Robert Kennedy Victory Speech Ambassador Hotel, June 6, 1968

Two children of slain U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy are disputing the official account of his assassination 50 years ago, prompting renewed debate before the June 5 anniversary.

Robert F Kennedy Jr (2017 portrait by Gage Skidmore)Robert F. KennedyLongtime law professor and environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Washington Post reporter Tom Jackman raised the profile of the long-simmering controversy with Jackman's front-page Sunday story on May 26 entitled, Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan.

The son is shown at far right in a portrait (by Gage Skidmore) next to a file photo of his father on the 1968 presidential campaign trail. The late New York senator also is portrayed above at top in file photo taken during his California Democratic primary victory speech minutes before his murder. He was shot in a kitchen pantry after leaving the speaking stage at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Jackman, who has covered law enforcement since 1998 at the Post, reported:

The younger Kennedy was ready to go public with his views after spending months re-examining the evidence and meeting in prison with Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of the murder in a 1969 jury trial in which defense counsel mounted scant defense.

“I got to a place where I had to see Sirhan,” Kennedy told Jackman of the defendant, shown at right in a 2016 prison photo.

Sirhan Sirhan“I went there because I was curious and disturbed by what I had seen in the evidence,” said Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and the third oldest of his father’s 11 children. “I was disturbed that the wrong person might have been convicted of killing my father. My father was the chief law enforcement officer in this country. I think it would have disturbed him if somebody was put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.”

The report of Kennedy's comments and the evidence supporting them represent breakthrough coverage of the case for a mainstream publication — and a challenge to other family members, authorities, opinion leaders and indeed any concerned citizen.

The challenge is whether the oft-reported basic facts of such a high-profile assassination could have been so incomplete or suppressed as to lead to a false imprisonment — and an escaped murderer or murderers.

That's an assessment provided in an exclusive interview June 4 by Dr. William Pepper, a close friend of the late Senator Kennedy and also the current defense counsel for Sirhan. It took years for Pepper to become convinced that Sirhan was innocent of killing RFK, not just via a legal technicality but as a matter of scientific and other proof.

william pepper mlkPepper, shown at right with his friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) at a major political conference in 1967, was a journalist and activist who last year summarized RFK evidence in a pending petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a unit of the Organization of American States (IACHR/OAS), seeking what Pepper calls the first evidentiary hearing ever in the Sirhan murder case.

He regards Jackman's reporting as extraordinary, much like the Washington Post's willingness to print it, as well as a breakthrough story by Jackman on March 30, Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? His family believes James Earl Ray was framed. Jackman, a Post reporter covering courts and crime since 1998, quoted prominent members of MLK's family as saying they did not believe that his convicted killer James Earl Ray really killed the civil rights leader in April 1968 in Memphis. 

cia logo"More than any other mainstream media journalist," Pepper told me regarding RFK's murder, "Tom Jackman has gone in-depth into the evidence of the case related to Sirhan's alleged guilt and has very clearly shown that evidence was withheld and that Sirhan was selected as a victim of CIA MK Ultra mind control efforts to be set up as a patsy through the use of hypnosis and chemicals. His role was to perform a distraction so that the real assassin could do his work and put three bullets into RFK's body at much closer range while Sirhan was always three to five feet in from of the senator." 

dan brownUpdate: Jackman and author/ filmmaker / professor Dr. Shane O'Sullivan have provided powerful reporting bolstering the hypnosis explanation in new, in-depth articles quoting experts, including Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. Daniel P. Brown (shown at right), an expert in forensic psychiatry and hypnosis. He extensively interviewed Sirhan and studied also what is known about the CIA's MK Ultra program.

Their new articles are: The assassination of Bobby Kennedy: Was Sirhan Sirhan hypnotized to be the fall guy? by Jackman on June 4 in the Washington Post and Was Sirhan Hypnotically Programmed to Assassinate RFK? by O’Sullivan on June 5 in the investigative online site WhoWhatWhy. The WhoWhatWhy report contains a 67-minute video featuring interviews with Brown and Sirhan's attorney Laurie Dusek. Despite filming six hours of interviews, Brown was spiked from the recent Netflix documentary Bobby Kennedy For President.

