William F. Pepper

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William F. Pepper
William F. Pepper (2010).png
William Francis Pepper

(1937-08-16) August 16, 1937 (age 85)
EducationColumbia University (BA, MA)
London School of Economics (MA)
University of Massachusetts Amherst (M.Ed.)
Boston College (JD)

William Francis Pepper (born August 16, 1937) is a U.S. lawyer formerly based in New York City who is most noted for his efforts to prove government culpability and the innocence of James Earl Ray in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Pepper has also been trying to prove the innocence of Sirhan Sirhan in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. He is the author of several books, and he has been active in other government conspiracy cases, including the 9/11 Truth movement,[1] and has advocated that George W. Bush be charged with war crimes.[2]

Early life[edit]

He was born in New York City.[3] Pepper received a B.A. and M.A. from Columbia University, and studied abroad at the London School of Economics,[4] Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and J.D. degree from Boston College Law School.[5] He was admitted to the Bar in 1977.[6]

Prominent cases[edit]

Martin Luther King cases[edit]

Pepper has stated Martin Luther King Jr. contacted him after seeing his photo essay, The Children of Vietnam, which was published in the January 1967 issue of Ramparts magazine. It depicted victims of napalm in Vietnam.[7] Pepper, who supported the Communist cause, later wrote "it was not then clear to Dr. King that Ho-Chi Minh’s reverence for Jefferson, Lincoln, and American democracy, as he idealized it, made him the legitimate father of a unified Vietnam"[8] Pepper later claimed that his conversation with King contributed to King's more adamant position against the Vietnam War, and that he was present at King's Riverside Church speech on April 4, 1967, in which King publicly attacked the war.

James Earl Ray pleaded guilty to King's assassination but soon recanted his confession. Pepper, who was Ray's last attorney, has postulated that Ray was not the shooter but was framed by the FBI, the CIA, the military, the Memphis police, and organized crime figures from New Orleans and Memphis.

Pepper represented James Earl Ray in a televised mock trial where Ray was found not guilty. Pepper's appeals to higher courts, and even the Supreme Court, failed. According to Pepper, "It looked like we were at the end of the road and then I came up with an idea, 'Well, look, why don't we try to have a real trial on television?" A mock trial was broadcast on HBO. The television jury found Ray not guilty.[9]

King's youngest son, Dexter King, met with Ray on March 27, 1997, at the Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility. King subsequently said, "In the name of truth and justice, our family is calling for a trial, a trial James Earl Ray never had. ... I don't think his trial—if he is granted a trial—will necessarily give us the unequivocal proof, but at least in regard to new evidence, we will know more than we do now."[10]

In June 1997, Pepper appeared on ABC's Turning Point. He discussed the theory from his book Orders to Kill: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King Jr. This theory that held that a hit team from the 20th special forces group was to kill King if a police sharpshooter failed. This group was supposedly led by a man named Billy Eidson, whom Pepper claimed had since been killed in a cover up. Eidson was then brought on camera and refused to shake Pepper's hand. Eidson brought a $15 million lawsuit against Pepper's publisher which was later settled for an undisclosed amount.[11][12]

Following Ray's death, Pepper represented the King family in a wrongful death lawsuit, "King family vs. Loyd Jowers and other unknown co-conspirators". During a trial that lasted four weeks, Pepper produced over seventy witnesses. Jowers, testifying by deposition, stated that James Earl Ray was a scapegoat and not involved in the assassination. Jowers testified that Memphis police officer Earl Clark fired the fatal shots. On December 8, 1999, the Memphis jury found Jowers responsible, and also found that the assassination plot included "governmental agencies." The jury took less than an hour to find in favor of the King family for the requested sum of $100.[13]

Robert F. Kennedy assassination[edit]

On February 22, 2012, Pepper and co-counsel Laurie Dusek filed a court brief in District Court in Los Angeles claiming that a second gunman fired the shots that killed Robert F. Kennedy, and petitioning for the release of their client Sirhan Sirhan.[14] Pepper believes that Sirhan, who claims to have no memory of the shooting was programmed under hypnosis to shoot and provide a distraction from the actual gunman who got away. Hypnosis expert Harvard Medical School professor Daniel P. Brown concluded that Sirhan did not act under his own volition and knowledge at the time of the shooting. He was a real "Manchurian Candidate".[15] ABC News said the story had all the makings of a great conspiracy theory.[16]

Sirhan Sirhan was again denied parole on February 10, 2016. On March 30, 2016, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a further appeal launched by Pepper, noting the appellant has not shown that "jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the denial of a constitutional right and that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the district court was correct in its procedural ruling."[17]


External video
video icon Book TV interview with Pepper on An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King. C-SPAN, January 28, 2003.
video icon Conversation with Pepper and Len Osanic. November 2008.



  • The Self-Managed Child: Paths to Cultural Rebirth. New York: Harper & Row (1973). ISBN 0060903104.
  • Sex Discrimination in Employment: An Analysis and Guide for Practitioner and Student. Charlottesville: Michie Co. (1982). ISBN 978-0872153318.
  • Orders to Kill: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Carroll & Graf (1995). ISBN 978-0786702534.
  • An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King. New York: Verso (2003). ISBN 978-1859846957.
  • The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. New York: Simon & Schuster (2016). ISBN 978-1510702189


  1. ^ Brouillet, Carol. "Dr. William F. Pepper to Speak at 9/11 Truth Film Festival: Why 9/11 Truth Still Matters."Indybay, September 2, 2017. Archived from the original.
  2. ^ "William Pepper."Radiodujour.com. Retrieved November 5, 2010. Archived June 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Hubbell, Martindale (September 1998). Martindale-Hubbell International Law Directory, Volume I: Europe, Asia, Australasia, Middle East & Africa. Martindale-Hubbell. ISBN 9781561603244.
  4. ^ Printing Office, U.S. Government (1969). Extent of Subversion in Campus Disorders: Hearings Before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee To Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, Ninety-First Congress, First Session, Parts 1-3. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Publishing Office.
  5. ^ Boris Lurie Art Foundation. "Dr. William F. Pepper." Retrieved November 5, 2010. Archived April 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "William Pepper Lawyer Profile". martindale.com. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
  7. ^ Gabrish Conlan, Mark (February 2, 2003). "William Pepper Calls Martin Luther King's Murder an Execution". San Diego Indy Media. Zenger's Newsmagazine. Archived from the original on 2003-11-27. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  8. ^ William F Pepper (January 15, 2018). "Inside Martin Luther King Jr.'s final, radical year". Salon.
  9. ^ Johnson, Carrie. "Despite Swirl Of Conspiracy Theories, Investigators Say The MLK Case Is Closed." National Public Radio, April 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Bragg, Rick. "King Family Seeks Trial for Ray Before He Dies With His Secrets." The New York Times, February 4, 1997.
  11. ^ Stark, Tony (28 November 1999). "Who Killed Martin Luther King?". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "Who Killed Martin Luther King? (S1 EP 6)". Conspiracy?. 2004. History Channel.
  13. ^ Kevin Sack and Emily Yellin (December 10, 1999). "Dr. King's Slaying Finally Draws A Jury Verdict, but to Little Effect". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Brad Johnson and Michael Martinez (March 4, 2012). "Attorneys for RFK convicted killer Sirhan push 'second gunman' argument". CNN.
  15. ^ "The assassination of Bobby Kennedy: Was Sirhan Sirhan hypnotized to be the fall guy?", Washington Post
  16. ^ Assassin's Lawyer Says Sirhan Sirhan Was Brainwashed, ABC news
  17. ^ "9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judgement" (PDF).

External links[edit]