balcony to assist Dr. King. According to Jones,
by the time he looked toward the bushes, the police had
"almost" arrived at the motel.
Jones' sworn testimony regarding the sequence of events is
confirmed by others. Eyewitnesses we interviewed reported that
when the shot rang out, several persons in the parking lot
instantly hit the ground and remained there, taking cover until
they felt it was safe to stand. Since Jones, according to his
own testimony, was one of the individuals who went to the
ground, there was a delay before he made his observations.
Jones' HSCA testimony not only clarified when he made his
observations but also what he had seen. Retracting part of his
original claim, Jones specifically testified that he was
never certain -- even on the night of the assassination --
that he had actually seen a person in the brush. Jones explained
that he could not see a head or arms -- "I don't know whether it
was a person or what it was, but it was something white. * * *
That's all I saw." Jones further testified that even immediately
after his observation, he was unable to say exactly where in the
brush across Mulberry Street he had seen something. He stated he
could not ascertain its location "either laterally or
Both our original interviews of eyewitnesses and our review
of numerous photographs and police reports confirm that even if
Jones had seen a person in the brush, "almost" at the same time
the police arrived at the Lorraine, it most likely would have
been a police officer reacting to the shooting. Indeed, in his
statement to the FBI shortly after the assassination, Jones
himself acknowledged the possibility that he saw a policeman.
At the moment Dr. King was shot, there was one officer
conducting surveillance of the Lorraine from the rear of the
fire station, three curious firemen watching with him out a rear
window, and a number of tactical (TACT) unit officers on break
from patrol located throughout the station. When Dr. King was
struck by the bullet, a cry went out from one or more of the men
watching the Lorraine that Dr. King had been shot. Without
hesitation, the TACT unit officers, whom we interviewed, ran
from the station towards the motel. They rushed down the short
path between the station and the parking lot and quickly arrived
at the guard rail atop the retaining wall. From the vantage
point of the motel, the officers would have been visible through
the brush above the retaining wall after they exited the
Photographs taken within moments of the assassination confirm
that law enforcement officials were visible in the immediate
area of the brush across Mulberry Street very soon after the
shooting. As discussed previously, Joseph Louw, the news
producer staying in a second floor room at the Lorraine, told
our investigation that he went to his doorway on the balcony
when he heard the shot. He saw Dr. King falling and immediately
grabbed his cameras from the dresser and began taking pictures.
Two pictures taken through his window even before he exited his
room show law enforcement officials in mid-air dropping from the
retaining wall and crossing Mulberry Street. See
Attachments 4a and
Furthermore, as part of our investigation, one middle-aged
member of our team was timed running from the center of the fire
station to the top of the retaining wall above Mulberry Street.
It took him only 16 seconds.
Ultimately, even after factoring in reaction time,
eyewitness, photographic and re-enactment evidence show that
certainly within a minute -- and possibly within seconds -- of
the shooting, law enforcement officers would have been on the
retaining wall between the fire station and the parking area.
Accordingly, even if Jones saw something across Mulberry Street
-- at "almost" the same time the police arrived at the Lorraine
-- it was most probably a law enforcement officer.
In the end, Jones' report amounts to nothing more than an
assumption about seeing a figure in some inexact location a
short while, rather than immediately, after the shooting. Thus,
his account does not support Jowers' claim that the assassin
fired the fatal shot from behind Jim's Grill.
Like Jones, we believe Earl Caldwell, then a New York
Times reporter, is mistaken about what he currently recalls
seeing over 30 years ago. His published writings at the time of
the assassination, along with his conversation with our
investigation, suggest that he understandably misrecollects
observing someone in the brush after the shooting.
Caldwell first publicly claimed to have seen a figure in the
brush in the early 1990s when he appeared in a BBC documentary
and testified at the HBO mock trial. Consistent with what he
said then, he told our investigation that when Dr. King was
shot, he was in his ground floor room at the far end of the
Lorraine directly across from the fire station. Immediately
after hearing what he thought to be a bomb, he went to the door.
He looked to his far right in the parking area and saw some of
Dr. King's associates excitedly going to the ground and getting
up again. He claims he then looked across the street and saw
someone, without a gun, crouching in the brush in front of the
parking area adjacent to the fire station.
During our interview, Caldwell candidly advised that his best
recollection of what he saw the night of the assassination was
recorded in the contemporaneous account he gave to a New
York Times in-house publication called Times Talk.
He encouraged us to read the article, since he had not read it
since its publication.
The Times Talk article is a first-person,
second-by-second account of Caldwell's observations at the
Lorraine. In the piece, Caldwell describes precisely what he
said, thought, and did from the time he heard the shot until the
police arrived at the motel. In fact, he so exactly details each
of his observations and activities that, at one point, he even
describes how he "slipped on [his] shoes without * * * lacing
them" when he ran back to his room and grabbed his paper, pen,
Significantly, the article does not mention his seeing
someone in the bushes. Indeed, it never even mentions Caldwell's
looking across Mulberry Street or noticing anything in any part
of the brush. Given the fact that the article was written no
more than a few weeks after the assassination and is, as
Caldwell himself acknowledged, the best record of his
observations, it suggests that he is now mistaken about having
seen someone in the bushes.
Like the Times Talk article, Caldwell's other
published writings around the time of the assassination also
fail to mention his alleged observation in the bushes. For
example, in Caldwell's lead article in the April 5, 1968 edition
of the New York Times, he relates Solomon Jones' early
account of a figure in the bushes and mentions "a newsman's" (i.e.,
his own) observations at the scene but omits any reference to
the "newsman's" seeing a figure in the bushes.(25)
Caldwell's current recollection may also reflect his
misperceptions of a horrific, confusing event. In the Times
Talk article, his testimony at the mock trial, and his
interview with our investigation, he recalled Solomon Jones'
driving Dr. King's car back and forth in front of his room
immediately after he saw the figure in the brush. In fact, he
related that Jones' erratic driving distracted him from watching
No other eyewitness, however, recalls seeing Jones in the car
until after the departure of Dr. King's ambulance,
approximately ten minutes following the shooting. Jones himself
advised that he did not get into the car until after he had gone
up onto the balcony and had accompanied Dr. King to the
ambulance. Radio dispatch records also confirm that the
ambulance arrived at the Lorraine approximately ten minutes
after the report of the shooting. Caldwell thus appears to be
mistaken about when Jones drove the car. Moreover, since he
directly ties the timing of that event to his observation across
the street, he is confused about either what he saw or when he
saw it or both.
Even assuming Caldwell did see someone in the brush across
the street when Jones was driving the car, his observations had
to be a full ten minutes after the shooting. By that time,
numerous law enforcement personnel were in and around the area
between the fire station and the rear of Jim's Grill. If, on the
other hand, Caldwell observed the figure soon after the shooting
-- which is doubtful for the reasons previously discussed -- it
is still likely that what he saw was one of the law enforcement
officers from the fire station. After all, within a minute after
the shot, a number of those officers were on the retaining wall
immediately next to the brush where Caldwell claims to have seen
Caldwell's testimony in the mock trial was not, of course,
under oath, and he did not testify in the King v.
Jowers lawsuit. For the reasons discussed, his account
appears to be a mistaken recollection, understandable after the
passage of 30 years.
In sum, Jones' and Caldwell's accounts fail to confirm
Jowers' claim that an assassin shot Dr. King from the area
behind Jim's Grill. Their alleged observations are further
undermined by the complete absence of probative footprints in
the brush area, see
Section IV.D.1.b.(1) above, and an abundance of
circumstantial evidence indicating that Dr. King was shot from
the second floor window of the rooming house bathroom, rather
than the backyard of Jim's Grill, see
Section IV.D.1.b.(3) below.
(b) Accounts of a man fleeing after the shooting
According to TV producer Saltman, Jowers told him in 1993
that after the assassin handed him the rifle in the backyard, he
ran toward the fire station. Jowers added that he thought the
assassin went over the fence, which was between
the backyard and the parking lot adjacent to the fire station.
While Jowers has never related anything else about the
assassin's escape route, others have claimed that he went in
Over the years, there have been unsubstantiated, hearsay
reports that witnesses observed a man, possibly the assassin,
jump from the retaining wall onto Mulberry Street after the
shooting. Notwithstanding the fact that a leap down to Mulberry
Street in front of dozens of witnesses presents a totally
implausible escape scenario, these reports are completely
unsubstantiated. Indeed, they have never been confirmed by any
of the numerous eyewitnesses at the Lorraine.
The first of these reports came from Wayne Chastain, a former
news reporter who later became James Earl Ray's attorney.
Chastain, now deceased, claimed that Solomon Jones, Dr. King's
deceased driver, told him that someone jumped down onto Mulberry
Street and mingled with the police. Chastain's account is
inconsistent with all of Jones' recorded statements, including
those to law enforcement officials in 1968, defense
investigators in 1969, and the HSCA in 1978. See
Section IV.D.1.b.(2).(a) above.
Another hearsay report came from Louie Ward, a cab driver who
once worked with Jowers. After the HBO mock trial, Ward revealed
for the first time that a fellow Yellow Cab driver told him that
on the day of the assassination he picked up a fare at the
Lorraine, watched as Dr. King was shot, and saw the shooter jump
from the retaining wall and get into a police car. Ward further
alleged that other unnamed cab drivers told him that the cab
driver who had supposedly witnessed the assassination was later
mysteriously thrown from a car and killed.
In his initial story to Dr. Pepper, Ward claimed that he only
knew the first name of the cab driver, "Paul." Subsequently,
when we spoke to Ward, he changed the cab driver's name from
"Paul" to "Buddy." Later, in his testimony during King v.
