Jowers at the 1999 trial
|Born||November 20, 1926|
Lexington, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||May 20, 2000 (aged 73)|
Union City, Tennessee, U.S.
|Occupation||Owner of Jim's Grill|
|Known for||Martin Luther King Jr. assassination conspiracy theories|
Loyd Jowers (November 20, 1926 – May 20, 2000) was the owner of Jim's Grill, a restaurant near the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. In 1993, Jowers appeared on the ABC News program Prime Time Live and related the details of an alleged conspiracy involving the Mafia and the U.S. government to kill the civil rights leader. According to Jowers, the alleged assassin, James Earl Ray, was a scapegoat, and was not the only person responsible for assassinating King. Instead, Jowers said that he hired Memphis police Lieutenant Earl Clark to fire the fatal shot. A Memphis civil trial in 1999 supported this claim. In 2000, the United States Department of Justice released a 150-page report denying allegations that there was a conspiracy to assassinate King.
Martin Luther King Jr. assassination
In a 1993 episode of ABC's Primetime Live, Jowers told reporter Sam Donaldson that he hired someone to kill King as a favor to a friend in the mafia, produce merchant Frank Liberto. Jowers said Liberto, who had died prior to the ABC interview, had paid him $100,000 to arrange the assassination. He did not name the person he claimed to have hired, but said it was not Ray.
Coretta Scott King v. Loyd Jowers
In 1998, the King family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jowers and "other unknown co-conspirators" for the murder of King. The King family was represented by attorney William Pepper, who had previously served as the attorney of James Earl Ray, King's formerly accused assassin, in a televised, mock trial. According to The Washington Post, Pepper had "for years claimed the assassination was the result of a vast conspiracy involving the FBI, CIA and the Army, organized crime and various state and local officials." After four weeks of testimony which involved over 70 witnesses and thousands of pages of new evidence, a Memphis jury unanimously found, on December 8, 1999, that Jowers was part of a conspiracy to kill King, and that the assassination plot also involved "others, including governmental agencies."
At a press conference following the verdict, Coretta Scott King stated that "there is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr... the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband. The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame."
Following statements by Dexter King and other family members, Dexter was subsequently asked by a reporter, "there are many people out there who feel that as long as these conspirators remain nameless and faceless there is no true closure, and no justice." He replied:
No, he [Mr. Lloyd Jowers] named the shooter. The shooter was the Memphis Police Department Officer, Lt. Earl Clark who he named as the killer. Once again, beyond that you had credible witnesses that named members of a Special Forces team who didn't have to act because the contract killer succeeded, with plausible denial, a Mafia contracted killer.
The Memphis county prosecutor said on several occasions that Mr. Jowers' claims were without merit and that he was motivated to sell his story for a book or a movie. Ray's lawyer claimed two sisters who worked at Jowers' restaurant would corroborate Jowers' claim, but both recanted their stories. One sister said that Jowers had fabricated the story so he could make $300,000 from selling the story; she in turn corroborated his story in order to get money to pay taxes. In a telephone conversation taped by authorities, Jowers' main witness stated that his story was false.
According to the Los Angeles Times, "The trial relied heavily on second- and third-hand accounts, and the judge and jurors were often seen dozing off during testimony." John Campbell, an assistant district attorney in Memphis who was part of the criminal trial against James Earl Ray, said: "I'm not surprised by the verdict. This case overlooked so much contradictory evidence that never was presented, what other option did the jury have but to accept Mr. Pepper's version?"
Gerald Posner, an investigative journalist who wrote the book Killing the Dream in which he makes the case that Ray was the killer, said after the verdict: "It distresses me greatly that the legal system was used in such a callous and farcical manner in Memphis. If the King family wanted a rubber stamp of their own view of the facts, they got it."
Justice Department investigation
Prompted by the King family's acceptance of some of the conspiracy theories, United States Attorney General Janet Reno ordered a new investigation on August 26, 1998. On June 9, 2000, the United States Department of Justice released a 150-page report rejecting allegations that there was a conspiracy to assassinate King, including the findings of the Memphis civil court jury. The DOJ considered suggestions by the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979 and the district attorney of Shelby County, Tennessee in 1998 that Ray's brothers may have been co-conspirators and stated that they "found insufficient evidentiary leads remaining after 30 years to justify further investigation."
- "RootsWeb.com Home Page". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com.
- Sniffin, Michael J. (June 10, 2000). "Justice Dept. finds no conspiracy in King assassination". The Hour. 129 (159). Norwalk, Connecticut. AP. p. A4. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
- "Loyd Jowers; Jury Found He Played a Role in King's Slaying". Los Angeles Times. May 24, 2000. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
- "Loyd Jowers, 73, Who Claimed A Role in the Killing of Dr. King". The New York Times. May 23, 2000.
- "Lloyd Jowers Dies". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. May 23, 2000. Retrieved September 12, 2017.
- "Civil Case: King Family versus Jowers - The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change". www.thekingcenter.org.
- "Assassination Conspiracy Trial". The King Center. December 9, 1999. Archived from the original on March 31, 2018. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- "Washingtonpost.com: Martin Luther King Jr.: The Legacy". The Washington Post. January 30, 1999.
- "Loyd Jowers; Jury Found He Played a Role in King's Slaying". The Los Angeles Times. May 24, 2000.
- Yellin, Emily (December 9, 1999). "Memphis Jury Sees Conspiracy in Martin Luther King's Killing". The New York Times.
- "List Of Attachments - CRT - Department of Justice". www.justice.gov.