Petition To OAS: Sirhan wrongfully convicted in 1968 RFK Murder

 

Historic petition to OAS seeks retrial or hearing

Famed attorney, noted author, and human rights advocate Dr. William F. Pepper announced July 17 that he is filing a petition to the Organization of American States (OAS) seeking justice for his imprisoned client Sirhan B. Sirhan.

Sirhan Sirhan

The filing describes Sirhan (shown upon his arrest) as wrongfully convicted of the 1968 assassination of Pepper’s friend, Robert F. Kennedy, the late New York U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate. Pepper presents his evidence and arguments at a 10 a.m. news conference on July 20 at the National Press Club, located at 529 14th St., NW, Washington, DC.

Seeking a new trial for Sirhan or an evidentiary hearing, Pepper’s petition against the U.S. government is being filed on July 19, 2017 with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an OAS body. The filing alleges that the California and U.S. justice systems violated Sirhan's right to a fair trial, as required under the OAS Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. By treaty, the IACHR may review U.S. cases and those from 34 other nations when domestic remedies have been exhausted.

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“Among the many abuses that I have discovered,” said Pepper, “the petition describes how Sirhan’s late defense counsel, Grant Cooper, was compromised by a secretly pending felony indictment. It posed a major conflict that deprived Sirhan of effective counsel. Cooper conducted no independent investigation. He explicitly accepted his client's guilt and the state's case without real challenge.”

“According to many witnesses," Pepper continued, "additional shots were fired by a second assailant during the attack on June 5, 1968 after Kennedy won California’s Democratic primary for that year’s presidential race.”

Dr. Cyril Wecht

Among those supporting the petition are Paul Schrade, an RFK friend who was shot by Sirhan, and the noted forensic pathologist Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D., shown at right in a file photo in his lab and as amplified in an announcement today below.

Wecht, a consultant, widely published author, and medical school professor, numbers among his professional leadership posts many medical and civic groups, including chairmanship of Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA), a co-sponsor of the news conference and petition, as is the Justice Integrity Project.

Paul SchradeSchrade (shown being revived at the scene in Los Angeles after being shot by Sirhan in the head) unsuccessfully begged a California parole commission in February 2016 to free Sirhan as innocent of killing Kennedy.

Dr. Thomas Noguchi

Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the then-Los Angeles County medical examiner (shown at right), is among those who have cited evidence that Kennedy was killed from behind. Sirhan was in front of the senator firing shots, one of which hit Schrade in the forehead.

Schrade's reaction to the parole board's summary denial of parole for Sirhan, 73, last year is shown below in an Associated Press pool photo of the hearing, from which other photographers were barred.

Paul Schrade Associated Press pool

Sirhan became eligible for release on parole in the early 1980s because he has been a model prisoner according to virtually every account. But California authorities denied parole last year. That meant that Sirhan, now 73, will not be eligible again for review for four more years. 

The Justice Integrity Project will post on its website the petition and sample expert statements, and is introducing Pepper both at the news conference and at a dinner at the press club the previous evening, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend the lecture and optional "Dutch Treat" dinner organized by the McClendon Group speaker society. Details are reported here: RFK, MLK Friend To Speak July 19 In DC About Media Flaws, Failures.

About Dr. William F. Pepper

Dr. William F. Pepper is an American lawyer and English barrister. A 1960s friend of Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he believes that both of their accused killers were wrongly accused for political reasons. His books include the acclaimed The Plot To Kill King (2016), third in a series on the King assassination. It contains the evidence that Pepper first presented in a civil trial in Memphis in 1999. He won that trial, which exonerated James Earl Ray.

Pepper was Kennedy’s Westchester County campaign chairman in the 1964 U.S. Senate race and became convinced of Sirhan's innocence in 2007. In a separate event at the National Press Club on July 19, Pepper signs books and speaks at 7 p.m. about democratic values before the Sarah McClendon speaker society (chaired by the late newswoman's former colleague John Edward Hurley), preceded by an optional “Dutch treat” dinner. The public is welcome.  