Jowers, Ward recalled the cab driver's name was Paul
Butler. We determined that a Paul Butler did work for Yellow cab
but died on August 2, 1967 -- eight months before the
Additionally, none of the many civilian witnesses at the
Lorraine at the time of the assassination or police witnesses
who arrived immediately thereafter reported seeing a taxi cab
picking up a passenger from the motel on Mulberry Street, as
claimed by Ward. Nor is there a taxi cab pictured in any of the
many photographs taken of the area around the Lorraine
immediately after the assassination.
There have also been hearsay reports that a young boy and
Harold "Cornbread" Carter saw a man jump from the retaining wall
onto Mulberry Street. The young boy, however, has never been
identified, and Carter refused to confirm the report. In fact,
in 1968, Carter told the police that he was in his room on the
second floor of the rooming house at the time of the shooting.
The next year, he told defense investigators that reports that
he had seen something related to the assassination were untrue.
More recently, Olivia Catling testified in King v.
Jowers that, while standing on the corner of Mulberry Street
and Huling Avenue minutes after the assassination, she saw a man
whom she believed to be escaping on Huling. See
Attachment 2, diagram of area surrounding the Lorraine
Motel. Catling, who lived a block from the Lorraine, testified
that she heard a gunshot while in her kitchen and ran to the
corner of Huling and Mulberry where she stopped because of
police arriving at the intersection. She observed a man walk out
of a driveway onto Huling, get in a green Chevrolet, and speed
away in front of the police who were blocking the intersection.
Catling also testified that she heard a fireman on Mulberry
Street yell to the police that the shot came from the bushes
behind Jim's Grill.
When we spoke to Catling, she told us that after 25 years of
silence, she first attempted to tell her story to Dr. Pepper at
the time of the HBO mock trial in 1993. During our interview,
she contradicted her testimony, insisting that she observed the
man on Huling Avenue before the police arrived at the
intersection, not after they set up the road block. She also
advised us that her then 11-year-old daughter, Cheryl Morgan,
and a neighbor's 12-year-old girl, Rosetta Allen, were with her
when she made her observations.
We interviewed the policemen we could locate who blocked the
intersections of Huling and Mulberry, and Huling and South Main,
and the firemen from Fire Station No. 2. The police witnesses
said that they believed they would recall having seen someone
speeding away from the crime scene past a police blockade, but
none recalled such an occurrence. Nor did any of the police or
firemen we interviewed recall hearing a fireman claim that the
shot came from the bushes.
Catling's daughter, Cheryl Morgan, told us that she was
outside her front door and noticed police activity around the
Lorraine but heard nothing before her mother came out of the
house and said that Dr. King had been shot. She understood that
her mother had heard the news on the radio or television. Morgan
further advised that she then went toward the Lorraine, but not
with her mother. She did not see a car speeding away from the
area. Rosetta Allen also told us that she did not go to Huling
and Mulberry with Catling. Rather, she recalls that she never
left her own yard.
Catling's account also suggests an implausible escape route
for the assassin. The driveway off Huling Avenue is surrounded
by buildings fronting on Huling. The roofs of those buildings
connect to the roof above the building which housed Jim's Grill
and the rooming house. If a man had climbed onto the roof from
the backyard of Jim's Grill, he would have been prominently
visible to anyone watching from the Lorraine. Further, he would
have had to have dropped 30 feet from the roof to the Huling
Catling's belated account of a man speeding away on Huling
Avenue is uncorroborated, inconsistent, and contradicted by
several witnesses. Moreover, the driveway on Huling is not only
an unlikely escape route for an assassin in the backyard, but
also it is in the opposite direction from the escape route
toward the fire station, which Jowers claims the assassin took.
Assuming Catling did see someone on Huling, we found nothing to
show that her observation had anything to do with the
assassination or otherwise supported Jowers' allegation that the
assassin fired from the backyard of Jim's Grill.
Similarly, all of the inherently suspect hearsay reports of
the assassin's escape onto Mulberry Street remain
unsubstantiated. In addition, they are contradicted by the
absence of probative footprints in the area behind Jim's Grill (see
Section IV.D.1.b.(1) above), as well as significant evidence
establishing that Dr. King was shot from the second floor
bathroom window of the rooming house (see
Section IV.D.1.b.(3) below). Accordingly, as with the
accounts considered in the last section, various allegations
about someone escaping after the assassination provide no
corroboration for Jowers' claim that the assassin shot Dr. King
from the backyard.(26)
(3) Evidence that the assassin fired from the rooming
house p> There is convincing evidence that the assassin
fired from the second floor bathroom window of the rooming house
above Jim's Grill -- not the area behind the tavern, as Jowers
claims. This evidence was presented when James Earl Ray pled
guilty in 1969, and he stipulated to the accuracy of much of it.
The evidence shows that Ray rented a room in the rooming
house between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. on the afternoon of the
assassination. According to rooming house manager Bessie Brewer,
now deceased, Ray rejected the first room he was shown, which
did not provide a view of the Lorraine. Instead, he accepted the
second, Room 5B, which did overlook the motel and was also down
the hall from a communal bathroom that offered an even better
view of the motel.
After the shooting, the police searched the rooming house. In
front of the window in Room 5B, which provided a view of the
Lorraine balcony, the dresser had been pushed away and replaced
by a chair. In the bathroom, the screen from the window, which
provided an unobstructed view of Dr. King on the balcony 207
feet away, had been removed and was on the ground outside. There
were black scuff marks in the bathtub below the window.(27)
Eyewitness accounts provided by two residents of the rooming
house, Charles Stephens and William Anschutz, both deceased,
also confirm that the assassin fired from the bathroom window.
Anschutz, who was in a room next to Ray's, told the police
that twice during the late afternoon on the day of the
assassination, he was unable to use the bathroom because it was
occupied. He also reported that at the time Dr. King was
murdered, he heard a shot from the direction of the bathroom. He
then went to his door and saw someone who was carrying a bundle
walking away from the bathroom to the stairs leading to South
Stephens, who rented the room between 5B and the bathroom,
independently gave a similar account. He reported that he, too,
heard a shot that sounded like it came from the bathroom, looked
out his door, and saw a man carrying a bundle heading toward the
stairs leading to South Main Street. Although Stephens'
reliability has been vigorously challenged over the years, his
account is corroborated by Anschutz. We found nothing to refute
the information provided by Anschutz.
In addition, two witnesses in Canipe's, the music store
located two doors down from the rooming house stairs on South
Main Street, told the police that at approximately 6:00 p.m.,
they heard something drop outside the front door. The witnesses
-- Guy Canipe, the owner, and Bernell Finley, a customer (both
deceased) -- reported that upon hearing the noise, they
immediately looked up and saw a man walk past the door, coming
from the direction of the rooming house stairs. A second
customer in the store, Julius Graham, whom our investigation
could not locate, told the police that he actually saw the man
drop a bundle. Seconds later, Canipe walked outside and saw a
white car with only a driver pull away from the curb.(28)
Finley and Graham also saw a white Mustang speed past the store.
The bundle dropped outside of Canipe's contained a 30.06
rifle and scope with Ray's fingerprints and an empty cartridge
casing in its chamber, as well as other unfired cartridges and
personal items belonging to Ray. While the rifle has never been
conclusively matched to the bullet removed from Dr. King, it
also cannot be excluded as the murder weapon since its barrel
does not possess any consistently distinguishing markings and
bears the same general rifling characteristics as the markings
left on the bullet. General rifling characteristics are the
consistent features inside the barrel of all rifles of the same
Despite similarities between the rifle and the bullet removed
from Dr. King, Jowers has implied, and Ray's defenders have long
maintained, that the rifle was not the murder weapon, but was
rather planted to frame Ray. They thus suggest that the rifle
actually represents evidence that the assassin did not fire from
the second floor bathroom. There is, however, no reliable
forensic evidence in the historical record to support this
claim. All of the tests conducted on the rifle over the past 30
years have failed to exclude it as the murder weapon, and
additional testing is scientifically incapable of doing so.
The rifle has been examined and test-fired numerous times --
in 1968 by an FBI firearms examiner, in 1977 by five firearms
examiners retained by the HSCA, and in 1997 by three examiners
hired by Dr. Pepper in Ray v. Dutton. On each
occasion, the experts compared the test-fires with the bullet
extracted from Dr. King's body. As noted above, they each found
that the bullet and the test-fires share the same general
rifling characteristics. Ultimately, however, none of the
experts were able to determine conclusively whether the bullet
was or was not fired from the rifle. Such an inconclusive result
is not uncommon in the field of firearms identification,
particularly when testing of a high-powered rifle like a 30.06.
Contrary to the inconclusive findings of all the firearms
identification experts who have examined the rifle, Tennessee
state court and television personality Judge Joe Brown, who
presided over Ray v. Dutton in the 1990s, recently
testified in King v. Jowers that he did not
believe it was the murder weapon. His opinion, however, does not
alter the prior consistent findings of the FBI, the HSCA, and
Ray's experts. Judge Brown is not a professional firearms
examiner and never conducted scientific comparisons himself.
More significantly, his conclusions are based on several,
incontrovertible factual inaccuracies.
For instance, Judge Brown testified that the bullet recovered
from Dr. King did not come from the same batch as four similar
cartridges found in the bundle with the rifle since, according
to the FBI, the bullets from those four cartridges were
metallurgically identical to each other but different from the
bullet taken from Dr. King. This testimony, at the outset, is
based on the factually incorrect presumption that cartridges
boxed together always possess identical trace elements. Very
often they do not. More fundamentally, Judge Brown's testimony
is directly contradicted by the very FBI records on which he
claimed to rely. According to those records, the FBI found five
similar unfired cartridges in the bundle with the rifle -- not
four -- and, contrary to Judge Brown's assertions, none
of the bullets from those cartridges were metallurgically
consistent with each other. At the same time, the FBI found the
composition of the bullet from the fifth cartridge -- the one
Judge Brown overlooked -- to be consistent with the composition
of the bullet recovered from Dr. King's body.
