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And in the last decade or so, just about all of them have eventually made their way to two Memphis private investigators -- one a Merle Haggard fan with wily Southern charm, the other a burly weekend rugby player and scoutmaster -- who have helped uncover information that fuels many of the latest conspiracy theories about the murder on April 4, It is not clear what, if anything, will emerge from the recent swirl of activity here generated by those hoping to raise fresh doubts about the officially accepted view that James Earl Ray, who pleaded guilty to assassinating Dr.

King and then recanted three days later, was a lone gunman. What is clear is that almost all the disparate threads of doubt -- the ones that have endured -- rest on information that the two detectives, Kenneth Herman and John Billings, have unearthed or pursued in their role, sometimes paid and sometimes not, as the investigators of choice for the many naysayers in this case.

To some close to the case, the doubts about Mr. Ray's role in the killing and the whole cottage industry of conspiracy proponents linked to Mr. Herman and Mr.


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Billings add up to grand speculation based on little substance. But I am extremely skeptical of the underlying credibility of any of the evidence. These people are forcing the Government to chase ghosts. But as the 30th anniversary of Dr. King's death approaches next April, and as Mr. Ray fights a potentially fatal liver disease in a Tennessee prison, legal wrangling and media attention in the case are as intense as ever.

Most of those lured to Memphis, including the filmmaker Oliver Stone, who has a project in development called ''MLK,'' end up following at least some of the trails blazed by Mr. Ray has had five lawyers in Tennessee courts since February. They have been working to obtain a trial through rifle testing, to secure Mr. Ray a liver transplant or, most recently, to get a trial by proving that Mr. Ray's guilty plea, for which he is serving a year sentence, was coerced.

Ray's defense received a lift earlier this year when Dr. King's son Dexter met with Mr. Ray in a Tennessee prison and announced that he did not think the year-old convict had killed his father. And this fall, when the Shelby County District Attorney's office assembled a task force to re-examine Mr.

Ray's role in the assassination and determine whether others were involved, Mr.

Faces of Death Row | The Texas Tribune

Billings were the first two people the task force interviewed. In daylong statements, the two men gave details of their questioning of Loyd Jowers, who owned the restaurant below the boarding house where Mr. Ray is said to have shot Dr. They explained their belief that a Memphis grocer with supposed Mafia connections, Frank Liberto, now dead, paid Mr. Jowers to hire an assassin other than Mr. And they told of finding a third suspect in New York, a man they believe is the mysterious Raoul, who Mr.

Ray has always claimed set him up as a patsy. These allegations are not new. The District Attorney's office looked into the Raoul story in but dismissed it outright.

Jowers testified before the House Select Committee investigating the King assassination in but said nothing about being connected to the killing. Billings got on his trail in The insistence that Chase preside over the Davis trial resulted in endless delays. After being pushed until the spring of , the trial was delayed again while Chase presided over the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson.

There seemed to be no end to the comedy of errors. The decision to try treason cases in Virginia made it highly likely that one or more jurors would vote for acquittal. Ultimately, it seemed more and more likely that the government might lose in the Davis case and Johnson, who became a lame duck in November , decided to drop all of the charges against Davis, Lee, and the other 37 Confederate leaders in February , just one month before the inauguration of the new president, Ulysses S.

There would be no convictions and punishments for the crime of treason committed during the Civil War. Johnson blamed Chase for the failure, citing the delays of and He also faulted Congress for impeaching him.

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The Demise of a Texas King: Detective Robert Lee James In

If Johnson had been fair, he too, would have had to accept some of the blame. This was wishful thinking. Only military commissions or northern juries were likely to convict Davis, Lee, and the other Confederate leaders of treason. In the end, his administration offered amnesty to all participants in the rebellion, while insisting treason had in fact been committed by the Confederate leadership. The 14th Amendment made it clear that citizens now owed their primary allegiance to the federal government, not the individual states.

This was a huge loss for Lee personally and his family would not be compensated for it during his lifetime. The Arlington estate, now the site of Arlington National Cemetery, remains federal property to this day. Lee suffered yet another penalty by the government for his role in the war, as a result of the ratification of the 14th Amendment in July In addition to being prevented from holding public office, Lee was initially prohibited from voting in his beloved Virginia after the war.

Year of Release: 1974

At the time of his death, Lee would have been eligible to vote in Virginia. On Christmas Day, , Johnson provided a general amnesty and pardon to everyone who participated in the rebellion, including Lee. Johnson had decided to not personally pardon either Lee or Jefferson Davis.

The latter, a bitter foe of Johnson, would never ask for one. When we step back and look at the U. Most of them, but not all, had been removed by the time of his death. The vast majority of southerners, on the other hand, believed their hero had been treated harshly by the authorities. It made it difficult for them to restore their allegiance to a government that would act in such a way. You will need the email address of your friend or family member. Proceed with the checkout process as usual. Why do I need to specify the email of the recipient?

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Conflicting Conclusions: The Government Assassination Investigations

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