Sirhan Stabbing Revives Questions On His Safety, Innocence, and the RFK Murder Cover Up


The stabbing of Sirhan Sirhan on Aug. 30 in a California prison is bringing renewed attention to claims that he was unfairly convicted for the 1968 assassination of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy — and has since been denied justice because of a monumental cover up.

sirhan sirhan 2016Sirhan, now 75 (shown in a 2016 prison photo), was hospitalized in stable condition following his stabbing at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa, near San Diego. A Los Angeles Times story, Sirhan Sirhan is reportedly stabbed at prison in San Diego, drew from California corrections authorities and other sources to report that Sirhan suffered neck wounds and that his assailant has been identified. Sirhan was then returned to the prison in weakend condition and with a wound.

The Justice Integrity Project sought reaction from experts, particularly those who have published recent books or otherwise argued that California authorities — including U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris when she was California's attorney general — have unfairly resisted efforts to provide Sirhan with a hearing.

A hearing would enable scientific evidence to be introduced and argued for the first time to show that Sirhan could not possibly have fired the shots that killed Kennedy after his 1968 presidential campaign speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Sirhan's lead counsel, Dr. William F. Pepper — one of a number of experts who has become convinced of the defendant's innocence of firing fatal bullets — noted for us on Saturday the 213-page petition that he had filed in 2017 on Sirhan's behalf. It sought from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) the first hearing that would evaluate ballistic and other forensic evidence. The petition summarized the evidence.

"I believe that it is no coincidence," Pepper wrote us in an email, "that Sirhan has received a potentially fatal attack at a time when the IACHR is being compelled to consider granting an william pepper headshotevidentiary hearing that could, finally, establish his innocence of the assassination of Senator Kennedy."

"The forces against the truth being revealed in this horrific case," Pepper continued, "are as powerful now — over 50 years later — as ever."

Pepper is shown at left in a file photo.

Defense co-counsel Laurie Dusek, who promptly left her home in New York after the news to travel to California, wrote us that authorities failed to notify either Sirhan's immediate family and counsel of record regarding the stabbing.

Also, she told us on Saturday afternoon that Sirhan's brother Munir Sirhan had been unable to obtain information from the hospital treating the prisoner.

Sirhan's original defense lawyer — Grant Cooper, a prominent Los Angeles trial attorney whose independence had been compromised by a secret contempt of court case that authorities brought in an unrelated matter, with potential jail time reduced to a fine after Sirhan's conviction — conceded Sirhan's guilt in the defendant's 1969 trial and unsuccessfully sought mercy.

The defense counsel, who died in 1990 at age 87, failed to argue to the jury, for example, that Los Angeles Coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi had determined that Kennedy was killed with three shots fired from the rear (whereas Sirhan was in front of the late senator, according to witnesses).

Cyril M. Wecht, M.D., J.D., the famed forensic pathologist and attorney who assisted Noguchi on the RFK autopsy, told us in a phone conversation this weekend that it remains incomprehensible that Cooper would not have retained a forensic expert to analyze the scientific evidence and challenge the government's findings during Sirhan's trial, especially since the government medical examiner's own evidence provided a solid basis for such a challenge. "Any first-year law student would have done a better job than Sirhan's counsel [Cooper]," Wecht told us.

A recent quotation from the medical examiner Noguchi is shown below.


thomas noguchi sirhan quote 5 23 18

Pepper — who had been Westchester County campaign chairman to Kennedy in his New York Senate race and went on to a legal career that has included teaching human rights law for years at Oxford University in England — filed the 2017 petition on Sirhan's to IACHR, a body within the Organization of American States (whose logo is at right).

oas sealIACHR has not yet set a hearing on the petition despite numerous inquiries by Pepper and this editor, who collaborated on a 2018 Consortium News column about the case, OAS Facing Call for New Probe into RFK Murder. Here is a link to the filing.

lisa pease rfk coverIn a separate comment on Saturday, author Lisa Pease urged the public to sign a petition to California Gov. Gavin Newsom to free him. "We'd all love a new court proceeding," she wrote. "But he just wants to go home." The petition is here

Earlier this year, Pease, a former aide in 1992 to California Gov. Jerry Brown during his presidential run, authored the 512-page account of the case, shown at left, A Lie Too Big To Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

In 2018, the Washington Post published a multi-part series by longtime criminal justice reporter Tom Jackson, Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan.