Other Mainstream Reporting

Conventional wisdom is that reporters, editors and their news outlets always seek to publish verifiable information challenging the power structure, especially for suspected misconduct in something like a high-profile murder case, which the assassination of a Kennedy running for president surely was, by any standard.

The track record on truly sensitive topics is less than impressive, however, as indicated by the Netflix decisioni among many others, especially if new reporting undermines decades of previous coverage and powerful institutional relationships, as we reported on May 29 in our most recent column here, Rights Pioneer's Obit Prompts Disputes Over JFK Murder Half-Truths. Our column began: "The Washington Post's obituary last week of a pioneering African-American lawyer continued the newspaper's controversial coverage of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the 1964 murder of JFK's friend and purported lover Mary Pinchot Meyer."

Regarding the RFK coverage, the Post's most recent big stories were quite varied in their assumptions.

The gist of Jackman's in-depth pieces on May 26 and June 4 contrasted sharply with a Post Sunday Magazine story a week later, What is it like to be the brother of Robert Kennedy’s assassin? The life of the other Sirhan.

For the magazine piece, Los Angeles-based freelance author Peter Gilstrap accepted Sirhan's guilt with scant attempt to explore the possibility of his innocence. The discrepancy doubtless occurred in part because of the long lead time for magazine articles, which are generated separately from the Post's news staff. Nonetheless, the supposedly in-depth treatment that a magazine is supposed to provide managed to miss much of the gist of four decades of investigative revelations. 

The Washington Post published in its news section on the same day, June 3, another major treatment, headlined Robert F. Kennedy’s final flight: The storied journey of the ride from California to New York. Authored by freelance legal expert David Margolick, it avoided the issue of murder guilt and focused instead on the mournful yet intriguing airplane flight in which the three widows of 1960s murdered ikons JFK, MLK and RFK accompanied RFK's corpse from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. On June 5, Post editorial board member and op-ed columnist Charles Lane dismissed any new evidence or calls for a new investigation as crackpot ideas unworthy of discussion except (apparently) to insult those proposing them.

kathleen kennedy townsendThe Boston Globe, New England's largest circulation newspaper, followed up Jackman's May 26 scoops in the Post by reporting on May 31 that the late senator's oldest child, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (shown at left), has been persuaded by her brother Robert Jr.'s analysis to join him in seeking a new investigation of the murder.

But the Globe story, RFK's children divided over calls for a fresh investigation of his assassination by Michael Levenson on May 31, 2018, also reported that other children of the slain senator said that they opposed a re-investigation. Levenson reported that this opposition underscores "how divisive the second-gunman theory continues to be, a half-century after the presidential candidate, former attorney general, and senator from New York, was killed in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles."

joe kennedy ii rfk child former repThose children objecting to a new investigation were former Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II (shown at right), documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy (the late senator's youngest child, who declined comment to the Globe but voiced opposition to the Post), and Kerry Kennedy, who is president of a human rights organization named for her father. The irony is striking. The head of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights opposes a new investigation into alleged human rights violations that allegedly protected his murderer.

This dispute about evidence will surprise and shock many. Most people have thought from initial news reports to the present that they knew what happened: Sirhan hated Kennedy, acted alone to kill him, and was convicted after a fair trial. Any doubts about such a consensus casts doubt on enormously important and influential American institutions and leaders, past and present.

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The Washington Post's obituary last week of a pioneering African-American lawyer continued the newspaper's controversial coverage of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the 1964 murder of JFK's friend and lover Mary Pinchot Meyer.

dovey roundtreeOn May 21, the Post published a long and respectful obituary, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, 1914–2018, about an African-American woman by that name (shown at right) who overcame racial bias to carve out impressive careers in the military, law, and ministry in a Washington, DC work environment that was heavily segregated for most of her career.