Judge Brown also opined that the assassin would have missed
Dr. King with the rifle found in front of Canipe's, because the
scope attached to the rifle was not "sighted in" and, when
tested by the FBI, was four feet off horizontally and two feet
low. In fact, the FBI determined that the sight, on average, was
only an insignificant three inches off to the right and less
than an inch low when test-fired at 205 feet, the approximate
distance between the rooming house and the Lorraine's balcony.
Apart from his inaccurate testimony, Judge Brown suggested
that additional cleaning of the rifle barrel might produce a
conclusive comparison result. Ray's defense team took the same
position after their experts' initial series of tests proved
inconclusive. They requested permission to clean the barrel with
a brush and solvent, believing that that cleaning had never been
done. However, our review of the records of the HSCA panel
revealed that prior to its final round of test-fires, the panel
actually used the brush-and-solvent cleaning method. The test
results following that cleaning were again inconclusive.
Ultimately, Judge Brown's misinformed opinions and
suggestions do not undermine the consistently inconclusive
results reached by every firearms identification expert who has
ever tested the rifle. As a result, neither Judge Brown's
testimony nor any related physical evidence reliably supports
the claim, advanced by Jowers and others, that the assassin did
not fire from the second floor bathroom window. Instead,
scientific analysis, combined with all the other evidence
discussed above, suggests that the assassin shot Dr. King from
the bathroom, then raced down the stairs and dropped a bundle
containing the rifle used to murder Dr. King in front of
Canipe's store. Regardless of whether this evidence establishes
Ray's guilt, it clearly refutes Jowers' claim that the assassin
fired from behind Jim's Grill.
c. Jowers' alleged concealment of the murder weapon
Jowers claims that after receiving the rifle from the
assassin in the backyard of Jim's Grill, he disassembled it,
wrapped it in a tablecloth, carried it from the kitchen to the
public room of the tavern, and hid it under the bar counter.(29)
A day or two after the assassination, either he or Raoul,
depending on the statement, allegedly carried it out the front
door of Jim's Grill onto South Main Street.
None of the patrons in Jim's Grill reported seeing the rifle
or Jowers hiding it. Similarly, no one reported seeing someone
with a rifle on South Main Street any time after the
Jowers' accounts also seem illogical. At the time of the
assassination, nearly a dozen patrons were in the restaurant
area of Jim's Grill, where the bar counter was located. It is
improbable that Jowers would have attempted to hide the murder
weapon in a public place in front of numerous witnesses or could
have done so without being seen.
Equally improbable are Jowers' conflicting claims that within
a day or two of the assassination, either he or Raoul carried
the murder weapon out the front door of Jim's Grill. For several
days following the assassination, South Main Street, and
specifically the rooming house above Jim's Grill, was the focus
of police investigation, media attention, and bystanders'
curiosity. Thus, it would have been unnecessarily brazen and
risky for either Jowers or Raoul to have walked onto South Main
Street with the murder weapon.
Although no patron, police officer, or bystander saw Jowers
hide the rifle or saw Jowers or anyone else take it away from
Jim's Grill, Jowers' long-time friend, James McCraw, belatedly
claimed that he saw Jowers with a weapon. McCraw, who died in
1996, was a cab driver with Jowers and was represented by the
same attorney, Lewis Garrison. On several occasions beginning in
late 1992, McCraw stated that around noon on the day after the
assassination, Jowers showed him either a rifle or a rifle box,
which was stored under the counter of the bar in Jim's Grill.
According to McCraw, Jowers told him he had found the rifle the
Prior to 1992, McCraw gave several other accounts relating to
the assassination and never referred to Jowers or a rifle. These
omissions were not isolated. In fact, a review of McCraw's
narratives over the years demonstrates that he repeatedly and
dramatically expanded what he claimed to know about the
According to one of Ray's first lawyers, Arthur Hanes, Jr.,
McCraw's initial 1968 account was limited to his observations
about the sobriety of a key prosecution witness, Charlie
Stephens, who had identified Ray leaving the rooming house just
after the assassination. McCraw claimed that when he answered a
call for a cab at the rooming house shortly before the
assassination, Stephens was so intoxicated that he refused to
In a subsequent interview with defense investigators in
February 1969, McCraw enlarged his story to support a defense
theory that the true assassin actually escaped in a second white
Mustang. Adding to what he had originally said, McCraw claimed
that he saw two white Mustangs parked on South Main Street when
he was at the rooming house. See footnote 25 above.
Over 20 years later, in 1992, during preparations for the HBO
mock trial, McCraw made dramatic new claims. In a sworn
statement to Dr. Pepper and private investigator Kenneth Herman,
he not only divulged the new information about Jowers and the
rifle, but greatly expanded what he allegedly saw at the rooming
house. For the first time, he mentioned that when he came out of
the rooming house after refusing to transport Stephens, one of
the white Mustangs was gone. He further alleged that when he was
inside, he noticed that the bathroom on the second floor was
empty and the door was "wide open." Later, when he spoke to mock
trial producer Jack Saltman, he added that the bathroom was not
only empty, but that he went in and used the toilet. These
delayed disclosures were significant because Ray, for years, had
been trying to retract his guilty plea, which was premised on
his stipulation that he shot Dr. King from the bathroom window.
In 1995, after the mock trial, McCraw expanded his account
yet again. Supporting Jowers' subsequent allegation that the
"Lieutenant" shot Dr. King, McCraw testified in a June 1995
deposition that shortly before the assassination, he heard the
"Lieutenant" threaten that he would kill Dr. King "if it was the
last thing he ever done [sic]." He also testified that the
"Lieutenant" knew Jowers and was a regular at Jim's Grill.(31)
Section IV.D.2.b.(3) below for discussion of Jowers'
allegations regarding the "Lieutenant."
Another cab driver, William Hamblin, testified in King
v. Jowers that McCraw even claimed to have played an
active role in the alleged conspiracy. Hamblin said that McCraw
reported having a drink with Raoul and disposing of the actual
murder weapon by throwing it into the river at Jowers' request.
While the latter revelation by McCraw is, of course,
inconsistent with Jowers' conflicting claims that either he or
Raoul disposed of the rifle, it became the version of events
relied upon by the plaintiffs in the closing argument in King
McCraw's evolving recollection of events relating to the
assassination is inherently suspect. Indeed, with each new
statement came a significant, new claim that managed to support
Ray's defense and/or the belated allegations of his long-time
friend, Jowers. Accordingly, McCraw's revelation about Jowers
and the rifle -- made publicly for the first time nearly 25
years after the assassination and in conjunction with Jowers'
conspiracy claims -- should not be credited.
In his 1992 sworn statement, McCraw attempted to defend his
revelation about Jowers against the charge of recent
fabrication. He claimed that he had, in fact, previously
divulged the information to "investigators out of Washington,"
"judges," "magazines," "Memphis Police Department
investigators," "the FBI," and "Justice Department
investigators." We did not find any law enforcement records or
media publications to support McCraw's claim of prior
disclosure. It thus appears that in an effort to bolster his
false statements concerning Jowers, he gave additional false
information under oath.
Because the now deceased McCraw's various accounts are
untrustworthy, they fail to corroborate the claim that Jowers
concealed the rifle used to kill Dr. King. Moreover, because no
witnesses, other than McCraw and Spates, claim to have seen
Jowers with the rifle, and no physical evidence of the rifle has
ever been produced, there is no credible evidence that it ever
existed. The evidence instead supports Jowers' impromptu 1997
admission to District Attorney General investigator Glankler --
"there was no second rifle * * *."
2. The Alleged Conspiracy
a. Liberto's alleged involvement
Jowers claims that Frank Liberto, a Memphis produce dealer,
recruited him to participate in the plot to kill Dr. King.
According to Jowers, Liberto was in the Mafia. As part of the
alleged conspiracy, Liberto supposedly delivered $100,000 to
Jim's Grill. Jowers says he concealed the money in an old stove.
(1) Jowers and Liberto
Jowers' relationship with Liberto is unsubstantiated. No
witness confirms that the two men knew each other, were ever
together, or spoke to one another. Nor is there documentary or
physical evidence to show that they ever had contact. While
Jowers has claimed that he regularly bought produce from
Liberto, we are aware of nothing, such as a business record or
receipt, that corroborates his contention.
Moreover, Jowers' own accounts of his relationship with
Liberto have been equivocal and inconsistent. Under oath in his
deposition in Ray v. Jowers, he testified that he
knew Liberto, but denied having any "contact" with him around
the time of the assassination. In contrast, in his unsworn
statements claiming participation in a conspiracy, Jowers
alleges that he had conversations with Liberto immediately
before and after the murder.
(2) Alleged corroborating witnesses
The accusation that Liberto was involved in the assassination
of Dr. King did not originate with Jowers. Four days after the
assassination, a witness told the FBI that he had overheard a
suspicious telephone conversation that suggested Liberto may
have been involved in the shooting. Additionally, in the wake of
Jowers' 1993 Prime Time Live appearance, another
witness and his mother reported that in the late 1970s Liberto
admitted that he "had King killed."
(a) Liberto's alleged threat
On April 8, 1968, John McFerren, the owner of a small
gas-station store in Somerville, Tennessee, informed the FBI
that less than an hour before the assassination, he was in
Liberto's Memphis market, where he often went to buy produce.
According to McFerren, while shopping he overheard Liberto say
over the telephone, "Kill the S.O.B. on the balcony and get the
job done. You will get your $5,000." In a second telephone
conversation a short while later, McFerren claimed to have heard
Liberto say, "Don't come out here. Go to New Orleans and get
your money. You know my brother."
