For nearly 43 years the question of whether James Earl Ray was the lone assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King has haunted the American psyche. Especially, since Ray himself never clearly answered the question before taking the secret to his grave 13 years ago.
- New photos and letters were released of James Earl Rayâs to mark the 43rd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther Kingâs assassination.
- Ray spent 8 months in the Shelby County Jail after Kingâs assassination.
- Most of the material involved his legal issues following the assassination.
âThere was really no confession. Usually a confession is when something when you confess to the police and they transcribe everything down and you sign it. The only thing I ever agreed to was just entering a guilty plea,â said James Earl Ray, the man who has long been known as the assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Ray, at times distorted and conflicted thoughts, can now be explored to greater depth courtesy of unearthed correspondence and pictures being released on the website of the Shelby County Register Tom Leatherwood to mark the 43rd anniversary of King's assassination on Monday.
The new material was a serendipitous discovery made by Leatherwood as he was inventorying public records and documents his office inherited 3 years ago.
I saw this bundle on the shelf and I said what this is. He says I don't know. So, we went over picked it up. Turned it over. It said James E. Ray. Public Defender,â said Leatherwood.
Inside the bundle was a plethora of correspondence Ray wrote during his 8 month stay in a Memphis jail after being captured in 1968. Some of it was to his brother. Much of it was discussing his legal situation with his first attorneys and then a public defender assigned to his case.
Ray was indignant over what he felt was the less than stellar performance of his first attorney, then the noted, Pursey Foreman. Ray argued Belli not only confused him into putting in a guilty plea, but also allegedly told him he wasn't going to put up much of a defense if it came to a murder trial.
âIt's not so much whether I was guilty or innocent. It's whether or not I was taken advantage of during the plea,â said Ray in 1993.
âDid you ever feel you could do more than save his life? Never, at anytime and so told him from the day I came in. And he never expected anything else from the first,â said Rayâs former attorney, Pursey Foreman, in 1969.
Legalities also kept Leatherwood from immediately releasing the Ray information to the public for three years after he first made the discovery. He was just given the go-ahead just six weeks ago.
âI was told we couldn't release it. That it would still be considered confidential information even though Ray had passed. Because of legal confidentiality laws between attorney and client,â said Leatherwood. âI hope this will rekindle memories for those people that lived through it and will make the younger people who didn't live through it have a greater appreciation of the sacrifice that was made by those people that came before us.â