Murder Conspiracy Theories: Episode 3 NPR White Lies Civil Rights Crime Podcast In Episode 3, we break down the conspiracy theory that emerged after the Rev. James Reeb's murder: that he was allowed to die or was killed because the civil rights movement needed a white martyr.
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The Counternarrative

The Counternarrative

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Doctors care for the Rev. James Reeb in a Birmingham, Ala., hospital after he was attacked in Selma on March 9, 1965. Bettmann/Getty Images hide caption

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Doctors care for the Rev. James Reeb in a Birmingham, Ala., hospital after he was attacked in Selma on March 9, 1965.

Bettmann/Getty Images

Editor's note: This podcast contains explicit language that some may find offensive.

In the third episode of White Lies, we investigate the theory that emerged from the defense's closing argument in the trial for the murder of the Rev. James Reeb: that civil rights activists delayed Reeb's medical treatment and let him die — or killed Reeb themselves — because the movement needed a white martyr to further its cause.

We break down a seven-page letter written a few weeks after the acquittal that amplified the closing argument. Published by an outspoken segregationist in Selma, it promulgated the theory that the true villain was the civil rights movement itself and aimed to absolve Reeb's attackers and the people who lied to protect them.

We interview nurses and doctors who treated Reeb before he died, cross-reference statements made to local, state and federal investigators and dig through an abandoned bunker at a decommissioned Air Force base in a search for evidence.

For a visual narrative of NPR's investigation into the murder of Reeb and its aftermath, visit npr.org/whitelies.