Trials: Rights of the Material Witness

Only a few months ago, hardly any one much cared how Charles Quitman Stephens, 57, chose to lead his life. An unemployed bulldozer operator, Stephens drew a veteran's modest pension from the Government, lived alone in a room rented for $10 a week in downtown Memphis, and had a reputation for drinking. Stephens would have continued to attract small notice had he not been present in his rooming house on the afternoon that Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to death while standing on a motel balcony a few hundred feet away.

According to police, the sniper fired from a...

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