About the Justice Integrity Project, Citizens Against Political Assassinations, and The Indicter

The Justice Integrity Project (www.justice-integrity.org) reports about suppressed news. Its editor Andrew Kreig will introduce Dr. Pepper. Kreig is a volunteer board member for two other event co-sponsors: Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) (www.capa-us.org) and The Indicter (http://theindicter.com), a Europe-based human rights magazine for which Kreig serves as an associate editor. ##  

Coming next: More experts speak out as below!

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 ROBERT F. KENNEDY JUNIOR

Image caption/credit:  Bobby Kennedy Jr. speaking to journalist Charlie Rose onstage, alongside Bobby's youngest sister Rory Kennedy, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Texas on January 11, 2013 in anticipation of that year's coming 50th anniversary of the assassination of his uncle, U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas (photo by Associated Press/Tony Gutierrez).

Quote:  Excerpt from Page 271 of RFK Junior's 2016 book, Framed - Why Michael Skakel Spent Over A Decade In Prison For A Murder He Didn't Commit.
 

Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Supporting Statement By Dr. Cyril H. Wecht and CAPA

Forensic Pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht Questions Sirhan RFK Verdict

Dr. Cyril WechtWashington, DC (July 17, 2017): The famed forensic pathologist, author, consultant, and medical school professor Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D. today released the following statement. Dr. Wecht, shown in his lab, referenced the news conference scheduled for July 20 at the National Press Club here featuring Dr. William F. Pepper, attorney for the imprisoned Sirhan B. Sirhan. A jury convicted Sirhan in 1969 of fatally shooting Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy the previous year.

I strongly endorse and support the petition that Attorney William Pepper is submitting to the Organization of American States seeking a new trial for Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted for the 1968 killing of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Dr. Thomas NoguchiAs an official consultant in forensic pathology to Dr. Thomas Noguchi (shown at left), the Los Angeles Chief Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy on Senator Kennedy, I had the opportunity to visit the shooting scene at the Ambassador Hotel and subsequently review and analyze all the relevant forensic scientific evidence and investigative findings in this matter.

Based upon all the objective, indisputable physical and forensic evidence, there can be no doubt that Sirhan did not fire the bullet that caused Senator Kennedy’s death.  That shot was proven to have been fired from a distance of approximately one to one and a half inches from Kennedy’s head with a forward trajectory.  None of the eye-witnesses ever placed Sirhan in such a position as to have been able to fire that shot.  (The official published post-mortem protocol unequivocally sets forth these facts.)

Incredibly, these unchallenged forensic findings were never elicited at trial.  For whatever reason, Sirhan’s defense attorney, Grant Cooper, never retained forensic pathology and criminalist-ballistics experts to present these scientific facts, nor did he ever ask Dr. Noguchi about these findings in his cross-examination.

Various physical investigative findings, eye-witness statements, and acoustics analyses have further buttressed and corroborated the fact that a second shooter was responsible for Senator Kennedy’s death.

The truth regarding the murder of Senator Robert F. Kennedy needs to be uncovered, and justice for Sirhan Sirhan demands to be achieved.

                  -- Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.

                  Forensic Pathologist and Medical-Legal Consultant
                  Chair, Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA)
                  Clinical Professor, Department of Pathology,
                          University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
                  Adjunct Professor of Law, Duquesne University, School of Law, School of Health Science, and School of Pharmacy
                  Past President, American College of Legal Medicine
                  Past President, American Academy of Forensic Science

About Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA)

Sirhan Sirhan

Based in Washington, DC, CAPA is a non-partisan group that researches and reports on suspected political assassinations in the United States and around the world. CAPA is a co-sponsor of the July 20 news conference at the National Press Club featuring Dr. William F. Pepper, attorney for Sirhan B. Sirhan. Sirhan is shown at right in a 2016 photo by the California Department of Corrections. He is being held in a facility near San Diego.

Details of the materials provided at the press conference will be on the CAPA website (www.capa-us.org), with reporting also by co-sponsors at the Justice Integrity Project (www.justice-integrity.org) and The Indicter (http://theindicter.com), a Europe-based human rights magazine. Additional supporting groups for the petition include Swedish Doctors for Human Rights.

 

Justice Integrity Project Assassination Readers Guides

Justice Integrity Project, Readers Guide To RFK Assassination: Books, Videos, Archives. Andrew Kreig, June 1, 2016. This "Readers Guide to the RFK Assassination" presents key books, videos, documents, websites and other archives most relevant to 1968 Democratic Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy's murder on June 6, 1968.

