King was in Memphis on behalf of striking sanitation workers when gunned down while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
James Earl Ray was charged with the murder but did not go to trial. On the eve of his trial in 1969 he accepted a guilty plea that allowed him to avoid the electric chair.
Ray was sentenced to 99 years, but shortly thereafter recanted his confession and tried to gain a new trial claiming, among other things, that his plea had been coerced.
In 1997, King's son Dexter met with Ray in prison and asked him on tape
if he killed his father. Dexter King thereafter publicly supported Ray's request for a new trial.
Meanwhile Lloyd Jowers, a Memphis restaurant owner was sued in civil court as part of a conspiracy to murder Martin Luther King. Jowers was found legally liable
and the King family accepted $100 in restitution. The small settlement was chosen to prove they were not after financial gain.
Ray's case went to the Supreme Court, but he died in prison in 1998 without having been granted another trial. The sticking point is that many people, including some members of King's family, still believe that Ray was either not the murderer, or at least did not act alone, and so deserved a new trial.
Newly released documents connected to Ray have been posted on the Shelby County Register of Deeds website
The bundle of documents were discovered in 2006 within the Shelby County (Memphis) record archives. Ray spent eight months in the Shelby County jail while awaiting trial prior to accepting the guilty plea.
The just released documents include never-before-seen photos
, letters from Ray to his family and attorney, crime scene photos, notes of investigators, and dozens of audio files of court proceedings.