McFerren later told the FBI that the man depicted in a police
sketch of the purported assassin, which appeared in a newspaper
the day following the shooting, had worked in Liberto's market
in 1967. The sketch depicted James Earl Ray, who at that time
had been identified only by his alias, "Eric Galt." According to
McFerren, the man he knew was of Cuban, Mexican, or Indian
descent with coarse black hair and "jungle rot" on his neck.
Based on McFerren's claims, the FBI showed him an array of six
photographs, which included Ray's picture. McFerren excluded Ray
and instead tentatively identified three others, who did not
resemble Ray, as the man who had worked for Liberto. One of the
men was in prison and the other two were never known to have
been in Memphis.
Despite McFerren's misidentifications, both the Memphis
Police Department and the FBI investigated his report of the
telephone conversation. First, they interviewed Liberto and his
business partner, both now deceased. Liberto told detectives
that on the afternoon of April 4, 1968, he left work early and
was at home because of an injured finger. His partner
corroborated his alibi, as did his wife. Medical records further
established that Liberto had his finger lanced the day before
Dr. King was killed.
Both Liberto and his partner also denied being involved in an
assassination plot or participating in any telephone
conversations discussing shooting Dr. King. While they frankly
admitted making derogatory remarks about Dr. King's activities
in Memphis and Liberto even conceded the possibility of saying
in jest that someone ought to kill him, each explained that his
comments would not have been made over the telephone or on the
afternoon of the assassination. In any event, such comments have
no significance since they were, at the time, unfortunately
unremarkable among many whites, who continued to revile Dr.
Liberto also informed investigators that any comments about
money and New Orleans would have been inconsequential as he
often transacted business involving large sums of money by
telephone and made frequent business trips to New Orleans to
purchase produce and visit family. Following up on that
information, as well as McFerren's reference to overhearing
Liberto mention "[his] brother" and "New Orleans," FBI agents
interviewed Liberto's mother and three brothers in New Orleans.
They confirmed that Liberto did business in New Orleans and
visited regularly. They provided no information suggesting
Liberto's involvement in the assassination.
In the end, neither the FBI nor the Memphis police
corroborated any part of McFerren's report suggesting Liberto
had involvement in the assassination. Accordingly, McFerren's
allegation fell into the same category as literally hundreds of
other alleged threats on Dr. King's life, which, after
investigation, proved either unsubstantiated or idle.
A decade after the Memphis police and FBI investigation, the
HSCA conducted its own detailed inquiry into McFerren's
allegation. Liberto, then still alive, gave a sworn affidavit
denying involvement in the assassination and repeating that he
was at home with an injured finger when McFerren claimed to have
seen him in his market. The HSCA also interviewed Liberto's
relatives, friends, neighbors, and business associates. It found
nothing to support McFerren's accusation that Liberto plotted to
kill Dr. King or had a suspicious telephone conversation on the
day of the assassination.
For several reasons, we, too, have concluded that McFerren's
account is not reliable. Most importantly, we, like the HSCA,
found no independent evidence to establish either that McFerren
witnessed what he claimed or, more generally, that Liberto
played a role in the assassination.
In addition, in statements to the 1976 Department of Justice
Task Force, the HSCA, and our investigation, McFerren
significantly expanded his account to incorporate James Earl
Ray, who had not yet been identified at the time of McFerren's
initial April 1968 statement to the FBI. In 1976, McFerren added
for the first time that when Liberto's partner answered the
telephone, he referred to the caller by name telling Liberto, "Ray
wants to speak to you"(emphasis added). Later, McFerren falsely
claimed that he had identified Ray's photograph when interviewed
by the FBI in April 1968, and, notwithstanding Ray's known
whereabouts around Christmas 1967, insisted that Ray had worked
at Liberto's market at that time. Additionally, contrary to
well-documented evidence of Ray's travels, McFerren later
reported that Ray stayed at the Mayor's house in his hometown,
Somerville, for two days prior to the assassination.(33)
During King v. Jowers, McFerren again related
Liberto's alleged telephone conversation. He did not, however,
repeat his contention that Liberto's partner named Ray as the
caller. In fact, McFerren did not mention Ray in his testimony
at all. Since McFerren focused on Ray for years, including
during our interview of him in March 1999, this recent omission
further undermines his credibility. Indeed, it seems McFerren
may have tailored his testimony to fit the theory advanced by
Dr. Pepper at trial -- that Ray was not involved in the
There is also some possibility that McFerren exaggerated at
the very beginning. On April 8, 1968, immediately prior to
giving his original statement to the FBI, he told his story to
David Caywood, a lawyer and then president of the local chapter
of the ACLU, who accompanied him to the FBI interview. Caywood
told our investigation that while he recalled McFerren's
recounting that Liberto had said something like "get the SOB,"
he did not remember whether McFerren claimed that Liberto
included the words "on the balcony." Caywood explained that had
McFerren used those words, he likely would have remembered it
since Caywood had been on that same balcony with Dr. King the
day before. The apparent omission is obviously significant,
because it is only the words "on the balcony" that connect
Liberto's alleged statement to the assassination.
McFerren's account also appears unreliable because of his
quirky behavior and beliefs. When members of our investigative
team spoke to McFerren, he locked his door and asked that we
speak quietly because his phone was "bugged." He then placed a
paper bag over the telephone receiver to prevent the
conversation from being overheard. During the interview, he
asserted that according to his "intelligence network," the Ku
Klux Klan and the Mafia had met concerning him the day before
and had been after him for 30 years. In addition, he maintained
that Klan control of the Small Business Administration had
interfered with his obtaining a business loan. He further added
that he was in great danger because of his knowledge of the
connection between the King and Kennedy assassinations but
insisted on withholding the information until he could testify
for Dr. Pepper in court. Finally, he repeated his erroneous
assertion that Ray had stayed at the mayor's home in Somerville
(McFerren's hometown) before the assassination.
McFerren related similarly strange information to the 1976
DOJ Task Force and the HSCA. For instance, he advised
investigators that the same person killed both President Kennedy
and Dr. King and that unidentified persons had tapped his phone,
were "out to get him," and had made several attempts on his
McFerren's inconsistent accounts, peculiar behavior, and
bizarre, uncorroborated claims, some of which contradict known
facts, render his story about Liberto unreliable. Thus, McFerren
does not offer any credible evidence to corroborate Jowers'
contention that Liberto participated in the assassination.
(b) Liberto's alleged admission
After the HSCA published its report in 1979, allegations of
Liberto's involvement in the assassination did not resurface
until after the HBO mock trial, nearly 15 years later, when
Jowers publicly implicated Liberto. At approximately the same
time, Memphis taxi driver Nathan Whitlock, an acquaintance of
Jowers, offered information concerning Liberto to Dr. Pepper and
mock trial producer Jack Saltman.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Whitlock's mother, Lavada
Addison, owned and operated a Memphis pizza parlor. According to
Whitlock and Addison, Liberto regularly ate breakfast there and
became friendly with them. Addison claims that sometime in the
late 1970s, during a conversation at the restaurant, a
television story relating to Dr. King prompted Liberto to boast
that he "had King killed." Addison did not believe him, told him
so, and walked away.
The following day, Whitlock, then 18, allegedly confronted
Liberto about the remark. According to Whitlock, Liberto denied
killing Dr. King, but said that he "had it done" and that James
Earl Ray was merely a "front man." Liberto then got angry,
threatened Whitlock, and left. Whitlock claims he never saw
Whitlock did not disclose his allegation until 1993, after
viewing the HBO mock trial on television and occasionally
transporting production personnel in his cab.(34)
One of the first people he spoke to about Liberto was mock trial
producer Jack Saltman. According to both Whitlock and Saltman,
Whitlock attempted to sell Saltman the right to go public with
his account. When he demanded $20,000, the amount he thought the
information commanded, Saltman refused and negotiations broke
Whitlock also told us how he sold copies of two photographs
of Liberto to ABC for $1,200. When he learned that he had
actually sold the network exclusive rights to the photographs in
the deal, he became upset and claimed that ABC had tricked him.
Nevertheless, Whitlock sold a duplicate print of one of the
photographs, along with a photograph of himself, to Dr. Pepper
Whitlock expressed continued interest in profiting from his
information during our investigation. When he first spoke to us,
he sought to reserve attribution rights for any materials he
agreed to provide. Whitlock also asked the Department of Justice
to prosecute Dr. Pepper for fraud, claiming that Pepper had
improperly published his story in the book, Orders to Kill,
without compensating him.
Whitlock has also reported that he experienced bizarre
repercussions because of his knowledge about the King
assassination. He told both the Shelby County District Attorney
General and our investigation that he was warned by an African
American "NSA [National Security Agency] agent" from Washington
that he was in danger because of what he knew about the King
assassination. Testifying in King v. Jowers,
Whitlock added that after he advised state authorities of his
allegations, he was beaten and falsely arrested by the Memphis
police and released only after the police received a fax from
We conclude that Whitlock's stated financial motive and
paranoid-sounding claims undermine the truthfulness of his
account of his alleged conversation with Liberto. We also have
no reason to doubt that Addison, his mother, accurately reported
Liberto's statement to her and correctly characterized the
off-handed remark about Dr. King as a false "macho" boast.
In the end, Whitlock and McFerren are the only two witnesses
who claim to have information corroborating Jowers' allegation
that Liberto participated in a plot to assassinate Dr. King.
Neither is reliable. Moreover, neither connects Liberto with
Jowers or implicates Jowers in a conspiracy. Accordingly, there
is no credible evidence supporting Jowers' allegation that
Liberto was involved in the assassination and a stark absence of
evidence corroborating Jowers' claim that they were
(3) Liberto's alleged connection to the Mafia
Others besides Jowers have accused Liberto of having Mafia
connections. Whitlock, for instance, claims that Liberto
disclosed that he was acquainted with Mafia boss, Carlos
Marcello, when the two were children in New Orleans. McFerren
also alleges that the backroom in Liberto's produce market was
used as a Mafia meeting place.