It reported that two of the late senator RFK's children, law professor, author and activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Georgetown University scholar and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend were among those calling for a new investigation of the case based on evidence that Sirhan did not fire the fatal shots.

'Exemplary Inmate' Treated Unfairly

Those seeking justice regarding Sirhan have two overlapping concerns. The more historically significant issue is that law enforcers never seriously investigated whether Sirhan's bullets or those of a second gunman killed Kennedy. That is the primary issue for this column.

But, first, this section of the column addresses a second issue, whether Sirhan has been denied parole unjustly during his 15 denials of parole since he became eligible in 1985.

Weighing in on that is Dr. Shane O'Sullivan, a senior lecturer on film at Kingston University in London who wrote the 2008 book (republished in 2018) "Who Killed Bobby?" and directed the film documentary RFK Must Die.

The film title is drawn from a phrase repeated many times in Sirhan's diary. Prosecutors used the words to show that Sirhan planned to kill RFK with premeditation and hatred.

Sirhan's supporters argue that the repetition is so extreme as to suggest mind control over him by criminals who were never seriously investigated.

The supporters draw on psychiatric studies of Sirhan and the history of the CIA's MK Ultra mind control program exposed in the 1970s by the U.S. Senate Church and Rockefeller Committees' probes into CIA excesses. CIA Director Richard Helms destroyed the agency's MK Ultra files in 1973, helping thwart more in-depth congressional and other investigation.

Also, O'Sullivan edited In Jail with Sirhan Sirhan, a 484-page digital book published in 2016 that chronicled Sirhan's first year in custody.

"Sirhan has been an exemplary inmate, with no prison violations since 1972 and an excellent work record," O'Sullivan commented to us this weekend. "He was originally scheduled for release in 1985 but after intense political pressure, his parole date was rescinded and he has since been denied fifteen times."

O'Sullivan continued:

None of the prison psychiatrists who have examined him believe he is a threat to society and he is being held as a political prisoner, a victim of an unjust parole system, continuous harassment and now, an apparent murder attempt. His release is long overdue.

Sirhan Shot But Did He Kill?


rfk jr sirhan quote latest


Even Sirhan's defenders have conceded that he did fire some shots, as the government has always maintained. The issue is whether he fired the fatal ones. The issues prompted Robert Kennedy Jr., the late New York senator's eldest son and a longtime law professor, to visit Sirhan in prison, otherwise study the case and then conclude that strong questions remain in the government's evidence, as indicated by the graphic above.

It references a 30-minute recording made the night of the shooting by Stanislaus "Stas" Pruszynski, a Canadian journalist working on a book about the senator's fateful 1968 presidential campaign in which he sought to succeed incumbent Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of Vietnam War and racial protests and riots following the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the spring of 2004, CNN journalist Brad Johnson discovered the tape and its importance, especially after audio expert Philip Van Praag determined that it showed 13 shots being fired. Sirhan's .22 caliber gun could fire eight shots at most.

Johnson tracked Pruszynski to the latter's native Poland, where he confirmed to Johnson that he had failed to realize he had neglected to discontinue recording after RFK finished his California primary victory speech. This is the only known recording of the shooting, which occurred in a crowded hotel pantry as the candidate left the speaking stage.

Sirhan SirhanSirhan, born in Jerusalem to an Arab Christian family, is shown in police custody shortly after his arrest in 1968. He has said that he cannot remember why he went to the hotel, why he was shooting and who, if anyone, were accomplices.

Sirhan's current advocates, including some biographers, suspect on the basis of many clues that he was groomed, probably with the help of drugs, to become a patsy for a professional killer who escaped along with one or more co-conspirators.

tom jackmanThe Washington Post's Jackman, right, explored the hypnosis possibility last year in a story headlined The assassination of Bobby Kennedy: Was Sirhan Sirhan hypnotized to be the fall guy?

