Conspiracy Theories and MLK

As evidenced by my involvement in the JFK thread, I enjoy conspiracy theories, even though I don’t subscribe to them. It’s interesting to comb through facts and evidence to reconstruct the events of a crime, and to address the logic of human behavior.

In that thread, some people referenced questions or mysteries regarding the death of Martin Luther King, but didn’t want to hijack that discussion.

So let’s give it an airing here!

I freely admit to not being nearly as well versed in this case, but I do accept the official version that James Earl Ray acted alone.

That’s not to say that others weren’t similarly motivated, including perhaps the United States government. It is undeniable that the FBI saw fit to surveil and harass King. But that isn’t evidence that they participated.

As I understand it, the most suspicious element of Ray’s case is that he managed to travel and nearly escape, despite no apparent means of support. But I believe the prevailing theory is that he was living off the proceeds of a bank robbery.

And, of course, Ray recanted. I do not think that should be considered persuasive, especially since a man living his life in prison has an incentive to entertain the people who might visit or offer rewards in exchange for providing fodder for their ideas.

(And in that JFK thread, the family of King said it was suspicious that Ray left behind a rifle that bore his fingerprints…except that’s the same thing that Oswald did, so it’s not exactly an unprecedented move to run from the scene of a murder without the murder weapon in hand).

But I’m open to haggling. So what’s your take?

I personally think the evidence points strongly towards James Earl Ray acting alone.

One counterpoint I’ve heard is the fake passport Ray was travelling on, which was supposedly a high grade counterfeit, that should have been beyond Ray’s ability to forge, and so indicates he was part of a conspiracy. Except…he could have just bought fake ID from a professional forger. So, in that sense, he was part of a conspiracy.

As to where he got the money to pay for that forgery, and for his travel…that’s a legitimate question. That’s the one element that for me lends some credence to the idea that there might have been some sort of larger conspiracy - even if that conspiracy was just a handful of white supremacists who pooled some money. Or, as you say, he might just have been spending down the proceeds from a bank robbery.

WARNING: This next bit may be a bit gruesome.

The one element that, if you squint hard enough and angle your head just the right way, that might cast some doubt on Ray as the lone gunman is the shot itself. Although, not for the reasons that CTers usually cite. It was a ridiculously easy shot - using a scoped rifle from a prepared, braced position, at a stationary target, at relatively close range. And he missed. He hit Martin Luther King in the jaw, which is almost certainly not the target he was aiming for. Under those circumstances, not hitting him directly between the eyes is a bit odd. Either 1) King turned away at the last instant, or 2) Ray flinched - or 3) the shot was actually taken from a more difficult position at a longer range…

Just for the record, I think 1) or 2) are overwhelmingly more likely than 3), and the evidence that Ray was the actual shooter is well beyond a reasonable doubt. But very similar to the JFK assassination, the supposedly difficult shot wasn’t actually difficult, and the fact that it was as inaccurate as it was indicates it wasn’t performed by a skilled, trained sniper, but by a mediocre marksman.

I think the evidence is overwhelming that Ray did it and he acted alone. Again, though, like in the other thread, is it possible that there was someone else helping him and that no evidence to the effect has been uncovered? Sure, it’s possible, but the thorough investigation suggests that is not the case.

The fake passport thing has never bothered me. Ray was a career criminal and at the time there were no biometrics or holograms or any real anti-counterfeiting devices in them. I would think anyone at the time who was part of the criminal element could know a guy who would know a guy who would know a guy that could get you a fake passport.

ETA: And I don’t understand the “dropping the gun” reason for either Ray or Oswald not to be the shooter. Of course they are going to drop the gun. Do they want to be seen running down the street holding a rifle after JFK/MLK are shot and seen by hundreds?

And wouldn’t that forger have been discovered by now?

Why would they have been? There are quite a few professional passport forgers out there, and finding the specific one that sold a fake passport to James Early Ray would be like looking for a needle in a haystack without Ray’s help. And Ray has no incentive to do that - rather the opposite.

No prosecutor is going to give Ray any leniency in return for giving up an incidental accessory after the fact. If anything, it’s to Ray’s benefit to keep the matter as murky as possible, and maintain the fiction that he was a pawn or dupe of some sort of shadowy Conspiracy.

It’s also entirely possible that the forger who sold Ray the fake passport was “discovered” - there have been any number of forgers arrested and convicted in Canada and the U.S. since MLK’s assassination. But even if they had been, there wouldn’t necessarily be any specific evidence linking them to Ray’s fake passport in particular.

There was an actual secret society at the time that had infiltrated government and law enforcement, and perverted both to support their illegal agenda. So the idea that James Earl Ray was a member of a conspiracy to kill MLK doesn’t seem particularly far-fetched. I’m actually kind of surprised that he did appear to have acted alone. I’d have expected him to, at least, have been affiliated with the Klan, but my (very cursory) Googling didn’t turn up anything about that.

Of course, I would also not be surprised if a fair amount of Ray’s initial success in dodging law enforcement was helped at least in part to a lot of cops not being particularly motivated to catch the guy who killed Dr. King, but that’s not really “conspiracy.”

So, after some reading, I’ve learned that he drove into Canada, and it was a fake Canadian passport that he used to travel from there.

I’m not sure how much that changes things, but here’s a sort of confessional about how feasible that was.

ETA: Of course the Canadian who got in trouble has the last name “Moos”

That’s still a problem. :frowning: