• Archived James Earl Ray footage digitized


    A tragic page of American History has comes back to life in grainy and haunting films clips.

    The Shelby County Sheriff's Office has converted the archived videotape of James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to digital media. It means the public and historians will have greater access to images of the convicted killer of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, in Memphis.

    MORE: MLKinMemphis.com
    MORE: Archived James Earl Ray footage Shelby County Register of Deeds

    The video helps to marry historical context to moving images of Ray. The quality is not the best - not by today's standards. It was actually shot by sheriff's deputies who had purchased a Sony Videorecorder and Video Camera earlier in 1968 for the purposes of documenting Ray's extradition, incarceration and prosecution. They were learning how to use the device for the first time during the extradition and arrest of one of the world's most infamous fugitives.

    There are nine clips featured on the Shelby County Register Tom Leatherwood's website.

    Some of the footage was recorded on a plane to Memphis on July 19, 1968. Then Shelby County Sheriff Bill Morris is shown reading Ray his Miranda Rights. The audio is not that clear at times, regardless of how much you turn up the volume.

    The next section shows when the deputies bring Ray into jail to be booked. Ray is wearing a bulletproof vest for his safety. The video starts and stops, but you get the picture that Ray is being processed as a criminal. There are
    inconsistencies in the video and audio tracks throughout the converted footage. Because tapes were reused, previously recorded audio and video tracks sometimes "bleed through" to the final recording.

    The final section shows Ray being strip searched and examined by a doctor before being put in a jail.

    Ray would spend the rest of his natural life behind bars.

    According to the press release several reels of videotape related to Ray's prosecution have been converted. They include video of the jury as they enter the courtroom.

    "This is an opportunity to preserve and bring to the public intriguing images of a critical piece of our nation's history," Leatherwood said in the news release.

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