Judge Robert C. I. McBurney, has ordered that Bernice King turn over her father’s Bible and Nobel Peace Prize to the King Estate for safe keeping until a court decides whether or not her brothers can sell them on the open market.
But there is a catch.
McBurney said the items are to be stored in safe deposit box at a bank of the estate’s choosing, but the court will control the keys.
“I think it is prudent that the two items be stored together in a safe deposit box,” McBurney said after a 2.5 hour hearing Wednesday night in the Fulton County Superior Court. “The court will maintain all keys to the safe deposit box and the whereabouts will be known to the two parties.”
McBurney’s ruling came after a grueling afternoon of procedural litigation between attorneys representing the Dexter King and Martin Luther King III of the King Estate and Bernice King, who has the items in her possession.
None of the siblings will be able to access the items without approval from McBurney.
At issue is the Nobel Peace Prize that King won in 1964 for his work in the civil rights movement and a tattered Bible that he carried with him all over the world. President Barack Obama put his hand on that Bible to take the oath of office for his second term in 2013.
Brothers Dexter King and Martin Luther King III want to sell the items, which could garner millions on the open market or auction circuit.
Their sister, Bernice King, who has the items in her possession, is refusing to turn them over and doesn’t want to sell them. All three siblings represent the King Estate; the brothers voted 2-1 against their sister to sell the items.
In their lawsuit, the brothers contend that Bernice King is violating a 1995 agreement that requires each of the heirs of Martin Luther King Jr. to turn over all ownership of their father’s property to the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc., which controls his intellectual property.
The lawsuit claims that Bernice King has “secreted and sequestered” the Bible and Nobel medal. Bernice King has responded that her brothers know where the items are.
Courtrooms have become familiar playgrounds for the siblings, whose long-simmering differences have recently played out there. Last August, the brothers sued Bernice King in an attempt to force her out as CEO of the King Center.
That case is still pending.
In a series of interviews last week, Bernice King said that she is trying to protect her father’s legacy by protecting his treasured possessions, which she called “sacred.” Many in the civil rights community, including C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young and Joseph Lowery voiced support for her position.
King III and Dexter King have maintained a public silence since the latest lawsuit came to light. Repeated calls to them and their attorneys were not returned this week. It is unclear if either of the brothers will be in court today.
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