AN ACT OF STATE  by William F. Pepper


The Execution of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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Pepper, a lawyer and longtime investigator into the King shooting, musters copious evidence pointing to James Earl Ray’s not having acted alone.

In the almost 35 years since King was assassinated, Pepper has gathered an impressive array of testimony and evidence that, to even determined skeptics, throws major doubt over the state’s case against Ray. There is, most obviously, the verdict against Loyd Jowers in the wrongful-death civil suit brought by the King family. Then there is the avalanche of material—so much that it can tangle itself into a mare’s nest in Pepper’s rush to get it all down—from the circumstantial to the blatant, implicating the FBI, the intelligence services, and organized crime. And there are all the failures of the state to follow through on any number of leads that may have led to greater understanding of events. Pepper draws all of this information into his presentation, sometimes more and sometimes less cogently, yet the result is to show that something smells rotten in the state’s case. Had Pepper stopped there, he would have made his point to fence-sitters. Unfortunately, he feels the need to square the King case with the evils of the “transnational corporate masters” who run the country through the military and the media—“responsible for broadcasting mind-numbing commercialization, and causing the dumbing down of viewers who are constantly exposed to the standardization of thought”—in a screed so aggressively and sanctimoniously trite that even readers who agree with the basic premise will instinctively recoil. In these polemics, Pepper is at his most inconsistent: “The silence from media organizations was deafening,” he says of the Jowers verdict, though suggesting later that it was a “mighty Wurlitzer” at “full volume.”

This tumble from passion to rant hurts Pepper, but the fundamental injustice of the handling of the King assassination survives his missteps.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 2003
ISBN: 1-85984-695-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Verso
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2002