Go figure...A Memphis jury rules that there was a widespread conspiracy to murder Martin Luther King Jr., and the nation responds with a resounding ho-hum. Despite America's love affair with conspiracy theories, the trial was notable in its media absence. Court TV televised the opening days, then skipped town, and civil rights leaders, including Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (who was at the assassination), have been quiet on the ruling. Even conspiracy-lover Oliver Stone allowed his option on the film rights to the murder expire. Of course, a trial that was based on defendant Loyd Jowers' six-year-old claim to a TV reporter that he paid someone (not James Earl Ray) to kill King is a little suspect, especially since he didn't testify at his trial and may have simply been plugging a planned book on the assassination.
The low-key reception isn't good news for King's family, who are hoping to use the decision to help push for a new federal investigation that, it believes, would uncover a conspiracy involving the FBI and the Army. "That's just not going to happen," says TIME national correspondent Jack E. White. "The assassination occurred in 1968, so many witnesses are dead, have changed their stories or have failing memories. There's almost no reason to think that a new investigation could produce any new insight."
While most people familiar with the case agree that Ray, if he was the killer, probably didn't act alone, White says "at this point it's probably impossible to get to the whole truth of what happened," and that there's virtually no chance of linking the federal government to the murder.