Jackman reported: "At the police station, Sirhan was preternaturally calm, officers later said. 'I was impressed by Sirhan’s composure and relaxation,' Sgt. William Jordan wrote in a report later that morning. 'He appeared less upset to me than individuals arrested for a traffic violation.'"

But the hypnosis angle gained momentum in recent years after Sirhan was examined for more than 60 hours by a Harvard Medical School professor with vast expertise in forensic psychiatry and hypnosis.

dan brownIn a lengthy affidavit filed with Sirhan’s last appeal in 2011, Daniel P. Brown (shown at right) concluded that “Mr. Sirhan did not act under his own volition and knowledge at the time of the assassination and is not responsible for actions coerced and/or carried out by others.” He was, Brown said, a true “Manchurian Candidate,” hypno-programmed into carrying out a violent political act without knowing it.

Shane O'Sullivan and book RFK bookOthers writing on the topic include Dr. Shane O’Sullivan, who wrote the book Who Killed Bobby? and the WhoWhatWhy column Was Sirhan Hypnotically Programmed to Assassinate RFK?

O'Sullivan also directed the documentary RFK Must Die.

He reported last year: "Over the last 11 years, Sirhan’s co-counsel Laurie Dusek and Dr. Daniel Brown (shown above right left), a leading expert on hypnosis and coercive persuasion at Harvard Medical School, have spent over 150 hours with Sirhan, working pro bono and at great personal cost to tim tate brad johnson rfk coverrecover his memory of the shooting."

Among others probing irregularities in the case are longtime journalists Tim Tate and Brad Johnson, who co-authored the 2018 book The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: Crime, Conspiracy and Cover-Up – A New Investigation.

Tate worked for BBC for many years and has authored best-selling books on other topics. Johnson is a former senior correspondent for CNN International. Each worked two decades intermittently in researching their book.

Several of the authors have focused on the Pruszynski audio recording. Van Praag has concluded that the recording proves that 13 shots were fired during the assassination, as he describes below and in his book, An Open & Shut Case:


philip van praag with quote latest medium


Johnson shared his views in the comments below in one of a series of graphics that he helped prepare for use by the Justice Integrity Project last year:


brad johnson cnn with quote latest


The .22 caliber gun seized from Sirhan had a maximum capacity of eight shots. Authorities removed from the scene wall and ceiling materials where it was reputed that bullets landed, with that evidence largely unavailable towhat Sirhan's defense or researchers since.

Dr. Cyril M. Wecht, a longtime coroner, medical school professor, author and consultant based in Pittsburgh, also has decried the continued imprisonment of Sirhan without parole or a new hearing.

Wecht, author and co-author of nearly 50 books and a forensic pathologist who undertakes some 500 autopsies a year while in his late 80s, assisted Dr. Noguchi on the Kennedy autopsy and commented this way:


cyril wecht sirhan quote revised 5 24 18


Government and Media Cover Up

Nearly all government officials and most mainstream media, aside from the Washington Post in the 2018 series quoted above and below, avoid any in-depth discussion of the scientific evidence, the still-living witnesses willing to testify or the implications of the case if, as it appears, Sirhan was wrongfully convicted with the active participation of at least some in the Los Angeles Police Department and District Attorney's office.

Sirhan is being kept in prison long after what would have been his normal release on parole in the mid-1980s even if had had killed Kennedy. In February 2016, California's parole board rejected for the 15th time his application for parole, ruling that he did not show adequate remorse or understand the enormity of his crime, according to an AP report printed by the Washington Post.

On Saturday, WTOP-AM radio in Washington, DC reported that Sirhan's prison operates at 130 percent of capacity, meaning that it holds one thousand more prisoners than it was designed for. Yet Sirhan is held long after he would have been released if he were any other prisoner.

The silence and obfuscation, at least among key players who influence the public, doubtless stems in part from the acute embarrassment for the legal system if serious problems became widely known regarding one of the most iconic and historically pivotal murder cases in recent American history.

Robert Kennedy was well on his way after his California victory to securing the Democratic nomination for president in July and then likely defeating during the fall elections Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon.

Most books and news reports until recently have accepted with little question the prosecution's argument that Sirhan was the sole killer and acted without accomplices.

