A US judge deferred a decision Tuesday on who should get the Bible and Nobel Prize that belonged to Martin Luther King Jr., in a legal battle between his children.
Judge Robert McBurney, of Fulton County, Georgia in the southeastern US, delayed his decision after hearing arguments from lawyers representing the three living children and heirs of the iconic civil rights leader, who was assassinated at age 39 in 1968, local media reported.
Ownership of the Bible, which King brought with him everywhere, and the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 1964, is disputed by sons Dexter King and Martin Luther King III, who have suggested they might sell them, and daughter Bernice King, who opposes any sale.
Bernice King, who was not present at the hearing, has called the objects “sacred” and said they should stay in the family.
But her brothers said the real issue was not whether to sell the items in question.
“This is an issue of ownership and retrieving property,” Dexter King told the court, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“An individual has sequestered property that belongs to the corporation. We just want it back in its proper place, so that it can be protected.”
If the judge does not issue a ruling, the case will go to trial in mid-February.
According to a 1995 agreement between King’s three living children, each was given one vote in matters concerning his estate of historical items.
Last year, the two boys voted in favor of selling the Bible and the Nobel medal, while Bernice voted against, sparking the confrontation that has brought them to court.
For the time being, Bernice King is keeping the two objects in a safe deposit box under court order, with the judge holding the key until a decision is made.
The Bible recently received still another layer of historical resonance when used for US President Barack Obama’s second oath of office.
After the death of the eldest daughter, Yolanda, the three remaining siblings sold some of King’s personal documents, including correspondence and copies of his speeches, for $32 million.
Tuesday’s hearing comes a week before the United States celebrates Martin Luther King Day in honor of the civil rights hero, and as the film Selma, about King’s historic 1965 march for equal voting rights, plays in theaters.