William Francis Pepper
William Francis Pepper (born August 16, 1937) is an attorney 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. Dr. 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.
Pepper received a B.A. and M.A. from Columbia University, Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts, and J.D. law degree from Boston College. He was admitted to the bar in 1977. In addition to his United States practice, he is a non-practicing barrister in the United Kingdom.
Martin Luther King cases
Martin Luther King Jr. contacted Pepper after seeing Pepper's photo essay, The Children of Vietnam, which was published in the January 1967 issue of Ramparts magazine and depicted victims of napalm in Vietnam. Pepper later stated that the contact contributed to King's more adamant position against the Vietnam War. Pepper was present at King's April 4, 1967 Riverside Church speech in which King launched a strong campaign against the war.
Pepper thought that King's assassination was part of a government conspiracy and became James Earl Ray's last attorney. He postulated that Ray was framed by the FBI, the CIA, the military, the Memphis police, and organized crime figures from New Orleans and Memphis. He publicized his position in books and represented James Earl Ray in a televised mock trial in an attempt to get Ray the trial that he never had. Ray was found not guilty in the mock trial, though actually convicted of King's assassination.
Through his writing, King's son, Dexter King, took up the cause to prove Ray was innocent. Dexter met with Ray on March 27, 1997, at the Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility, during which he said that he believed Ray was innocent.
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.
To further support his conspiratorial views of government complicity in the assassination of Dr. King, in a 2016 interview about his book, The Plot to Kill King, Dr. Pepper mentions the following:
- “King was not only hated by the establishment as he rose to prominence in the 1960s, he was feared. Not only did he have the ability to move large numbers of people with his message of peace and tolerance, but he had designs on a political career. . . . King was planning to run for president on a third-party ticket with fellow anti-war activist Dr. Benjamin Spock. He was also causing panic in powerful circles because he intended to bring hundreds of thousands of poor people to an encampment in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1968 to bring attention to the plight of the poor.”
- “The only two black members of the Memphis Fire Department had been told the day before the shooting not to report for work the next day at the fire station. And black detective Ed Redditt was told an hour before the shooting to stay home because a threat had been made on his life.”
- “The bushes that concealed the shooter were conveniently trimmed the day after the shooting, giving a false impression that a shooter could not have been concealed there.”
- “Another casualty of the King murder was cab driver Buddy Butler who reported that he saw a man running from the scene right after the shot, going south on Mulberry St., and jumping into a police car (this would turn out to be MPD Lieutenant Earl Clark). Butler reported this to his dispatcher and later to fellow cab driver Louie Ward. Butler was interviewed at the Yellow Cab Company later that evening by police. Ward was told the next day that Butler had either fallen, or was pushed, to his death from a speeding car on the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge.”
- “Loyd Jowers was the owner of Jim's Grill, a restaurant near the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. In December 1993, Jowers appeared on ABC's Prime Time Live and related the details of an alleged conspiracy involving the Mafia and the U.S. government to kill King. According to Jowers, James Earl Ray was a scapegoat, and was not responsible for the assassination. Jowers said that he hired Memphis police Lieutenant Earl Clark to fire the fatal shot. The existence of such a conspiracy, and Jowers' involvement, was supported in the verdict of a 1998 court case which was brought against Jowers by the King family.”
Robert F. Kennedy assassination
On February 22, 2012, Pepper and co-counsel Laurie Dusek filed a court brief in U.S. 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.
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Pepper is involved in Human Rights Law. He has written opinions on the German Border Guards case and, more recently, an opinion on the application of international law in the Spanish prosecution of individuals relating to war crimes committed post 9/11. For a time, he convened the International Human Rights Seminar at Oxford University, during which time individuals such as Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, accepted invitations to address the seminar. He lives primarily in the United States.
- The Self-managed child: Paths to Cultural Rebirth, 1973. ISBN 0-06-090310-4
- Sex Discrimination in Employment: An Analysis and Guide for Practitioner and Student, 1982. ISBN 0-87215-331-2
- Orders to Kill: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King jr, 1995. ISBN 0-7867-0253-2
- An Act Of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King, 2003. ISBN 1-85984-695-5
- Die Hinrichtung des Martin Luther King, ISBN 3-7205-2405-1
- The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., 2016. ISBN 1-5107-0217-2
- "William Pepper". Radiodujour.com. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
- Boris Lurie Art Foundation (1999-12-08). "Dr. William F. Pepper". Boris Lurie Art Foundation. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
- "William Pepper Lawyer Profile". martindale.com. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
- Pepper, William (28 January 2003). An act of state: the execution of Martin Luther King. Verso. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-85984-695-7. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
- 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.
- McKee, Craig (5 September 2016). "The Plot to Kill Martin Luther King: Survived Shooting, Was Murdered in Hospital". Global Research. Centre for Research on Globalization.
- Brad Johnson and Michael Martinez (March 4, 2012). "Attorneys for RFK convicted killer Sirhan push 'second gunman' argument". CNN.