MATERIAL: Hand-Written/Painted
TYPE: Documents (Loose)
COMPONENTS: Typed Letter Signed by James Earl Ray, 1pp. quarto.
CONDITION: Very good condition.
ITEM ID: 668

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James Earl Ray Letter

DATE
Year: 1978
Decade: 1970s
Century: 20th (1901-2000)

A typed letter signed by James Earl Ray mentioning the Martin Luther King Assassination. James Earl Ray (1928-1998) was an American murderer convicted of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was convicted on March 10, 1969, after entering a guilty plea to forgo a jury trial. If Ray had been found guilty by jury trial he would have been eligible for the death penalty. He was sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison. He later recanted his confession and tried unsuccessfully to gain a new trial. He died in prison of hepatitis C.
This letter was written on June 15, 1978, and reads in part: “…On June 27th the attorney will argue in Knoxville whether I should have another trial in the escape last year. This does not mean mush [sic] legally, i.e., I would still be in, but it could help with fall-out effects. Mark Lane was very busy, lately defending a woman he got released from a mental institution here in Tennessee — she was incarcerated in May 1968 because she would not identify me in the K. [Martin Luther King] business. If it had not have been for her case he would have probably filed for me a new trial last month; as the situation stands now it will most likely be another month. I suppose you do have problems with high prices and taxes. I heard on the TV news that California said enough…”
On June 11, 1977, James Earl Ray made his second appearance on the FBI Most Wanted Fugitives list, this time as the 351st entry. He and six other convicts had escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee, on June 10, 1977. They were recaptured on June 13, three days later, and returned to prison. A year was added to Ray’s previous sentence, to total 100 years. Ray had hired Jack Kershaw as his attorney, who promoted Ray’s claim that he was not responsible for the shooting, which was said to have been the result of a conspiracy of the otherwise unidentified man named “Raul”. Kershaw and his client met with representatives of the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations and convinced the committee to run ballistics tests – which ultimately proved inconclusive – that would show that Ray had not fired the fatal shot. Kershaw claimed that the escape was additional proof that Ray had been involved in a conspiracy that had provided him with the outside assistance he would have needed to break out of jail. Kershaw convinced Ray to take a polygraph test as part of an interview with Playboy. The magazine said that the test results showed “that Ray did, in fact, kill Martin Luther King Jr. and that he did so alone”. Ray fired Kershaw after discovering that the attorney had been paid $11,000 by the magazine in exchange for the interview and hired conspiracy theorist Mark Lane to provide him with legal representation.

ARTISTS
Name: James Earl Ray
Type: Artist