Eyewitness to Murder -- The King Assassination



6 and 9 p.m. Thursday, April 3

In America, for every great historical tragedy, there is at least one conspiracy theory. I'm not sure when this strain of civic paranoia took hold, but I wouldn't be surprised if the rumor mill was once rife with reports that John Wilkes Booth was just the fall guy.

CNN and Soledad O'Brien mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. with a thorough and admirable two-hour examination of whether James Earl Ray was the lone killer. O'Brien carefully lays out the sequence and context of events before the fatal rifle shot was fired in Memphis and then looks meticulously at the evidence that Ray did and didn't do it.

To her credit, O'Brien plays it absolutely straight. She acknowledges weaknesses in the official version but points out huge holes in the conspiracy theories. That King's own family rejected Ray as the killer a decade ago and King associate Andrew Young has his doubts still seems bewildering.

The special is the first of three two-hour programs CNN will present under the "Black in America" umbrella. The other two, also reported by O'Brien, look at the present and historic experiences of black men (June 18) and black women (June 19).