William Pepper, one of Ray’s lawyers, to
William Pepper, one of Ray’s lawyers, told Brown the FBI test-fired bullets from Ray’s gun shorty after the killing, but never provided them to Ray’s legal team. He said they could be key to determining whether Ray’s gun fired the fatal bullet.
``That evidence should be here and should be made available to us,″ he said.
In Rhode Island, criminalists fired Ray’s gun into a tank of water, then had them analyzed under a powerful microscope to compare markings on them to the bullet removed from King.
Robert Hathaway oversaw the tests and was to testify at the hearing. Before he took the stand, Brown shared some of the preliminary findings.
``For ... 12 test bullets ... analysis revealed that there was a unique and gross characteristic that was common to each of these test bullets. This characteristic appears to be the signature of a rare defect in the bore of the James Earl Ray rifle,″ he said.
Prosecutors said they had not been provided with a written account of the tests, and Pepper acknowledged one had not been made yet.
The .30-06 hunting rifle Ray bought in Alabama and brought to Memphis was found near the murder scene with his fingerprints on it. He contends it was dropped there to frame him.
The rifle and death bullet were tested by the FBI and a U.S. House committee in the 1960s and 1970s, but those tests could not prove beyond a scientific doubt that it was the murder weapon.
The committee concluded in 1978 that Ray killed King but may have been helped by others before or after the shooting.
Meanwhile, a lawyer Ray is planning to ask the governor to release his client from prison because he is dying of liver disease.
``He’s got a terminal illness, so he should be allowed to get out,″ said attorney Andrew Hall, who is preparing a petition seeking clemency from Gov. Don Sundquist.
Hall said the clemency petition argues that Ray is not a danger to society and that he is dying. In the past 10 years, Tennessee governors have exercised their clemency powers four times.