The HSCA investigated the possibility of Liberto's
involvement with organized crime. According to HSCA documents,
neither the FBI nor the New Orleans Police Department had any
record of such involvement. However, HSCA records include
information from the New Orleans police that Liberto's brother,
Salvatore, associated with a bail bondsman who was believed to
be affiliated with Carlos Marcello. The HSCA found nothing more
than this potential "indirect link" between Salvatore and the
Because of the allegations made by Jowers, McFerren, and
Whitlock, and the speculative report regarding Liberto's brother
Salvatore, we initiated a review of Department of Justice and
FBI organized crime investigative records. We found no
information in these records showing that either Frank or
Salvatore Liberto had any affiliation with the Mafia. Our review
of the remaining historical record also revealed nothing to
support the claims concerning Liberto's Mafia involvement.
Ultimately, the allegations of Liberto's Mafia ties come from
unreliable sources and lack any corroboration. Moreover, even if
Liberto had some connection with the Mafia, we found no credible
evidence to suggest that organized crime was involved in the
(4) Jowers' alleged concealment of money for Liberto
Jowers alleges that before the assassination, Liberto
delivered $100,000, which Jowers concealed in Jim's Grill. As
previously discussed, Jowers has alternately claimed that he
both hired a hit man with the money and held the money for
Raoul. According to Jack Saltman, when Jowers related his
initial version, he said he kept $90,000 for himself.
(a) Jowers' financial condition
In 1968, $90,000 was a very large amount of money.
Consequently, if Jowers profited from the assassination, as he
initially claimed, his financial position should have
dramatically improved. The financial records we reviewed did not
reveal any significant improvement in Jowers' life style at any
time after the assassination. Nor did any witness we
interviewed, including family members, detect that Jowers
received a substantial windfall. Accordingly, there is no
evidence to corroborate Jowers' claim (apparently now abandoned,
in any event) that he received $90,000 for his role in the
(b) Lack of corroboration by employees at Jim's Grill
In both versions of Jowers' story about receiving money from
Liberto, he claims that he hid it in an old stove in the kitchen
of Jim's Grill. At times, James Earl Ray's defenders have
asserted that three witnesses -- sisters Alta Mae Washington,
Bobbie Balfour, and Betty Spates -- corroborate the allegation.
Although each sister refused to speak to our investigation, all
three have given prior recorded statements demonstrating that
none possesses direct or reliable information that substantiates
Alta Mae Washington told the Shelby County District Attorney
General's office in January 1994 that she once saw Jowers place
a suitcase containing money in the stove, but that was in April
1969, a week before she was fired. She explained that she could
not have seen any money in the stove at the time of the
assassination because she did not begin working at Jim's Grill
until October 1968. In addition, she said she understood that
Jowers was hiding the money she saw in April 1969 to keep it
from his estranged wife, not for criminal purposes.
Like Washington, Bobbie Balfour, who worked at the grill at
the time of the assassination, has never confirmed that Jowers
hid a large amount of money in the stove immediately before the
assassination. In a 1994 deposition, she testified that Jowers
kept money in the stove at times, but that amount was only
"maybe a thousand dollars. Jowers didn't have no money." While
Balfour testified in King v. Jowers, she said
nothing about seeing money in a stove at any time.
Betty Spates is the only witness who has ever claimed to have
seen a large amount of money in the stove prior to the
assassination. However, as discussed in Section
IV.D.1.a.(3) above, she is unreliable. Indeed, on this
issue, as with others, she has vacillated, claiming both that
she saw the money and that she never saw it, but only heard
about it from her older sister Washington. Moreover, even
assuming that Spates either saw or heard about the money, she
appears mistaken as to when she did, since Washington, the
source of her knowledge, did not begin working at the grill
until six months after the assassination.
In light of Washington's, Balfour's and Spates' statements,
it appears that Jowers may well have stored money from time to
time in an old stove in his kitchen. However, we found nothing
reliable to suggest that he received the large sum of $100,000
from Liberto or kept it in the stove at the time of the
assassination. Nor did we find any evidence to substantiate any
part of Jowers' allegation that he and Liberto conspired to kill
Dr. King. In fact, his claims relating to Liberto remain wholly
b. Alleged involvement of Memphis police officers
Beginning with his first statements about an alleged
conspiracy, Jowers has asserted that Memphis police officers
were somehow involved in the assassination. However, as
Section IV.C.2.f. above, his allegations concerning the role
of the police have significantly expanded since 1993.
(1) Alleged removal of police officers to facilitate
Jowers initially claimed that someone assured him that the
police would not be at the scene of the assassination. This
assertion was a variation on earlier allegations, made by others
and considered by the HSCA, that various law enforcement
personnel were purposefully withdrawn from the area of the
Lorraine to facilitate the crime. Years prior to Jowers' vague
allegation, speculation focused specifically on: (1) the
withdrawal of the security detail assigned to Dr. King on April
3; (2) the supposed withdrawal of tactical units from the
immediate area of the Lorraine; (3) the removal of one of two
African American detectives from the surveillance post at Fire
Station No. 2 on April 4; and (4) the removal of two African
American firemen from the same firehouse on April 3.
The HSCA extensively examined each of these specific claims
and found nothing to evidence a conspiracy involving the police.
Despite the extreme vagueness of Jowers' accounts, our
investigation considered the allegations anew. We learned
nothing to contradict the HSCA's findings and instead discovered
additional evidence supporting them.
(a) Removal of security detail
The Memphis Police Department assigned a security detail to
Dr. King on April 3, 1968. Inspector Don Smith, who headed the
detail, and three other officers met Dr. King and his party at
the Memphis airport that morning. They followed the group to the
Lorraine, where they were joined by three additional officers.
The detail was permanently withdrawn at about 5:00 p.m. that
Smith testified before the HSCA that he requested permission
to withdraw the detail from his superior, Homicide Chief W.P.
Huston, because he believed the King party was uncooperative.
Smith based his conclusion on the party's refusal to provide Dr.
King's itinerary, his perception that the party attempted to
"lose" the detail en route from a meeting that afternoon, and a
comment at the airport by a local liaison for the party, who
said police protection was not desired. Smith maintained that
after he telephoned Huston about these perceived problems,
Huston left the telephone to consult with a superior officer,
then instructed Smith to withdraw the detail. The HSCA never
conclusively resolved whether it was the chief of police or
another top official who actually approved Smith's request.
Reverend Samuel Kyles corroborated Smith's perception that
the King party did not favor the security detail. Kyles told our
investigation that on April 2, 1968, the Memphis group hosting
Dr. King decided, against Kyles' advice, to break from ordinary
practice and not request police protection. According to Kyles,
the group made the decision because it believed the police had
overreacted the week before to the sanitation strike
demonstration. Willie B. Richmond, one of the African American
policemen who conducted surveillance of Dr. King, supported
Kyles' contention. He testified in King v. Jowers
that he learned on the day before the assassination that someone
with the King party, whom he believed to be Reverend Kyles,
indicated that Dr. King did not want police security.
Other police officers, who had been used as security for Dr.
King on prior visits, substantiated the accounts of Smith and
Kyles that the King party did not want police protection in
April 1968. Detective Redditt, the other African American
policeman who conducted surveillance of Dr. King on April 3 and
4, 1968, told our investigation and the 1976 DOJ Task Force that
someone in Dr. King's party informed him at the Memphis airport
that they did not want security. Another police officer,
Detective Jerry Williams, who had provided security for Dr. King
on two prior occasions, testified in King v. Jowers
that his inspector told him after the assassination that police
security was not provided on April 4, 1968, because the King
party did not request it. Finally, officers on the security
detail corroborated Smith's version of events.
The HSCA concluded that the detail's withdrawal, although
improper, was not ordered to facilitate the assassination.
Rather, the HSCA found that the detail was withdrawn as a result
of police frustration with what it perceived to be the King
party's lack of cooperation. Our investigation found nothing to
cast doubt on the HSCA's conclusion and additional evidence that
Dr. King's group declined police security.
(b) Presence of tactical units in the area
The Memphis Police Department created tactical or TACT units
in the wake of the unrest following the March 28, 1968
sanitation strike march. At the time of the assassination, one
such unit was taking a break at the fire station across the
street from the Lorraine, and two other cars assigned to TACT
duty were in different locations within several blocks of the
motel. Despite the location of these units, some have alleged
that the Memphis Police Department purposefully withdrew all
TACT units from the area of the Lorraine to facilitate the
assassination. We found no evidence to support this claim.
In an affidavit to the HSCA, TACT Unit Commander William O.
Crumby, now deceased, stated that on April 3, 1968, he received
a request from the King party, through TACT Unit street
commander Sam Evans, to halt police patrols within sight of the
Lorraine. He claimed that the request was honored and that he
instructed the TACT units to remain in the general vicinity of
the Lorraine, outside "visual distant [sic]." However, Inspector
Evans, also now deceased, repeatedly denied requesting any such
By its terms, Crumby's supposed order did not require
withdrawal of the TACT units from the area of the Lorraine. In
fact, it specifically required that they remain in the vicinity.
Furthermore, a number of TACT unit cars were actually in the
area at the time of the shooting. Accordingly, regardless of
whether Crumby's directive was issued, speculation that all
units were withdrawn, let alone removed to facilitate the
assassination, is unfounded. See Section VII below for
discussion of who in Dr. King's party allegedly requested
removal of the Tact units.
