The state correction commissioner has denied James Earl Ray's request for transfer from his isolation cell on Death Row, where he is serving a 99-year term for assassinating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The commissioner, Steve Norris, in dismissing Ray's request Friday, said: "There is no question Mr. Ray is an escape risk, and he could be harmed unless he is under proper security."
"I'm not ruling out moving him to another institution," Norris said. "As for moving him out into the general population at another institution, I'd have to look at that closely."
Norris expressed concern, however, about the effect of isolation on Ray, who pleaded guilty in the 1968 shooting death of King in Memphis. "He has been in isolation for a long time," Norris said. "That's bound to take its toll."
Ray last May asked to be moved from the Tennessee State Prison here to a medium-security facility where he would be able to work. He was transferred to the Nashville prison in 1981 and placed in isolation after he was stabbed by fellow inmates in the former Brushy Mountain State Prison.