One of Roundtree's early highlights was winning a 1965 jury acquittal for Raymond Crump, Jr., an African-American day laborer whom authorities had charged with murdering Meyer on a canal towpath near her home in the capital's fashionable Georgetown neighborhood.

Obituary writer Harrison Smith reported on Roundtree's civic commitment and skill in winning the acquittal. The reporter also quoted two commentators — journalist / author Nina Burleigh and attorney Robert Bennett — as opining that Crump was guilty, despite the jury verdict.

Several JFK assassination researchers, including this editor and another Meyer biographer, Peter Janney, sharply challenged via reader comments and letters to the Post its taint of Crump (and by implication Roundtree).

paul kuntzler georgetown dish croppedAnother critic, Paul Kuntzler, used the dispute to urge the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to renew the murder investigation by focusing on a witness against Crump, retired professor William L. Mitchell, whom Janney has accused of being a CIA asset who participated in an effort to frame Crump on a claim that he murdered Meyer during an attempted rape that she resisted. Mitchell has responded through the years with conflicting statements, as amplified below.

In 2007, Kuntzler (a retired exhibit sales manager for the National Science Teachers Association shown at right) spent his life savings of nearly $200,000 on two pages of advertising in the New York Times denouncing that newspaper, the Washington Post and other major news organizations for failing to cover fairly the JFK murder and cover-up evidence.

peter janney coverAs a preview of our treatment below:

Janney, the son of high-ranking CIA executive Wistar Janney, has argued in his investigative book Mary's Mosaic: The CiA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and their Vision for World Peace, that his father and Meyer's ex-husband Cord Meyer, another high-level CIA executive, were among those in the agency implicated in her murder on (Oct. 12, 1964). Her shooter used two bullets to kill her execution-style on a canal towpath.

Janney, drawing also on other research typically ignored by the media, asserts that murder motive was fear by authorities that the well-connected Meyer — sister-in-law to Post-Newsweek rising star Ben Bradlee, among her other influential contacts — would use her connections to expose flaws in the Warren Commission report issued in September 1964.

earl warrenThat panel led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren assertedthat JFK was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone. The commission, which included former CIA Director Allen Dulles, also claimed that Oswald's killer Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, had no connection to the mob despite Ruby's longtime work with Mafia leaders who had sub-rosa alliances with parts of the CIA, law enforcement at the national and Dallas levels, and anti-Castro Cubans.   

The Roundtree obituary failed to quote Janney or any other backer of Roundtree's defense of Crump. Instead, it cited only the establishment lawyer Bennett and Burleigh, shown in a file photo and author of 1998 biography of Meyer, A Very Private Woman.

nine burleigh newsweek screenshotThe reaction to those few paragraphs in the obituary criticizing the jury acquittal of Crump prompted reaction mostly because the perceived slant paralleled the Post's biased and at times self-protective coverage for decades of JFK's assassination, which occurred during a Dallas motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963.

As documented in the Justice Integrity Project's 50-part "Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination," the Post has thrown its editorial weight behind the Warren Report from 1964 to present. The newspaper with rare exceptions has ignored or trivialized the most compelling contrary scientific, documentary and witness evidence. That evidence draws on some five million pages of declassified documents and more than 2,500 books in whole or part about the assassination. Many critics of the Warren Commission believe the single best book for general readers summarizing the evidence is JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass, published in 2009.

Ben Bradlee, moreover, played a key role in the Post's coverage through the years, first as the Washington bureau chief of the Post-owned Newsweek and then as the Post's longtime executive editor.

peter janney jfk mary meyerHe was also a key participant in the Meyer case in several ways: As a news executive, brother-in-law to the victim, personal friend of the president, and witness in the Crump trial. Perhaps most notably, he helped deliver the murder victim Meyer's diary to CIA master spy James J. Angleton, a mutual friend of Bradlee and the victim, and kept that entire matter secret at the trial and out of the media.

Not until a scoop by an outsider in 1976 did the reading public learn that Meyer had had an affair with Kennedy during his presidency. Mary Meyer is shown at the White House with the president during one of her visits with Bradlee and his wife Antoinette Pinchot Bradlee.

