James Earl Ray’s brother attempts a posthumous defense, proposing a Manchurian Candidate scenario for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. 40 years ago.
John Larry Ray portrays his brother as a pawn in a great conspiracy theory, one that he lists alongside mysteries such as the 9/11 attacks, Vince Foster’s supposed suicide and “the Bush administration’s covering up [of] global warming.” Something happened, by his reckoning, when James, “a kind child, who in many ways was the opposite of what he was later made out to be,” enlisted in the Army and went off to Germany. There, Ray and co-author Barsten assert, James joined the CIA and was “given a new U.S. Army serial number which contained a code,” assigned to a unit with a four-digit designation when other regiments had three. As a military policeman, James shot and paralyzed an African-American soldier; his brother relates that “the details as James told them to me were a bit murky, though the importance of the incident to James cannot be questioned.” Other writers have suggested that the shooting was of a piece with a racist mindset, but Ray insists that his brother could not have been so inclined, for “when the Jewish boxer Bummy Davis was killed in a holdup in New York City, James was very upset about it.” The protestations continue in this vein. Yet, because James ate an ice-cream cone after buying a pair of Army-surplus binoculars—“hardly the actions of a murderer with time running out”—and didn’t use the time-honored stickup artist’s switch-car strategy, it stands to reason, in the authors’ logic, that, like Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray had to have been a patsy in some elaborate black-ops plot.
Slight and unconvincing—a story only a conspiracy buff finally tired of phone-company-killed-JFK scenarios will embrace.