Contrary to popular belief, it is far easier and more lucrative for most book and film creators to accept as fact official government conclusions in the most politically sensitive death cases rather than incur pushback by authorities, especially if a cover-up is alleged involving the intelligence divisions of local or federal bodies.

More than three thousand books, for example, have been published in whole or part about the assassination of RFK's brother John F. Kennedy that ended his presidency. But only a few that sharply criticize the official story of the assassination have achieved enduring best-seller status.

Yet decades of polling has shown that more than 60 percent of the public (and sometimes nearly 80 percent) do not believe the conclusions of the 1964 Warren Report ascribing sole guilt in JFK's death to Lee Harvey Oswald.

Although members of the public may feel free to express their opinions, decision-makers in government, publishing, film and academia understand the danger to their careers if they are smeared by the term "conspiracy theorist," which was weaponized by the CIA in the 1960s to thwart inquiries about the JFK assassination (according to a now-declassified CIA memo).

cia logoA four-page CIA memo, known as "CIA Dispatch 1035-960," instructed agents to contact their media contacts and disparage those, like Garrison, criticizing the Warren Commission findings that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK and acted alone. The Mary Ferrell Foundation site shows the 1967 CIA document here in the original along with 49 more pages of supportive materials collected by the CIA that were released to the public via researchers' requests. Dispatch 1035-960 is here on the JFK Lancer site in reformatted text for easier reading, without CIA indexing stamps and handwritten notations.

The specifics of how information suppression occurs in the real world of journalism is documented in, among other places, the 2019 book Burying the Lead: The Media and the JFK Assassination by South Carolina professor and current congressional candidate Mal Hyman.

This editor also has experience researching factors influencing the media, including for the 1987 book Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper and for a 1990 research paper at the University of Chicago School of Law, "Market Failures in Media Antitrust Regulation."

The paper (an independent study project under the supervision of future Obama White House regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, husband of future United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power) argued that popular interest for media products could be superseded in the real world by more lucrative considerations for the owners in promoting or suppressing certain stories, depending on owners' interests rather than popularity with readers.

djt handwave fileMore recent examples and reasons abound regarding such media manipulation, even (or especially) among prestigious outlets when the stakes are high enough.

Thus, conglomerates interested in commercial film production have scant incentive to antagonize intelligence or military authorities when they rely on the federal government for cooperation in big-budget war movies, for example. Studios do not want to buy their own tanks for battle scenes, much less ships and airplanes.

Financial pressures are present even at the Washington Post, funded as a personal venture by founder Jeffrey Bezos with a $250 million purchase price in 2013.

President Donald Trump (shown at right in a file photo) this summer halted completion of a $10 billion cloud computing contract that the U.S. Department of Defense seemed on the verge of awarding Amazon's computer services unit, as reported by the Post on Aug. 1 in After Trump cites Amazon concerns, Pentagon reexamines $10 billion JEDI cloud contract process.

While the Defense Department seeks additional bidders, (which obtained a $600 million contract in 2013 to deliver similar cloud fletcher prouty portraitcomputing services to the CIA) is on notice: What's published could become a financial problem about which readers may not know. (To its credit, the Washington Post has reported on its business pages the basic facts cited above but they are seldom cited by other media.

Therefore, most reporters and television correspondents know next to nothing about such matters. They are not paid to research them and would suffer career adversities if they acted on such research.

But top news managers surely do. Intelligence organizations is that they plant hidden assets in publishing organizations just as they do in courts, Congress and other ostensibly independent watchdog organizations. (The late Air Force retired Colonel Fletcher Prouty, left, for years a top Defense Department liaison to the CIA for dark operations, called it "The Secret Team," the title also of his iconic book published in 1973 on the theme.) Details are beyond the scope of today's column.

What's Next?

Sirhan's next California parole hearing cannot be until 2021 because of state procedures enabling them only at five year intervals. The state denies parole under a "Catch 22," in effect: That if he seeks to prove innocence for firing the fatal bullets he is not accepting guilt and so his requests must be denied for lack of remorse.

tulsi gabbard june 26 2019 dem debateIn the 2020 Democratic presidential race's July "debate," an indirect focus occurred on the plight of Sirhan and other California prisoners who might be suffering injustice.