Robert F. KennedyThe materials focus heavily on remaining questions about responsibility and motive for Kennedy's shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly after his victory in the California Democratic primary appeared to pave the way for his presidential nomination. Shown below is his victory speech shortly before he was gunned down while leaving via a kitchen pantry to avoid crowds.

Included also in this guide compiled by our Justice Integrity Project is research that explores the assassination's current implications for the U.S. justice system and other governance.

The materials contain varied perspectives in a style common to other topics in our series, which includes guides to the assassinations of President Kennedy in 1963 and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968.

Readers of each can find abundant evidence of covert official involvement, including in the crimes and cover-up. But we provide also books and other evidence supporting Robert Kennedy Victory Speech Ambassador Hotel, June 6, 1968the official verdicts. In the case of RFK's murder, a jury found in 1969 that Sirhan Sirhan acted alone to kill Kennedy and wound five others with shots fired in the hotel's pantry.

Thus, our operative principle in this project is to raise informed questions aggressively but also to provide sufficient evidence for readers to reach your own conclusions.

The continued public suspicions about the deaths of JFK, MLK and RFK (as the victims were known) have been fostered by the highly irregular legal procedures involving each death, including suppression of relevant documents and fear among witnesses and investigators. 

 

Related News Reports

The 5th Estate, RFK assassination expert to speak at National Press Club July 19 and 20, Dr. Cyril Wecht (edited by Robert Finnegan), July 19, 2017. I strongly endorse and support the petition that Attorney William Pepper is submitting to the Organization of American States seeking a new trial for Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted for the 1968 killing of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

As an official consultant in forensic pathology to Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the Los Angeles Chief Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy on Senator Kennedy, I had the opportunity to visit the shooting scene at the Ambassador Hotel and subsequently review and analyze all the relevant forensic scientific evidence and investigative findings in this matter. Based upon all the objective, indisputable physical and forensic evidence, there can be no doubt that Sirhan did not fire the bullet that caused Senator Kennedy’s death.

Among other major in-depth news reports on the case were the following:

A six-part series in 2008 by Larry Hancock and available via the Mary Ferrell Foundation; CNN's "Back Story," written by Brad Johnson in 2009, and Kennedys and King (formerly CTKA) by Lisa Pease, also in 2009; and WhoWhatWhy coverage in 2016, primarily by Russ Baker, Shane O'Sullivan, and Jeff Schechtman. Those columns are excerpted below. Additionally, audio historians and engineers Robert J. Joling and Philip Van Praag co-authored an important book on audio evidence in 2008, An Open & Shut Case. A cutting edge revelation in Associated Press coverage at the time by reporters Gene Handsaker is regarded by some critics as particularly revealing but not emulated by others journalists and their outlets, as described in The Handsaker Report.

Mary Ferrell Foundation, Incomplete Justice (six-part series), Part One: At the Ambassador Hotel, Larry Hancock, May 19, 2008. The California campaign had been hard on the Senator. Everyone knew it was make or break for him. He had to win California to be able to have any chance of gaining the Democratic presidential nomination. Southern California had been especially difficult; he been unable to complete an election eve appearance in San Diego due to sheer exhaustion.
 
But by late in the evening on June 4th, 1968, after watching election returns seemingly trickle in all evening, Robert Kennedy was in an upbeat mood, ready to claim victory. He would do so before a jam-packed crowd of campaign workers in the Embassy ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel. The crowd loved the short speech. They especially enjoyed a parting remark, directed towards Mayor Sam Yorty – “Mayor Yorty has just sent us a message that we’ve been here too long already!”
 