(c) Removal of police officer from surveillance post
On April 3 and 4, 1968, two African American police officers,
Edward Redditt and Willie B. Richmond, conducted surveillance of
Dr. King and his associates at the Lorraine from Fire Station
No. 2 across Mulberry Street. Two hours prior to the
assassination, Redditt was removed from the post.
The evidence gathered by the HSCA and confirmed by our
investigation shows that the Memphis Police Department ordered
Redditt and Richmond to the airport on April 3 to conduct
surveillance on Dr. King and his associates.(35)
While at the airport, Redditt was threatened by a local activist
and told that King's party did not want security. Redditt and
Richmond nonetheless followed the party to the Lorraine and then
set up surveillance at Fire Station No. 2. They continued
following Dr. King during his activities throughout the day
until they arrived at the Mason Temple prior to his final
speech. Once there, Reverend Blackburn told them it was known
that they were "spying" and indicated they were not welcome.
They left a short while later.
On the morning of April 4, Redditt and Richmond resumed their
surveillance post at the fire station. Sometime about noon,
Redditt received a threatening telephone call. The caller said
he knew where Redditt was and what he was doing. Later that
afternoon, after Philip Manuel, a staff member of the United
States Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, informed the
Memphis Police Department of a threat to kill a "Negro
Lieutenant" in Memphis, Redditt was removed from the station.(36)
The HSCA expressly found that the Memphis police removed
Detective Redditt from his post because of the perceived threat
on his life. Its conclusion that the threat was real was
reinforced by other threats against Redditt during the
sanitation strike and on April 3 and 4, 1968. The HSCA
ultimately concluded that "the allegations that [Redditt] was
removed to facilitate the assassination are without substance."
Based on our review of the HSCA report, sealed records of
HSCA staff interviews, and our own original investigation, we
reached the same conclusion. Apart from what we learned from the
HSCA records, Intelligence Inspector Graydon Tines told us that
he ordered Redditt to be taken to headquarters, where he was
directed not to return to the field because of the threat.
Similarly, Lieutenant Eli Arkin, who transported Redditt,
confirmed that Redditt was removed because of the threat.
Finally, Redditt himself corroborated the key details of what
occurred, including that he was assigned to surveillance,
received threats at the airport and the fire station, and was
directed to leave his post for a meeting at police headquarters,
where he was informed of another threat. In his testimony during
the trial of King v. Jowers, Redditt further
recalled that a man from Washington, D.C., whom he thought was
named Manuel, was present when he was advised of the threat at
police headquarters. His recollection confirms that the threat
warning originated from Philip Manuel, who was in Memphis at the
time representing the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations.
The notion that Redditt was removed to facilitate the
assassination because he was an African American policeman is
undermined by two other significant facts. First, as confirmed
by Richmond, Redditt, and several other officers, Redditt was at
the fire station to conduct surveillance of -- not to protect --
Dr. King. Thus, his removal would not have reduced any actual
security for Dr. King. Second, Richmond, also African American,
was not pulled from the surveillance post and was there when Dr.
King was shot. If Redditt had been removed because of his race
to facilitate the assassination, then Richmond most probably
would have been removed as well.
Based on all the evidence we reviewed and obtained, we found
nothing to suggest that the Memphis Police Department removed
Redditt from his surveillance post as part of a plot to kill Dr.
(d) Removal of firemen from fire station
Norvell Wallace and Floyd Newsum were the only two African
American firemen assigned to Fire Station No. 2. The day before
Dr. King was killed, they were both reassigned to other
The HSCA specifically investigated whether the removal of the
firemen was somehow connected to the assassination. It found
that Wallace and Newsum were removed in response to a concern
expressed by Redditt to one of his commanding officers. After
reviewing sealed HSCA records and conducting our own original
investigation, we found nothing to suggest otherwise.
Redditt has denied directly requesting the removal of Wallace
and Newsum. However, in a report he wrote and gave to Inspector
Tines prior to the assassination, he noted that the African
American firemen could impede surveillance because of their
allegiance to the sanitation workers.(38)
In addition, during our investigation, Inspector Tines recalled
that Redditt and Detective Arkin had complained about an African
American fireman who could "blow [Redditt and Richmond's]
cover." Tines then requested a transfer. It is thus evident that
Newsum and Wallace were reassigned because of police concern
about maintaining clandestine surveillance of the Lorraine, not
to facilitate the assassination.
In the end, we found no evidence to support any of the
previously refuted allegations that the police purposefully
removed any security forces from the area of the Lorraine to
facilitate the assassination. Since Jowers only vaguely restated
these previously unproven allegations, it is not surprising that
we found no evidence to support his claims either.
(2) Alleged meeting of police officers at Jim's Grill
In his more recent accounts, Jowers alleges that several
Memphis police officers met in Jim's Grill to plot the
assassination. As discussed in
Section IV.C.2.f. above, when he was most specific, Jowers
claimed that a deceased "Lieutenant," his deceased "Former
Partner," an African American "Undercover Officer," and the
"Homicide Inspector" participated in the plan.(39)
At the outset, even if a meeting of some officers took place,
as Jowers asserts, he offers no evidence that it related to the
assassination. Rather, Jowers' account is suspiciously vague.
Jowers told Dexter King that he "had no idea what the officers
were talking about and I just got a word here and there," and
"[w]asn't really too concerned about it [be]cause I didn't want
to know about it." He nonetheless claimed that he "knew it was
something illegal whatever it was," but did not provide any
Because Jowers admittedly claims to have heard nothing about
an assassination plot, Dr. King, a shooting, or anything
specific at all, his bald assertion that officers were
discussing "something illegal" is pure conjecture. His
contention that he "got a word now and then" is hardly specific
enough to invest the claim with more substance, especially since
he does not even recount what the "word[s] now and then" were.
Notwithstanding the vagueness of Jowers' account, we found no
evidence to suggest that any meetings in Jim's Grill involving
high ranking Memphis police officers, in fact, occurred. No
witness corroborates that any high ranking officers met in Jim's
Grill. The only information we discovered that any police were
ever there came from former FBI agent Howell Lowe, who reported
his understanding that low ranking uniformed officers who
patrolled the area went to the grill for coffee on occasion
during shift changes.(40)
Lowe further claimed that he never met with and did not
personally know the "Homicide Inspector," the "Former Partner,"
or the "Lieutenant," and that while he worked with the
"Undercover Officer," he never met or saw him at Jim's Grill.(41)
Accordingly, no witness or other evidence corroborates Jowers'
claim that the "Homicide Inspector," the "Former Partner," the
"Lieutenant," or the "Undercover Officer" was ever involved in a
meeting -- or even present -- in the grill.
The investigative team also found no evidence to suggest that
the "Homicide Inspector," the "Former Partner," the
"Lieutenant," or the "Undercover Officer" was otherwise involved
in a plot to assassinate Dr. King. None of the witnesses we
interviewed had any information tying them to the crime. Nor do
any of the volumes of documentary evidence we reviewed --
including previously unexamined materials from the HSCA and from
the FBI and CIA -- suggest they were in any way involved.
We also interviewed the "Homicide Inspector," who fully
cooperated with the investigation. He denied any involvement in
the assassination and further denied having been in Jim's Grill
prior to the crime. He said he may have briefly stepped inside
afterward, on the night of April 4, 1968, but only because his
investigators were there with potential witnesses. In addition,
the "Homicide Inspector" submitted a sworn affidavit in which he
stated that Jowers' allegations about him are false, that he
never met with officers in Jim's Grill prior to the
assassination, and that he was not involved in a plot to kill
We also interviewed the "Undercover Officer." He advised that
he worked for the Memphis Police Department in an undercover
capacity with the Invaders.(42)
As a result, he was in the parking lot of the Lorraine with
Reverends Orange and Bevel when the shot was fired and may have
been the first person to reach Dr. King on the balcony. Once on
the balcony, he looked across the street in what he thought was
the direction of the shot and saw no one in the backyard behind
Like the "Homicide Inspector," the "Undercover Officer"
unequivocally maintained that he did not plot to kill Dr. King,
was never in Jim's Grill, and never met Jowers. Demonstrating
his desire to resolve the allegations against him, he agreed to
take a polygraph examination conducted by the United States
Secret Service. Throughout that session and a subsequent
interview, he was aggressively questioned and consistently
denied that he had any knowledge about a plot to assassinate Dr.
King or ever went into Jim's Grill. The results of the polygraph
examination show that the "Undercover Officer" was truthful when
asked whether he was involved in an assassination plot.
Specifically, he was found to be "not deceptive" when he denied
plotting to harm Dr. King. However, the polygraph result was
"inconclusive" as to his denial that he ever met with other
police officers in Jim's Grill.(43)
Apart from interviewing and polygraphing the "Undercover
Officer," our investigation reviewed records (including CIA
files) pertaining to his activities and interviewed people who
have had contact with him both at the time of and after the
assassination. Our inquiries revealed nothing to contradict his
contention that he had no part in the assassination and was
never in Jim's Grill. Moreover, he affirmed in a sworn affidavit
that Jowers' allegations about him are false, that he never was
in Jim's Grill or met Jowers, and that he was not involved in a
plot to kill Dr. King.
We believe it is significant that the officers Jowers
accuses, as well as their friends and co-workers, fully
cooperated with our investigation without seeking immunity or
any other consideration. The "Homicide Inspector" and the
"Undercover Officer" executed affidavits denying Jowers'
allegations under oath. In contrast, Jowers would not speak to
us, despite having demanded and been offered the opportunity to
obtain immunity (see Section IV.E. below) and, most
recently in King v. Jowers, did not make his
allegations under oath when he had the opportunity. Accordingly,
Jowers' conduct, unlike that of the "Homicide Inspector," the
"Undercover Officer," and other law enforcement officials who
worked with them, further undermines his credibility.
