(The following article appeared in the April 19, 1995 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newspaper Downtown).
“The essence of Mr. Lane’s charge is that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated by a squad of off-duty FBI agents, under the direction of FBI Director J.Edgar Hoover, that this committee has in its possession evidence that proves such an FBI plot including the names of the agents, and that I informed Ambassador Andrew Young that this committee had such evidence in its possession, but that I am afraid to make that information public…
“…The only new evidence that Mr. Lane submitted to us at the meeting bearing on FBI complicity consisted of an affidavit by Daniel Ellsberg, the individual who attained national prominence by leaking the Pentagon Papers…”
Former D.C. Congressional Rep. Walter Fauntroy on Nov. 17, 1978
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was mysteriously murdered shortly after 6 p.m., as he stood on the second floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Not until over two months later—on June 8, 1968—was the alleged killer of Martin Luther King—James Earl Ray—taken into custody at Heathrow Airport in London. Ray was then eventually extradited back to the United States, where he entered a prearranged plea of guilty in a Tennessee courtroom on March 10, 1969. Despite this plea, [the now-deceased] Ray always maintained, during his many years of imprisonment, that he was not the person who shot Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968.
The evidence that Ray actually shot Martin Luther King through the bathroom window of a nearby rooming house was apparently not very conclusive. In the 1977 book Code Name `Zorro’: The Murder of Martin Luther King, for instance, Mark Lane argued that “the essential case against Ray was so flawed that it would have been difficult for the jury to have returned a verdict of guilty…due to the paucity of evidence linking Ray to the crime.”
Shortly after King was shot, Memphis police had alleged that “the killer had left scuff marks in the bathroom and a palm print on the wall over the tub,” but, after the Memphis chief of homicide dusted and examined the palm print, the state concluded that it wasn’t made by James Earl Ray, according to Mark Lane. In the back pages of Volume 13 of the March 1979 report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations’ investigation of the murder of Martin Luther King is contained a “Scientific Report On The Subject Of Analysis Of Fingerprint Evidence” which also drew the following conclusion:
“Two impressions from an unnumbered latent lift card, taken from the second floor bathroom…were also examined. One latent palm impression from the bathtub, was of no value for comparison. The other palm impression from the bathroom windowsill was compared to the palm print of James Earl Ray and found not to match.”
Ray’s fingerprints were also apparently not discovered inside the second floor rooming house bathroom from which King was allegedly shot, according to the “Scientific Report On The Subject Of Analysis Of Fingerprint Evidence.” But a fingerprint of FBI Special Agent Frank Johnson was, apparently, found on the windowsill of this bathroom. As this report noted in 1979:
“Dr. King’s killer apparently fled the scene after firing the fatal shot from a second story bathroom window at the rear of a rooming house…This bathroom window provided a view of Dr. King’s room at the Lorraine Motel…
“The windowsill from the second-floor bathroom at the rear of Bessie Brewer’s Memphis rooming house was sent to the FBI Laboratory and Identification Division, Washington, D.C. The FBI found one latent fingerprint on the sill, but determined it belonged to FBI Special Agent Frank Johnson…”
(end of part 1)
Next: The Hoovergate Scandal: Hoover’s FBI and the King Assassination—Part 2