MEMPHIS (AP) – Newly-restored videotapes showing James Earl Ray's return to Memphis to face trial for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. have been released on the 45th anniversary of the civil rights leader's death.
The Shelby County Register's office converted to a digital medium several reels of tape that were shot in 1968 and 1969 on a Sony Videocorder and video camera. The tapes were discovered among old material in the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.
One highlight is the arrival of Ray after his arrest in London. Ray is on an airplane, having his rights read to him by Sheriff Bill Morris.
Also shown is Ray's arrival at the Shelby County Jail, where he was searched, examined by a doctor and put into a cell.
Other tapes show court proceedings, including the arrival of Ray's brothers John Ray and Jerry Ray during a March 1969 hearing.
Shelby County Register Tom Leatherwood said some of the footage and the audio portions are not as clear as people are accustomed to seeing, partly because the camera operators were learning to use the technology "on the fly" and the tapes had been reused.
"This is an opportunity to preserve and bring to the public intriguing images of a critical piece of our nation's history," Leatherwood said in a statement Tuesday.
King was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968.
Ray pleaded guilty on March 10, 1969, and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He later withdrew his confession and tried unsuccessfully to get a new trial. He died in prison on April 23, 1998.
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