Attorney General Janet Reno Wednesday ordered a limited Justice Department review of the 30-year-old assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
"We hope this review will provide answers to new questions that have been raised about a tragedy that still haunts our nation," Reno said in a brief written announcement. She promised a report on the findings."The evidence gathered by the inquiry will be followed wherever it may lead," the Justice Department announcement said. But it cautioned that, even if proved true, some allegations may not be prosecutable because federal statutes of limitations may have lapsed.
The review is more limited than the national commission sought by the King family, whose members have expressed doubts about the official version that James Earl Ray, acting alone, shot King on the balcony of a Memphis, Tenn., motel April 4, 1968.
The allegations to be reviewed include those by former Memphis bar owner Lloyd Jowers and former FBI agent Donald Wilson, both of whom suggested there may have been a conspiracy involving people besides Ray.
In March, after 30 years of silence, Wilson said that after the assassination, he took papers from Ray's car that support claims of a conspiracy. Wilson, who worked in the FBI's Atlanta office in 1968, claimed to have found an envelope containing two pieces of paper with the name "Raul" written on them.
Ray died in prison this year serving a sentence for killing King, but he had long ago disavowed his initial confession and spent years futilely seeking a new trial. Ray contended he was set up by a shadowy gunrunner named Raoul, a man whose existence has never been verified. The FBI discounted Wilson's story.