(3) Alleged participation of the "Lieutenant"
Perhaps Jowers' most dramatic, belated revelation, first made
during an October 1997 interview with Dexter King and Dr.
Pepper, is that a Memphis Police Department "Lieutenant" shot
Dr. King from the backyard of Jim's Grill. We find no merit to
The allegation inculpating the "Lieutenant" in a plot to
assassinate Dr. King may derive from prior conjecture. In an
interview with the HSCA in 1978, Detective Redditt (see
Section IV.D.2.b.(1)(c) above) speculated that the
"Lieutenant" may have been involved in the shooting since he was
an expert shot and, in Redditt's view, a racist. Redditt told us
he had no support for his earlier speculation, but simply
offered it as an opinion.
Jowers appears to have resuscitated Redditt's old speculation
with his most recent claim. Despite having testified under oath
in a November 1994 deposition that he did not know the
"Lieutenant," Jowers told Dexter King in March 1998 that he and
the "Lieutenant" regularly went hunting together. He also
alleged that the "Lieutenant" passed him the murder weapon
behind Jim's Grill seconds after the shooting. In addition,
Jowers said the "Lieutenant" had been in the tavern the morning
of the assassination and participated in one or more meetings
with other officers to plot the murder.
We found no credible evidence to sustain any of Jowers'
various assertions concerning the "Lieutenant." None of the
numerous witnesses we interviewed, including many officers in
the police department, provided any information that linked the
"Lieutenant" to either the assassination or Jim's Grill. They
also did not connect the "Lieutenant" with Jowers and offered
nothing to suggest the two knew each other or had even ever been
seen together. The historical record also contains no
information corroborating Jowers' accusation against the
The "Lieutenant" died before Jowers made the accusation
against him. However, his ex-wife, whom he divorced in 1975,
provided significant information contradicting Jowers. In an
interview with our investigation and in testimony in King
v. Jowers, she related that she got home from work
shortly after 4:00 p.m. on the day of the assassination. The
"Lieutenant" arrived a short while later to take a quick nap,
shower, and change his clothing. Because of the schedule he and
other officers assumed following the disruptions related to the
strike, he had not been home for some time. About 45 minutes
after he arrived, his ex-wife heard a bulletin over his
walkie-talkie announcing that Dr. King had been shot and
immediately awakened him.(44)
The "Lieutenant's" ex-wife also told our investigation that
she knew her husband's hunting partners and that Jowers, whose
name she had not heard, was not one of them. In addition, she
reported that her ex-husband had been friendly with a man named
Liberto, who owned a downtown liquor store. We confirmed that
another Liberto did, in fact, own a liquor store in Memphis at
the time of the assassination, but he was not the same person
Jowers has implicated. Nor were the two Libertos related.
We found no credible evidence to contradict the ex-wife's
alibi or her representations regarding the "Lieutenant's"
friends, hunting partners, and associates.(45)
Since there is no other reliable evidence implicating the
"Lieutenant" in the assassination, or establishing that Jowers
even knew him, Jowers' belated claims about him remain
3. Summary of Evidence regarding Jowers' Accounts
We found no reliable evidence to support Jowers' claims that
he, Frank Liberto, Raoul, and Memphis police officers conspired
to assassinate Dr. King. There is no physical evidence to
corroborate any aspect of the allegations,(46)
and the few purported corroborating witness accounts that exist
are either not credible or unsupportive. At the same time, there
is reliable evidence that contradicts Jowers' claims. For
instance, the absence of a trail of probative footprints behind
Jim's Grill demonstrates that neither Jowers nor the alleged
assassin was there. Also, significant circumstantial evidence
indicates that the fatal shot came from the rooming house's
bathroom, rather than the backyard of Jim's Grill.
In the end, Jowers' claims are both unsupported and
contradicted. His dramatically inconsistent accounts (see
Section IV.C. above) are additionally suspect in light of his
unwillingness to relate his allegation to our investigation (see
Section IV.E. below) and his suspicious motives (see
Section IV.F. below).
E. Jowers' Lack Of Cooperation
Starting in October 1998, our investigation made several
attempts to gain Jowers' cooperation through his attorney, Lewis
Garrison. Jowers refused to speak with us, even though he had
repeatedly talked to others, including the media.
In response to our initial attempt, Garrison wrote to us on
November 5, 1998, and explained that Jowers was "not willing to
disclose information without some assurance that he [would] not
be prosecuted." We responded in a letter dated November 19,
1998, and proposed a process for considering Jowers' request.
First, we reminded Garrison, who has extensive litigating
experience, that consistent with standard practice, a proffer of
his client's account would be necessary to obtain immunity. To
facilitate the arrangement, we offered to accept as a proffer
Garrison's videotape of Jowers' conversation with Dr. Pepper and
Dexter King on October 27, 1997, accompanied by any additional
information needed to amplify, clarify, or correct the taped
interview. We also explained that the statement would be used
only to determine whether immunity was appropriate and not to
Garrison did not respond to our letter or a subsequent letter
dated December 15, 1998, re-extending our offer. Instead, we
learned from a January 31, 1999 article in the Memphis
Commercial Appeal that Jowers, according to Garrison, had
refused to speak with us because our immunity offer allegedly
did not protect him from state prosecution.
Because of the article, the investigative team set out to
make explicit what case law already guaranteed -- the October
1997 statement, if provided as a proffer, could not be used by
either federal or state prosecutors against Jowers. Accordingly,
we contacted the office of the Shelby County District Attorney
General and obtained a guarantee that expressly provided that
state authorities would not prosecute Jowers based on his
proffer and would also consider a grant of immunity.
On February 9, 1999, after Garrison failed to respond to our
telephone messages, we sent a letter renewing our offer and
notifying him of the District Attorney General's position. The
following day, Garrison wrote and again expressed interest in
obtaining immunity for his client. He ended his letter stating,
"as soon as I confer with Mr. Jowers, I shall call you and maybe
we can consult with Mr. Campbell," an Assistant District
We did not hear from Garrison for five weeks. Thus, on March
18, 1999, an attorney with our investigation, who had previously
spoken to Garrison, telephoned him. Garrison expressed concern
that our investigation had been questioning Jowers' credibility
during interviews with witnesses. Our attorney explained our
concerns about Jowers' many contradictory statements and his
extended, repeated delays in responding to our offers. See
Attachment 5, our March 19, 1999 letter to Garrison.
Garrison agreed to advise the investigation of his client's
position regarding a proffer by March 22, 1999.
In a letter dated March 22, 1999, Garrison reported that he
had consulted with Jowers. He stated that Jowers "did not intend
to make further comments regarding this matter * * * [and] will
not permit anyone to review the video tapes [sic] you
In April 1999, Dr. Pepper attempted to revive the effort to
produce a proffer. As a result, Garrison sent a letter to the
investigative team dated May 10, 1999, stating that he would
again attempt to consult with his client and advise us of his
position. Despite Garrison's representation, we received no
Garrison's consistent failure to respond to our offers, as
well as Jowers' recent conduct, strongly suggest that Jowers is
not sincerely seeking immunity to avoid criminal prosecution. If
Jowers were genuinely concerned that he might be prosecuted, he
would not have repeatedly related his self-incriminating story
to others, including a producer and a nationwide television
audience, without some assurance that his statements would not
be used against him. Further, if he were genuinely concerned
that he might be prosecuted, he would have readily provided us a
proffer, since our proposal at least guaranteed him immunity for
his October 1997 statement. Indeed, our offer was a "no lose"
proposition for Jowers. If, after reviewing the proffer, we
ultimately decided to grant him immunity, he would have been
free from the threat of prosecution. If not, he would have
nevertheless obtained "use" immunity for his October 1997
statement -- something he did not and still does not have.(47)
Jowers' conduct suggests another motive for his insistence on
immunity. Since the evidence shows that Jowers did not genuinely
desire protection from prosecution, and since the only other
benefit of an immunity grant is the government's tacit approval
of a subject's account, it appears Jowers sought immunity merely
to legitimize his otherwise unsubstantiated story. This
conclusion is confirmed by the fact that Jowers abandoned his
request for immunity precisely when we made our routine demand
for a proffer. To be acceptable, a proffer must contain a
single, coherent version of events that withstands critical
examination. Because Jowers' contradictory, unsubstantiated
accounts could never survive such scrutiny (see Sections
IV.C. and D. above), he presumably recognized that the immunity
process could not give him -- and might forever ruin his chance
to attain -- the validation he sought for his otherwise bankrupt
story. Accordingly, Jowers abandoned his request and terminated
all contact, and we conducted our investigation without the
benefit of talking to him, confronting him with his
contradictory statements, or assessing his credibility
F. Analysis Of The Development Of Jowers' Allegations
1. Jowers' Motivation
Because Jowers repeatedly contradicted himself, told a
self-incriminating story without any evidentiary support, and
refused to speak to us though having talked to others, we
naturally considered why he publicly confessed in the first
place. His comments and actions suggest that he is motivated by
something other than a newfound desire to reveal the truth.
Several of Jowers' friends and relatives expressed their
belief that Jowers made his allegations in the hope of getting
attention and/or making money. Their belief is confirmed by
Jowers' own statements. One of Jowers' close relatives told our
investigation that he once overheard Jowers talking about a book
deal in connection with his allegations about the assassination.
A former co-worker, Prentis Purdy, further reported that Jowers
telephoned him, said that a movie company was interested in
interviewing him about the assassination, and advised that he
could make money by appearing in the movie. Also, one of Jowers'
neighbors and close friends, Robert Ferguson, told us that on
several occasions in the early 1990s, Jowers, while intoxicated,
boasted that he was going to make a lot of money from a movie
that would be made about the assassination.