CNN BackStory, Robert Kennedy Assassination: Candidate was killed 41 years ago, Host Michael Holmes and Senior Writer Brad Johnson, June 5, 2009 (8:52 min., with YouTube version here: CNN Uncovers Possible RFK Second Gun Evidence). Experts and witnesses re-examine one of the nation’s most notorious assassinations with the help new audio evidence suggesting that more than one shooter fired during the killing, contrary to official accounts. The evidence is from long overlooked tape recording by a print journalist, Stanislaw Pruszynski, a print journalist, which experts now call "The Pruszynski Recording." Back Story host Michael Holmes interviews CNN International senior writer Brad Johnson on how he uncovered the Pruszynski Recording, the only known audio recording of the Robert F. Kennedy shooting by the long-presumed sole gunman Sirhan Sirhan.  This segment aired on the 41st anniversary of Senator Kennedy's assassination,

Kennedys and King (formerly CTKA), Book Review: Robert Joling, J.D. & Philip Van Praag, "An Open and Shut Case," Lisa Pease, June 16, 2009. The book is certainly easy to read, and clearly presented. So long as you understand that some of the material is incorrect ... and outdated ..., there is still much to recommend here, writes Lisa Pease. Lisa Pease was co-editor with Jim DiEugenio of Probe Magazine and also edited with him The Assassinations.  She has written a number of ground-breaking essays on the connections between Freeport Sulphur, the Eastern Establishment and the CIA, on James Angleton, and on Sirhan and the RFK assassination.  Lisa is currently finishing her book on the latter subject, the product of more than two decades of research.  She also runs a blogspot on recent history and current events.

An Open and Shut Case is an indispensable volume for those with a serious interest in the Robert Kennedy assassination. While some of the information – and especially some of its core conclusions – are based on evidence that has been called into serious question, about which I will have more to say below, there is more than enough interesting and solid work here for this book to warrant a place on your shelves.

The book's title comes from a quote from the Police Chief Edward Davis, who said the RFK assassination case was clearly "an open and shut case," based on the eyewitness and physical evidence in the case. That's true, of course, but not for the official story. As An Open and Shut Case clearly shows, the eyewitness and physical evidence are absolutely consistent with two facts: at least two guns were fired in the pantry, and Sirhan's gun did not fire any of the shots that hit Senator Robert Kennedy.

The book is the product of a collaboration between Robert Joling, J.D., who has studied this case for years, and Philip Van Praag (the last name rhymes with "Craig," not "bog"), who is much newer to the case and focused primarily on a newly surfaced recording from the pantry. Joling is a past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and was a licensed attorney for 57 years, 40 of which he devoted to criminal and civil trial work, including some homicides. Van Praag has spent 45 years working in the audio field, with 35 of those years devoted to magnetic media.

The book's authors met through the work of a third person, Brad Johnson, a producer at CNN International. Brad has been looking into this case for years, and has attempted to collect every possible video and audio recording of the assassination of Robert Kennedy. When he stumbled upon evidence of a recording made in the pantry at the time of the shooting, he tracked down a copy and searched for a qualified sound engineer to examine it. Johnson found Phil Van Praag, and Van Praag's findings about this recording are detailed in the first chapter of the book.

Just after midnight on June 5, 1968, Robert Kennedy finished his acceptance speech, having just won the California primary in the race for the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidency. Kennedy exited the Embassy Ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles and crossed east through the pantry area, an almost hall-like room, on his way to speak to the press in the Colonial room. Sirhan Bishara Sirhan (pronounced "Sear hahn") stepped forward and fired a gun. Kennedy was taken to the hospital, where he died a day later. Five other people were also wounded by bullets, but none fatally so.

The most famous of those wounded in the pantry, Paul Schrade, RFK's union chair and an officer with the United Auto Workers union, contributed the Foreword to the book. Schrade opens with a quick summary of the case, and of his own initial rejection of the "conspiracy theories" about a second gun, which sprouted up within days of the assassination.

Schrade had his eyes opened to the conspiracy aspect of the case by Congressman Allard Lowenstein (D-NY), who visited him at his home in 1974. Lowenstein took Schrade to visit Lillian Castellano and Floyd Nelson, two early and excellent researchers in the case. They showed Schrade solid evidence that more than eight bullets were fired in the pantry. Schrade joined their efforts, and, with the help of others, including the LA County Board of Supervisors and CBS, obtained an order for a court-appointed panel to re-examine the evidence. I'll call this panel the Wenke Panel, for convenience, after the Judge who ordered it. A large part of the book focuses on the work of the Wenke Panel, and the final conclusions of the authors depend on the Wenke Panel's findings, a problem to which we'll return later.