'Fake News' Factors?

Meanwhile, Bradlee had been achieving iconic status as a fearless, crusading editor leading the public's right to know about such tough investigative stories as the Pentagon Papers (recently chronicled by a Hollywood film) and Watergate. One of his quotations is shown below.

ben bradlee pursuit of truthSimmering under the surface, however, public opinion polls for decades have shown that more than 60 percent of Americans do not believe the Warren report despite the efforts of mainstream media like the Bradlee-led Post to reinforce the report and downplay critics, whether contemporaries like Meyer (ex-wife of Cord Meyer, one of the top CIA propagandists for many years), or scientific, law enforcement, and other experts.

Many Americans suspect that the Post, like other news organizations, places a higher importance in protecting its institutional interests (including relationships with government and/or other power brokers) than on the public's right to know about truly sensitive matters. This would be despite the long-standing campaigns of the news sector  to promote Bradlee, among others, as paragons of fearless truth-telling.

Robert F Kennedy Jr (2017 portrait by Gage Skidmore)Yet any news organization is constantly generating new material that complicate, if not undermine, suggestions of unwarranted, pervasive self-censorship. On May 27, for example, the Post published a breakthrough, in-depth report quoting law professor and environment activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (shown at right) as saying he no longer believes the official story that his father was killed in 1968 by the still-imprisoned convict Sirhan Sirhan.

The powerful front-page story headlined Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan was reported by the Post's Tom Jackman. On March 30, he published on the Post's front page a similar breakthrough report, Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? His family believes James Earl Ray was framed, quoting members of the King family as stating they did not believe that Dr. Martin Luther King was fatally shot by the convict James Earl Ray, who died in 1998 in prison.

Reasonable observers might differ on whether the Post's two front-page stories this spring illustrate the strength of the free press and journalistic initiative, or are long overdue course corrections.

But it's hard to imagine that the details are not worth reviewing, as we enable with the materials below, especially during current times when a current president is so reckless broadcasting claims of "fake news" against the Post and many other leading news organizations.

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The Justice Integrity Project (JIP)'s original reporting provides for the most part an alternative to conventional mainstream reporting even though many of this editor's other activities involve reporting, legal, business and other civic activities closely associated with traditional institutions.

asne logoOne way to provide that broader context along with a change of pace from much of our usual fare here is to excerpt two of my columns published last week by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) based on my reporting of nearly two days of ASNE briefings for fellow members earlier this month at the U.S. Department of State on May 7 and at the DC-based Heritage Foundation on May 6.

About a dozen ASNE members attended the briefings and several of us volunteered to report the discussions for ASNE's quarterly publication "The Masthead," excerpted immediately below.  

American Society of Newspaper Editors, State Dept. report: U.S. counters threats from China, North Korea, May 17, 2018. The United States takes a stern stance against threats from China and North Korea, according to a senior U.S. Department of State official who briefed ASNE members this month at the department’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

American Society of Newspaper Editors, Heritage panel: Conservatism supports, survives Trump, May 17, 2018. The conservative movement’s policies largely coincide with President Donald Trump’s agenda and so will emerge intact if not stronger following his presidency.

This editor has long been a member of about a half dozen other journalism groups, including the National Press Club, the Overseas Press Club and the American Society of Journalists and Authors, as well as the District of Columbia Bar, the American Bar Association, the Federalist Society, American Constitution Society, and the Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition. The latter advocates for technically efficient spectrum use in fixed wireless bands. My involvedment grows out of a previous career leading the Wireless Communications Association as President/CEO from 1996-2008. In addition, I have served in recent years as a research fellow at two major universities but those relationships are now concluded. Also, I am active with two school alumni groups, primarily in fostering events, alumni news and the modest level of donations such activities generate.

None of these groups bears any responsibility by implication or otherwise, for any reporting here, of course. But it does seem appropriate to share with readers here from time to time the wider context that the directors of the Justice Integrity Project have long been involved in a varied civic activities, while trying (successfully so far, according to our best belief) to avoid any conflict of interest with reporting, which is intended to be hard-hitting, while non-partisan and otherwise free from conflicts. 

