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Tom Leatherwood

James Earl Ray Video Tapes


The following converted video tapes are a portion of the material obtained by the Shelby County Register/Archives’ Office in 2011 from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. Other material received at that time include logs for the period James Earl Ray was incarcerated in Shelby County and photographs of Ray as he was received by the Sheriff upon his extradition from London. Excluding this video footage, all material has previously been made available on the Shelby County Register’s website in the "Dr. Martin Luther King Assassination Investigation" exhibit.

In 1968, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office purchased a Sony Videocorder and Video Camera for the purposes of documenting the extradition, incarceration, and proceedings as related to James Earl Ray for the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is believed that the personnel using the equipment were learning how to operate this technology as they recorded. As a result, the footage is not always as clear as we are accustomed to seeing today. Additional lighting is not used on most of the recordings. Audio portions are not always clear. There are inconsistencies in the video and audio tracks throughout the converted footage.

On the "James Earl Ray Arrival on Plane July 19, 1968" video, there will be video dropouts along with lighting and sound issues.

The tapes, titled "Shelby County Jail Booking Procedures 1969," "James Earl Ray Arraignment, Court Attendees July 22, 1968," and "James Earl Ray Guilty Plea, Court Attendees March 10, 1969," were apparently recorded over as each has an additional audio track that causes some interference with audio portions being captured by the Sheriff’s personnel.

On the video, "TV Report with William Bradford Huie February 6, 1969," the Sheriff’s personnel recorded a local news TV broadcast. In doing so, they recorded commercials and television programs for that day before and after the news report.

The tape "James Earl Ray Court Proceedings, Court Attendees September 30, 1968," contains portions of television programs and an additional audio track.