Sirhan Sirhan Seeks Release Or New Trial

Sirhan Sirhan, who has been incarcerated since 1968 for assassinating Robert F. Kennedy, is seeking immediate release or a new trial. The request for a new trial is based on "formidable evidence" asserting his innocence and "horrendous violations" of his rights.

It's really a fascinating story. His lawyers claim (1) there were 2 guns fired, not just Sirhan's, and Sirhan's probably didn't kill Kennedy, (2) there was fraud at the trial when the court allowed prosecutors to introduce a substitute bullet as evidence of the actual bullet removed from Kennedy's neck, and (3) Sirhan was hyno-programmed as a diversionary tactic and thus an involuntary participant:

Sirhan "was an involuntary participant in the crimes being committed because he was subjected to sophisticated hypno programming and memory implantation techniques which rendered him unable to consciously control his thoughts and actions at the time the crimes were being committed," court papers said.


Sirhan's gun held only 8 bullets. But the only tape of the assassination, examined by experts Spence Whitehead and Philip Van Praag, caused the experts to conclude more than 8 shots were fired.

Van Praag rules out the possibility that any of the 13 shots were echoes, ricochets or non-gunshot sounds. He also finds that some of the shots were fired too rapidly, at intervals too close together for all the shots to have come from Sirhan's inexpensive handgun. Van Praag further concludes that the five shots fired opposite the direction of Sirhan's eight shots displayed a "frequency anomaly" indicating the second gun's make and model were different from Sirhan's weapon.

Then there's the direction of the bullets:

[Sirhan's lawyer William] Pepper said that witnesses reported Sirhan was standing several feet in front of Kennedy and firing nearly horizontally while the medical evidence showed Kennedy's body and clothing were struck by four bullets fired point-blank from behind the Senator at steep upward angles.

Pepper also says it turns out Sirhan's trial lawyer, Grant Cooper, now dead, was under indictment:

Cooper was under federal indictment for illegally possessing grand jury minutes in an unrelated case, but the indictment was dropped after Sirhan's sentencing, Pepper said.

Who is Pepper? He says he not only knew the Kennedy family, but managed RFK's 1964 senate campaign for Westchester County. (Actually, he says here that he managed his "citizen's campaign" for Senate.) Pepper is an international human rights lawyer who also represented James Earl Ray for 10 years, alleging that MLK, Jr. was assassinated as part of "on-going covert program ...to suppress dissent and disruption in America" and Ray wasn't the shooter, just an "unknowing patsy." He represented the King family successfully in a civil lawsuit but the Justice Department disagrees.

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    I recall a memorable evening (4.50 / 2) (#2)
    by brodie on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 09:05:11 AM EST
    ca 1976 at UCLA Law School as exUS Rep Allard Lowenstein gave a public lecture on his investigation in the RFK case where he brought up both the discrepancy in shots fired vs bullets recovered and bullet holes discovered in the walls and ceiling as well as the autopsy results showing a point blank fatal shot to the head from behind, whereas Sirhan was off to the side/in front and his gun never got close to point blank range.

    Lowenstein was one of the truly courageous pols of the time -- he created the Dump Johnson movement in 1967 -- as everyone assumed the RFK case was a simple one of one semi-crazed assassin, witnessed by dozens of people in the pantry, doing the deed just as authorities said.  Turns out Sirhan was a diversionary figure who may well have been hypnoprogrammed as a fall guy assassin.  And he got terrible legal representation at his trial -- so bad that it seemed the prosecution and defense teams were in cahoots to ensure his conviction.

    Lowenstein was introduced that night by actor Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and a few other celebs were in the audience but the overall coverage in the media was
    disappointing.  And a few years later in 1980 Lowenstein himself was killed in his office by a disturbed former student and any momentum there was to reopen the RFK matter was gone with Lowenstein.

    Interesting (none / 0) (#1)
    by Radix on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:40:12 AM EST
    That's all it is though. There's no way Sirhan is getting out of prison.

    i think (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 07:21:02 PM EST
    someone has watched "The Manchurian Candidate" a few too many times. so far, the only high-level assassination proven to be part of an actual conspiracy, is that of lincoln. this included more targets than just the president, and there was actual tangible evidence.

    i suspect this will do nothing but provide mr. pepper with some free publicity.

    I understand your (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by sj on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 01:48:49 AM EST
    viewpoint.  I do.  But I think most of me thinks that the Lone Gunman answer for such high stakes target actually makes less sense than conspiracy. And when there is actually more evidence than can be accounted for by that single gunman, then I just can't trust the official story.  

    Was he "brainwashed"?  Heck, I don't know.  But he stood where he stood.  And Bobby was shot where he was shot.

    As far as "proven" is concerned, if the official explanations were satisfactory there wouldn't even be these questions.  So, while I agree that it hasn't been proven, it hasn't been disproven, either.


    There seems to be a reasonable summary (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Peter G on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 11:29:40 AM EST
    of RFK assassination conspiracy theories, apparently even-handed, calm and non-judgmental in Wikipedia.  Although the Wiki article does refer to an order by the Supreme Court in 1975 that I am pretty sure either never happened or is grossly misstated there.