Son meets King's alleged assassin

In an encounter that could have taken place only in the United States, the son of Martin Luther King met his father's alleged assassin and asked the question to which all America wanted the answer: "Did you kill my father?"

The response, from James Earl Ray, 69, was a faint but firm and direct: "No, no, I did not." Dexter King, 35, replied: "I believe you, and my family believes you." The meeting, some of which was broadcast, took place almost 29 years to the day since King was shot while addressing a crowd from a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. The encounter, at the Nashville prison where Ray is serving a 99-year sentence, was courteous, at times almost friendly.

Mr King pressed for such a meeting when it became known Ray had cirrhosis. Ray had pleaded guilty to assassinating King, which allowed him to escape the death penalty. But he then changed his story and insisted he was innocent. Some conspiracy theories alleged FBI or other official involvement. Doubts about Ray's guilt fuelled a campaign for a full court trial at which all the evidence could be aired.

New techniques that would establish whether the gun found with Ray's fingerprints fired the fatal shot have also been cited in support of a trial. But the chances are thought slim, both because of judicial reluctance and the state of Ray's health.

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