Democratic contender Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii (shown at right in a file photo), sharply attacked the prosecution record of Kamala Harris as being unfairly harsh during her years as California attorney general before election to the U.S. Senate.

Gabbard did not cite specific defendants such as Sirhan. But the attack appeared to resonate strongly against Harris, who has been campaigning as a kamala harris caricature black agenda report dcmaliberal and advocate for racial minorities and other downtrodden.

Polling numbers for Harris went down after the debate duel with Gabbard in most surveys, while Gabbard became the most searched-for candidate on social media.

Harris, portrayed at left in caricature by the editors of Black Agenda Report, is held in very low regard by many key advocates for Sirhan because of her actions as attorney general to thwart Sirhan's requests. That is exemplied in, among other filings in the Sirhan case, a 47-page legal brief that she signed in 2012 (available here via the Mary Ferrell Foundation archives) rejecting Sirhan's arguments.

The problems for Harris are of scant comfort for the advocates for Sirhan but do serve to illustrate the challenges in such efforts:

Even an ostensible liberal and advocate for justice reform such as Harris appears to have little or no interest in solving the murder of the Democratic icon Robert F. Kennedy.

The Powers That Be, the same powers that RFK fought during his final campaign, do not seem to want facts or justice —  only compliance with conventional wisdom until all inconvenient witnesses (including the prisoner) are dead.

This column has been updated with new material.



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Related News Coverage



Sirhan Sirhan ap escorted in court small

washington post logoWashington Post, Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin, denied parole again, Andrew Jeong, March 3, 2023 (print ed.). Sirhan Sirhan — who is serving a life sentence for the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy — was denied parole by a California panel on Wednesday, despite his attorney’s assertion that the 78-year-old should be freed because he is unlikely to be a threat to the public.

The decision came after a hearing at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, where Sirhan is being held. A parole board ruled that Sirhan still had not shown insight into what led him to shoot the senator, then a presidential candidate, during a campaign event at a Los Angeles hotel.

Wednesday’s recommendation contradicted a decision by a different parole board two years ago that Sirhan should be eligible for release, which was struck down by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

Under the state’s penal code, the governor can ask California’s Board of Parole Hearings to review a parole panel decision. In murder cases, the governor can reverse or modify the board’s decision without referring the case back to the board.

In a statement, Sirhan’s attorney Angela Berry expressed concern that the board had been swayed by Newsom, who overruled the previous recommendation in 2022 and has argued that Sirhan has not been rehabilitated.

She also argued against the idea that her client lacked “sufficient insight” into his actions, citing psychiatric evaluations dating back to 1975 and the 2021 parole hearing.

In an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times last year, Newsom said Sirhan had “not developed the accountability and insight required to support his safe release into his community.”

Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian who emigrated with his family to the United States from Jordan, fatally shot Kennedy as he was leaving the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, shortly after the senator won California’s Democratic presidential primary. Five others were also injured in the shooting, and Kennedy died the next day.

Sirhan was convicted of first-degree murder and assault with intent to murder and was initially sentenced to death, but that sentence was later reduced to life with the possibility of parole.

Since 1975, Sirhan has been eligible for release more than a dozen times.


Aug. 30

Sirhan Stabbed In Custody

Los Angeles Times, Sirhan Sirhan is reportedly stabbed at prison in San Diego, Teri Figueroa, Aug. 30, 2019. Sirhan Sirhan, who is serving a life sentence for the 1968 assassination sirhan sirhan 2016of Robert F. Kennedy, was reportedly stabbed Friday in a San Diego-area prison. TMZ and NBC7, both citing unnamed sources, reported that the 75-year-old inmate had been stabbed at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation issued a statement Friday confirming that an inmate had been assaulted, but the agency would not say whether the victim was Sirhan Sirhan (shown in a 2016 prisoner photo).

According to the statement from state prison officials, a Donovan inmate was assaulted at 2:21 p.m.

“Officers responded quickly, and found an inmate with stab wound injuries,” the department said. “He was transported to an outside hospital for medical care, and is currently in stable condition.”