Regarding ASNE's annual State Department briefing, these are annual on-the-record discussions between department policy makers and ASNE members, with most of the latter's attendees coming from the editorial opinion pages of major newspapers. The half-day briefing with the Heritage Foundation was a similar program designed to foster dialog between opinion journalists and groups of newsmakers. Details are below.

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U.S. Senators face career-defining confirmation votes beginning Wednesday regarding President Trump's nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Gina Haspel Custom 2The nomination of current CIA Acting Director Gina Haspel (shown at right) will help define each senator's legacy.

That's partly because of her own abuses at the CIA in fostering torture and destroying the evidence so that other malefactors could avoid accountability but also because of the background of decades of whitewashes by the senate in failing to excercise their oversight obligations under the Constitution over the powerful intelligence agencies like the CIA.

The media have duly reported Haspel's record of assisting torture and rendition after 9/11 and then helping to destroy evidence. Those shortcomings are why she is expected to receive confirmation by a relatively narrow and nearly party-line vote, primarily from the Republican majority.

cia logoWith her confirmation likely assured, our focus here is less about her than on whether the senate and, particularly its Democratic members who might aspire to future leadership, will show a commitment to the Constitution by keeping the vote close.

Haspel runs one of the nation's most powerful and unaccountable bodies, one that has been instrumental in countless covert operations, some of which have targeted Americans through the years, not simply foreigners as originally intended by the CIA's 1947 enabling legislation.

dianne feinsteinMost immediately, public attention should focus on the votes of Senate Select Committee On Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who announced on May 15 that he would support the nominee, former Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and a number of senators who are reputed to be gearing up for 2020  presidential campaigns. Feinstein faces the more immediate test of a primary election next month against a rival endorsed by California's Democratic Party at a convention this spring.

mark warner shirtsleevesWarner (shown at right) may have been complicit with the committee's GOP Chairman Richard Burr in preventing his Senate colleagues reading a classified  account of Haspel's role in the torture cover-up. That's implied by The Intercerpt's reporter Ryan Grim Monday in a column headlined Ahead of Vote on Gina Haspel, Senate Pulls Access to Damning Classified Memo. The material is from a Department of Justice report by special counsel John Durham documenting Haspell's role in helping suppress CIA torture evidence in ways not specified. Grim's story is excerpted more fully below, along with other news reports,

john mccain 2009 wRepublican senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Rand Paul (KY) are opposing Haspel. McCain, a torture victim during the Vietnam War, says the practice is fundamentally unAmerican. Paul has centered his opposition on what he regarded as Haspel's evasive testimony on her views, which she amplified in a letter to Warner released Tuesday.

Bottom line: While most of senators face heavy political pressures to approve a presidential nominee none of the senators who vote for Haspel under these circumstances should be entitled to a leadership position on any intelligence or armed forces committee, much less less presidential consideration for reasons explained more fully below.

Update: Roll Call, Senate Confirms Gina Haspel to Lead CIA, Niels Lesniewski, May 17, 2018. Bipartisan vote does not follow partisan script. After a number of Democratic senators announced they would support President Donald Trump’s choice of Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to run the agency, she was easily confirmed Thursday afternoon.

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jfk american university

President Kennedy delivers an iconic speech in June 1963 at American University calling for world peace.

Some scholars say the courageous speech during allen dulles HRthe Cold War -- combined with Kennedy's actions antagonizing CIA, Pentagon, fanatic anti-communist empire-builders, segregationist, Cuban exile, Mafia and wealthy Texas oil forces -- helped set in motion his death later in the year. Among other actions, JFK's fury at the CIA's manipulations during the Bay of Pigs invasion led him to oust the top three CIA executives. One of them, CIA Director Allen Dulles (right), an operative for decades on behalf of some of America's leading dynasties, would help guide six other Warren Commission officials supervising the Commission staff writing the official report in 1964 about JFK's death.