There are many anecdotes and interesting items learned firsthand by the authors which make this book truly "new," and not just a retelling of the evidence of others.

The most important new piece of evidence discussed in the book is the Pruszynski recording. While most people are familiar with the famous audio piece in which a reporter describes the aftermath of the shooting ("Get the gunä get the gunä take his thumb and break it if you have to!"), this new tape was lost to history until Brad Johnson, a producer for CNN International, rediscovered it by noticing a listing of it in the California State Archives record finding aid. And, unlike the other recordings, this one had captured the period of the shooting. Stanislaw Pruszynski, a print journalist, had inadvertently left his hand-held recorder and microphone on as Kennedy exited the stage and entered the pantry. Brad searched for a sound engineer willing to use his expertise to analyze the tape. He found Van Praag.

WhoWhatWhy

WhoWhatWhy, Sirhan: A “Manchurian Candidate” in the RFK Assassination? Jeff Schechtman, Feb. 19, 2016. Parole hearing number 14 for Sirhan Sirhan may have finally launched a search for the truth behind Robert F. Kennedy’s murder. Forty-eight years ago (in 1968), the country was in the midst of another presidential campaign that came at a seminal moment in American history. Five years earlier, John F. Kennedy had been murdered, and Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in April of 1968. The Vietnam War was escalating. Race riots were becoming a fact of urban life. Racial and generational politics as well as social issues were threatening to tear the country apart. Then on the night of June 5th, 1968, after John Kennedy’s brother Robert had won the all-important California Primary, America got yet another jolt: the younger Kennedy, too, had been struck down.

WhoWhatWhy

WhoWhatWhy, The Tortured Logic Behind Sirhan Sirhan’s Parole Denial, Shane O'Sullivan, March 14, 2016. Shane O’Sullivan is an author, filmmaker and researcher at Kingston University, London. His work includes the documentary RFK Must Die (2007) and the book Who Killed Bobby? (2008). Newly Released Transcript Exposes Tragic Flaws in Parole Process. In the newly released transcript of Sirhan Sirhan’s parole hearing on February 10, we discover why — at nearly 72 years of age — the convicted murderer of Bobby Kennedy “continues to pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society or a threat to public safety and is therefore not suitable for parole.”

Anonymous, The Handsaker Report: The News Story That Could Have Altered The Fate Of Sirhan Sirhan (Had The Media Done Its Job In 1968). This report analyzes a cutting-edge report by the late Associated Press reporter Gene Handsaker that was largely ignored by other reporters. Only nine days after U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was fatally shot and five other persons were wounded in the kitchen service pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, the Associated Press suddenly, but only briefly, revealed a major evidentiary conflict between assassination witness accounts and preliminary RFK autopsy results. It was the closest the AP ever got to exposing the truth when it mattered the most.

Associated Press Reporter Gene Handsaker probably had not known quite what to make of the dilemma discovered while poring over newly released transcripts of the previous week’s RFK grand jury hearing. Though he likely retained a seasoned journalist’s healthy skepticism of some of the proceeding's witness testimony, he apparently decided that the curious incompatibility between witness accounts and the coroner's evidence was a new development meriting immediate reporting. Handsaker did not have enough information to justify leading his story with the item so, instead, he buried it as Paragraph 25 in his AP wire report:

Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas T.] Noguchi said the revolver muzzle was “no more than two or three inches from the edge of the right ear.” Witnesses at the scene described the gunman as four to six feet away.

By including this short paragraph in a news wire story published nationwide during the early days of the official RFK murder investigation, Eugene Sterling Handsaker became the first major print reporter to at least try to shine a serious national spotlight on what should have been recognized as an alarming incongruity in the early evidence assembled against Sirhan, the 24-year-old “lone assassin.” 

Not until decades after Sirhan’s 1969 trial conviction would growing segments of the U.S. populace begin to appreciate this discrepancy as a seminal paradox in the official evidence − the potential keystone in the arch of any effort to prove a second gunman had killed RFK.  Today, given what we now know, the Handsaker paragraph can be recast, like so, into a 21st Century context that recognizes the reality of two pantry shooters....

 


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