In addition to Jowers' revealing comments, his actions
leading up to his first public disclosure suggest his true
motive. For 25 years following the assassination, Jowers alleged
no specific involvement in or knowledge of a plot to murder Dr.
King. It was not until 1993, during preparations for the HBO
television mock trial, that Jowers' allegations of a conspiracy
began to materialize. At that time, Jowers demonstrated a
pecuniary interest when, through Garrison, he asked the mock
prosecution's investigator for additional compensation in
exchange for information that would "put a different slant" on
the assassination. He again demonstrated the same motivation
when he chose to debut his full, detailed account to a
television producer -- the same producer, in fact, who had
coordinated the HBO program several months earlier.
2. The Promotion of Jowers' Story
Jowers' promotional efforts have not gone unassisted. Nor
does it appear that Jowers' story became public by chance.
Jowers' allegations originated in the wake of the HBO mock
trial when he and four others jointly sought immunity from
prosecution. Represented by the same attorney, Garrison, they
sent the Shelby County District Attorney General a combined
written "proffer" that referred to each by color code rather
than name. Subsequently disclosed information established the
identities of all but one of them.
These individuals were all part of the same circle of
friends. The first was Jowers, who related his account of hiring
a hit man and receiving the rifle from him after the shooting.
The second was Betty Spates, Jowers' long-time associate and
former girlfriend, who said she observed Jowers holding and
disassembling a rifle immediately after the shooting. See
Section IV.D.1.a.(3) above. The third was Jowers' old
friend, James McCraw, to whom Jowers supposedly showed the rifle
the day after the assassination. See
Section IV.D.1.c. above. The fourth was Willie Akins, a
convicted felon and another of Jowers' long-time friends, whom
Jowers allegedly asked to "tak[e] care of certain persons who
'knew too much.'" These supporting accounts provided by Jowers'
friends were crucial since there was no concrete evidence to
support Jowers' claims and substantial evidence to undermine
The District Attorney General ultimately rejected the group's
vague joint proffer and declined to grant each of them immunity.
Jowers and Garrison then took the packaged story to the media.
They first went to HBO mock trial producer Jack Saltman. A short
while later, in December 1993, they appeared on Prime Time
Live. Jowers publicly confessed for the first time, while
Garrison, using real names instead of color codes, provided Sam
Donaldson details about what Spates, McCraw, and Akins claimed
to have witnessed. Akins even went on the program to say that
Jowers had asked him to "pop" (kill) the assassin.
Prime Time Live gave the packaged story the
notoriety Jowers and his associates originally sought when they
jointly requested immunity. In the following weeks, the media,
especially in Memphis, published numerous articles featuring
Jowers, Spates, McCraw, and Akins. In fact, only a couple of
days after the show, the Tennessean newspaper managed
to identify, track down, interview, and polygraph the "Man on
South Main Street," the alleged hit man to whom Garrison,
Jowers, and Akins had alluded but would not name on camera.
After the Tennessean concluded that the "Man on
South Main Street" had nothing to do with the assassination,
Jowers began reinventing his story. In statements to Dr. Pepper,
Dexter King, and Ambassador Andrew Young over the next five
years, he named several different, new assassins and directly
accused the police. He also retreated from his claim that he had
hired a hit man, claiming instead that he merely held Liberto's
money. See Section IV.C.2. above.
Amidst the confusion created by Jowers' conflicting accounts,
a few other questionable, but purported corroborating witnesses
were identified. Private investigator Kenneth Herman alleged
that Jowers told one of Spates' sisters, Bobbie Balfour, that he
had found the gun "used to kill King." He also claimed that both
Balfour and another of Spates' sisters, Alta Mae Washington, had
seen money in a stove in Jim's Grill at the time of the
assassination. As discussed in Section IV.D.2.a.(4)(b) above,
Balfour and Washington each repudiated what Herman attributed to
The others who surfaced after the mock trial to support
Jowers' allegations have been cab drivers with ties to Jowers.
In addition to McCraw and Akins, two of the original members of
Jowers' circle, this group of acquaintances includes Nathan
Whitlock, Louis Ward, William Hamblin, James Isabel, and James
Milner. The latter group all appeared at the trial of King
The financially-motivated Whitlock, who knew Jowers from the
taxi business, claimed for the first time after the HBO mock
trial that 15 years before, Liberto admitted to him that he "had
King killed." See
Section IV.D.2.a.(2)(b) above. Ward, another taxi driver who
had worked with Jowers, made a similar, startling, first-time
revelation following the mock trial. As discussed in
Section IV.D.1.b.(2)(b) above, he alleged that a fellow cab
driver, who he later heard was killed, had seen the assassin
jump from the retaining wall into a police car immediately after
the shooting. Two of Jowers' other friends in the taxi business,
Hamblin and Isabel, surfaced at the trial of King v.
Jowers, claiming to have heard incriminating comments from
McCraw and Jowers, respectively. See
Section IV.B.1. above. None of the hearsay accounts of these
witnesses have been substantiated. In the case of Ward's
allegation, we determined that the person who he claimed
witnessed the murder had died eight months before Dr. King was
James Milner, who worked for Jowers and knows Whitlock, is
another taxi driver who recently came forward. Like Ward, Milner
first went to Garrison. He told our investigation he contacted
Garrison because he heard Jowers "needed help." Garrison put him
in touch with Jowers, who then related his conspiracy
allegations to Milner over the telephone. Soon after, when James
Earl Ray died, Milner appeared on Memphis television news to
explain that Ray was innocent and that Jowers had told him why.
In addition, after an attorney from our investigative team
talked to Garrison about Jowers' immunity request, Milner
contacted us on his own to repeat Jowers' confession and
subsequently to revive Ward's allegation. While it may not be
self-evident that these calls and Milner's TV appearance, as
well as his testimony in King v. Jowers, represent
an effort to promote Jowers' story, the cellular telephone
records Milner provided us are revealing. They show that in
1998, Milner made over 75 calls apiece to Garrison and Whitlock
-- a total of over 150 calls within the span of several months.
Milner's recent endeavors demonstrate what Jowers'
inconsistent accounts and his associates' related efforts have
suggested from the beginning -- that Jowers' story is the
product of an orchestrated promotional effort. The similar,
suspicious origins of the information we have reviewed are too
striking to conclude otherwise. None of the information was
disclosed until the mock trial, 25 years after the
assassination, and it was divulged exclusively by Jowers and his
G. Conclusions Regarding Jowers' Allegations
Because Jowers' conspiracy claims appeared manufactured from
the outset, their fatal flaws come as no surprise. Indeed, while
their contrived appearance independently undermines their
reliability, it also underscores their other defects.
Jowers has never made his conspiracy claims under oath.
Indeed, he did not even testify in King v. Jowers,
despite the fact that he was the only party sued. The only time
Jowers was questioned about his allegations under oath, he
claimed no knowledge about or involvement in the assassination.
In separate conversations with a law enforcement officer and a
close relative, he similarly retreated from his claims. Thus, in
inherently reliable circumstances, Jowers has consistently
repudiated his story.
In contrast, the circumstances attending Jowers' purported
confessions make his claims look dubious. He has only admitted
he was a co-conspirator when he had no legal obligation to be
truthful, was neither pressed for details nor challenged with
his prior inconsistent statements, or had audiences that could
give him the notoriety he desired to promote his story. Such
audiences included HBO mock trial producer Jack Saltman,
television personality Sam Donaldson, prominent civil rights
figures, Ray's attorney, who was writing a book featuring Jowers,
and James Milner, who went on TV to vouch for the story.
Jowers' conspiracy claims are also problematic because they
are dramatically inconsistent on a number of key points,
including: (1) the identity of the shooter; (2) the disposal of
the alleged murder weapon; (3) Jowers' role in the plot; (4) his
knowledge of the conspiracy's purpose; (5) the identity and role
of other co-conspirators; and (6) the role of Memphis police
officers. Both the materiality and content of these
contradictions suggest that Jowers cast about from story to
story, searching for something that would avoid the same
pitfalls as his instantly disproved claim about the "Man on
South Main Street." Indeed, it appears more than a coincidence
that once the Tennessean discredited that claim, Jowers
conveniently changed his account to implicate the deceased
"Lieutenant," who, unlike the "Man on South Main Street," could
not challenge the new accusation.
Even putting aside their material contradictions, Jowers'
accounts are not supported by credible evidence. In fact, there
is significant contradictory physical evidence and absolutely no
such corroborating evidence. The purported corroboration comes
solely from alleged witness accounts. Much of that information,
such as the claims of Spates and McCraw, is part and parcel of
the original effort to package and promote Jowers' story. None
of the information, when examined critically, supports Jowers'
Jowers' motive for claiming involvement in the alleged
conspiracy is also suspect. His friends and relatives have
confirmed, based on statements he made, that he came forward
anticipating financial rewards. Moreover, his conspiracy claims
did not arise until 25 years after the assassination, when the
HBO mock trial raised Jowers' hopes of making money. During
preparation for the show, Jowers and his attorney directly asked
a mock prosecution investigator for substantial compensation in
exchange for supposed, new information, and afterward, the very
first person Jowers went to with the specific details of his
alleged account was the show's producer.
Jowers' account is finally undermined by his conduct during
our investigation. He refused to talk to us without immunity,
despite the fact that he freely made self-incriminating,
non-immunized statements to others, including a nationwide
television audience. Moreover, when we acceded to his request
and initiated the immunity process, he refused to provide a
routine proffer, even though, at the very least, he would have
received immunity for that statement. Jowers' conduct strongly
indicates that he sought immunity to attain legitimacy for his
otherwise unsubstantiated story, not to secure protection from
The totality of the evidence suggests that Jowers fabricated
his allegations, hoping to promote a sensational account of a
conspiracy to murder Dr. King.
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