Beginning in the 1970s, professor, poet and former diplomat Peter Dale Scott popularized the term "Deep State" in his books to describe the secretive relationship between America's oligarchs and key unelected officials such as Dulles, as evident in scholarly research about the Kennedy assassination.

 

On April 26 this spring, the last day of the historic deadline for JFK assassination records release, President Trump ordered suppression until 2021 of some 520 remaining classified records regarding the 1963 murder of President John F. Kennedy (JFK) in Dallas.

In violating his earlier pledge to release all records, Trump released at least parts of some 19,000 other records but cited only vague “national security” concerns for the redactions and outright document suppressions despite a congressionally passed legal requirement in the 1992 “JFK Act” that he and his administration provide a specific reason to suppress each withheld record.

The White House press announcement confused the issues further by redacting many of the 19,000 documents that were released by the National Archives and Records Administation (NARA) in the latest batch last week. The records are available online, a good thing. But NARA failed to organize them in a way readily accessible to reporters and other researchers — or to provide such other key details as whether documents had been previously released in significant part.

Trump used a similar stall tactic last fall in postponing the final release of documents, which were all supposed to be released by last Oct. 26, according to the so-called JFK Act unanimously passed by Congress in 1992 to quell public fervor from Oliver Stone's powerful film JFK.

One of Trump's longtime close friends confided this spring to us that he did not believe Trump had paid any significant attention to the JFK records issues last fall until just before decision date, even though some of Trump advisors had been telling him about the importance of the release. It happens also that djt newsweek lazy boy cover customTrump his son-in-law Jared Kushner's uncle, Murray J. Laulicht, born in 1940, had served as an assistant counsel on the Warren Commission staff and was one of countless experts that the Justice Integrity Project, among others, had ascertained (JFK Experts Advocate Compliance With Records Deadline) ,as arguing for full document release.

Thus, the Newsweek cover "Lazy Boy" last year seemed apt as a portrayal of the president for this piece.

Last week's delay and release of some but not all of the documents confused the largely deferential and gullible mainstream media that automatically defers to “national security” claims.

Let’s be blunt since this process is apparently never going to be complete, at least within the lifetimes of the surviving witnesses who could augment the record of  what was literally "The Crime of the Century."

The so-called national security most at stake involves the ability of powerful entities to murder a president, in this case President Kennedy, in broad daylight for policy reasons and then to pressure successors, Congress, courts and the media to maintain a cover-up for more than five decades so that the institutional successors of the malefactors can continue their agendas at home and abroad.

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cyril wecht mlk rfk 2018 event logo

On the unique occasion of the 50th anniversary this spring of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, an unprecedented array of scientific, legal and historical experts will convene at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh from May 3 to 4 to describe the shocking shortcomings by law enforcers and the media in reporting on the deaths.

The conference will feature, among others, experts who will describe their belief that those convicted of the killings, James Earl Ray for MLK's death and Sirhan Sirhan for RFK's, were patsies who, according to scientific and witness evidence, could not possibly have killed the iconic 1960s leaders in the separate shootings.

cyril wecht hands up capa npc st johnThe 17th annual forensics conference is organized by the Cyril Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law, based at the university.

The institute's namesake, the eminent forensic pathologist and longtime Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht, M.D., J.D., has for decades provided medical evidence regarding deaths. In a photo by Noel St. John, Wecht is shown at right during a news conference last year at the National Press Club where Wecht described the public interest in disclosure of suppressed records regarding the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas.

Wecht, chairman of the group Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA), among more than a dozen civic projects, was age 86 last year when he performed more than 530 autopsies. A longtime consultant, medical school professor, lawyer and prolific author, Wecht has been a world-renowned leader in disputing official accounts of the deaths of MLK, RFK and his brother JFK, among others.

Advance registration for in-person and remote audiences for the conference is here, with general instructions. A more specific registration site is here. Registration for the general public is $100 apiece. A distance videoconference option is available also. Advance registration closes at noon Wednesday, May 2. But registration later is available on a walk-in basis if space is available at the university hall.

