10 Widely Believed U.S. Government Conspiracy Theories

Martin Luther King's Assassination was a Government Plot
A man stands on a balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in the approximate place Martin Luther King Jr. stood when he was killed. In the courtyard beneath it are newsmen, police officials and onlookers, the day after the shooting. © Bettmann/CORBIS

Arguments about the untimely death of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. have abounded for decades. He died in 1968 due to gunshot wounds allegedly delivered by James Earl Ray [sources: Ghose]. White supremacist factions loudly voiced and demonstrated their opposition to MLK's ideals, but many conspiracy theorists hold that Ray was actually a scapegoat in a conspiracy mounted by the FBI, the CIA and the Mafia because of King's opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1999, the King family won a lawsuit in which a jury decided that King's death was due to conspiracy, and that Ray may have actually been set up. The King family had sued a man named Lloyd Jowers who said on a TV show that he paid someone besides Ray to kill King. Ray had initially confessed to the assassination, then recanted his admission and died before the lawsuit was decided. Jowers was ill during the trial and did not testify [source: CBSNews].

Exhaustive investigations by the U.S. Justice Department indicate, however, that Ray indeed acted on his own, pointing to initial accounts from Dr. King's camp, forensic evidence and inconsistent statements by witnesses as proof. Further, Jowers denied his story about the second gunman when he was under oath in an earlier case. And the mysterious man named "Raoul" whom Ray said had told him to commit the murder has never been found. The man in a picture identified by Ray as "Raoul" turned out to be a retired autoworker whose employment records show he could never have been with Ray on any of the dates specified [source: Polk].