"Often lost in the shadows of the JFK assassination," conference organizers said in previewing the event, "are the equally history-altering events of five years later — the brutal slayings of U.S. Senator and likely Democratic presidential nominee Robert F. Kennedy and the nation's pioneering civil rights leader, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Together, their murders contributed to the unmooring of American political life and the widespread distrust of government that poisons our national dialogue still."

Sirhan SirhanAmong other expert speakers will be Dr. William F. Pepper, a friend of both slain leaders, and later an attorney defending both Ray and Sirhan (who is shown at left after his arrest and below right in a prison photo from last year). Sirhan was eligible for parole beginning in the early 1980s.

But Sirhan has been repeatedly denied parole every five years or even the chance for an evidentiary hearing for reasons that authorities do not specify in detail. Sirhan's supporters say his initial trial was deeply compromised when his attorney was secretly charged with an unrelated felony and conceded Sirhan's guilt without putting on an even minimally diligent defense.

Sirhan SirhanAfter long study Pepper became convinced the defendants were innocent of firing fatal shots, and not just innocent because of legal technicalities.

Pepper argues that Ray and Sirhan were framed and that the real killers have been protected in ongoing cover-ups that would implicate "law enforcement" and otherwise sorely embarrass even now authorities and a compliant news media if ever exposed. 

Pepper, representing surviving members of the King family, won a civil jury verdict to that effect in 1999, a year after Ray died in prison.

Pepper now represents Sirhan in a pending demand for a new trial or a first-time evidentiary hearing. Pepper made that filing last July to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (ICHAR).

As we reported here last July in Petition To OAS: Sirhan wrongfully convicted in 1968 RFK Murder, the filing was made after the California Parole Board repeatedly denied Sirhan's similar requests for the chance to prove his innocence. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June thomas noguchi6, 1968. The killing was just after Kennedy won the California Democratic primary that positioned him to win as a fighting progressive both his party's nomination and, according to many commentators, the presidency in November.

Among other experts speaking at the conference will be Dr. Thomas T. Noguchi (shown at left), the Los Angeles County chief medical examiner in 1968. Noguchi found that Kennedy was hit by three bullets fired from the rear, including a fatal bullet to the rear of the head that had been fired from less than one inch away.

paul schrade after shootingPaul Schrade, a friend and presidential campaign aide of Kennedy's who was walking with the senator when Sirhan shot Schrade in the forehead, is among those speaking at the Pittsburgh conference (via a videoconference). Schrade is shown at right on the floor of the hotel's pantry after the shooting.

Schrade has since argued that Sirhan could not have killed Kennedy. Schrade is shown below left after California officials rejected Sirhan's requests last year. The photo is by an AP pool reporter, the only one allowed to cover the parole board's hearing.

Paul Schrade Associated Press poolRecords, evidence and hence news coverage of the RFK, MLK and JFK has been sharply limited through the years, which is why independent researchers look forward especially to conferences led by scientifically credentialed speakers.   

Although Nogochi tends to focus on his realm of scientific expertise, others like Wecht (a consultant to Noguchi during the autopsy), Pepper and Schrade have argued that Noguchi's finding is one of several indicators of Sirhan's innocence in killing RFK, although he was clearly at the scene shooting with a gun. "Sirhan did not fire the bullet that caused Senator [Robert] Kennedy’s death,” Wecht has said.

Witnesses and photographic evidence place Sirhan as being several feet away from Kennedy and to the front during the shooting. Sirhan, suspected by many as being a victim of hypnosis and other mind-control, has said he cannot remember the circumstances of the shooting. But his defense counsel concede that Sirhan fired some shots. 

Another speaker at this week's conference will be Philip Van Praag, an audio engineer and author who analyzed a tape that he says shows that far more shots were fired at RFK than Sirhan's gun contained.

This editor, who has published comprehensive "Readers Guides" to both the RFK and MLK assassinations, will moderate the RFK experts' panel that closes  the conference's first day. That day, May 3, focuses on the RFK assassination.

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