“The suspect in the attack has been identified, and has [been] placed in the prison’s Administrative Segregation Unit, pending an investigation.”

Sirhan SirhanAccording to Cal Fire spokesman Capt. Thomas Shoots, medics responded to a reported stabbing — the person was bleeding from the neck — just before 2:25 p.m. Friday. He said the person, whose identity he could not release, was taken by ambulance to a hospital shortly before 2:50 p.m.

Sirhan Sirhan (shown after his arrest) has been in the state’s prison system since May 1969, nearly a year after Kennedy, who was seeking the Democratic nomination for president, was assassinated.

Kennedy was shot and gravely wounded shortly after midnight June 5, 1968, after a speaking to supporters at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Sirhan, then 24, was subdued at the scene. Kennedy, 42, died early the next day. Online Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records state that the inmate, whose full name is Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, has been up for parole numerous times. His next hearing is slated for February 2021.


June 5

New Focus On Hypnosis In RFK Murder 50 Years Ago Today

Shane O'Sullivan and book RFK bookwhowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion & Analysis: Was Sirhan Hypnotically Programmed to Assassinate RFK? Shane O’Sullivan, June 5, 2018. Dr. Shane O’Sullivan, shown above, wrote "Who Killed Bobby?" and directed the documentary "RFK Must Die."

Fifty years ago, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. His convicted assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, remains in prison in San Diego and claims to have no memory of the crime. Robert Kennedy Jr. visited Sirhan for three hours last December and, on the basis of new audio evidence of a second shooter, is calling for a new investigation into the case.

dan brownOver the last 11 years, Sirhan’s attorney Laurie Dusek and Dr. Daniel Brown (shown at left), a leading expert on hypnosis and coercive persuasion at Harvard Medical School, have spent over 150 hours with Sirhan, working pro bono and at great personal cost to recover his memory of the shooting.

The WhoWhatWhy piece shows 67 minutes of video footage spiked from a Netflix documentary showing  Dr. Dan Brown and Sirhan’s attorney, Laurie Dusek, discussing their groundbreaking work with Sirhan for the first time. 

washington post logotom jackmanWashington Post, Did L.A. police and prosecutors bungle the Bobby Kennedy assassination probe? Tom Jackman (shown right), June 5, 2018. For six years after he was shot and wounded while walking behind Robert F. Kennedy in the Ambassador Hotel in June 1968, Paul Schrade mourned the loss of his friend and stayed out of the public eye. But beginning with a news conference in 1974, Schrade has demanded answers to the question of whether a second gunman — and not Sirhan Sirhan — killed Kennedy.

Soon after Sirhan’s trial ended with his first-degree-murder conviction in April 1969, journalists noted that Kennedy had been shot in the back of the head at point-blank range, but witnesses all said Sirhan was standing in front of Kennedy. Bullet holes found in the doors of the crime scene indicated more shots were fired than could have come from Sirhan’s eight-shot .22-caliber pistol, some witnesses said. Sirhan’s defense team had not challenged any of the physical evidence at trial.

tim tate brad johnson rfk coverConsortium News, A just published book on the RFK murder re-examines the evidences and asks what the world might be like if the four 1960s assassinations never occurred, James DiEugenio, June 5, 2018. Authors Tim Tate and Brad Johnson begin their new book, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: Crime, Conspiracy and Cover-Up – A New Investigation (Thistle Publishing) with this quote from RFK the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed: “What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet.”

Just two months later Kennedy would become the last in a series of four assassinations of American leaders from 1963-68: President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. The cumulative political impact of those murders is hard to overstate. Toward the end of their book the authors try to estimate what that impact was.

Though it’s impossible to say for sure, they conjecture that, at the very least, the Vietnam War would have ended much sooner and would not have expanded into Laos and Cambodia. We know for certain that President Richard Nixon’s decision to expand the war caused the collapse of the government of Cambodia’s Prince Sihanouk, the eventual takeover by the Khmer Rouge and the death of two million people.

The murder of Bobby Kennedy has always seemed to get less attention in the mainstream media than the other 1960s assassinations, perhaps because it’s been considered an “open and shut case.” There were, after all, seventy witnesses to RFK’s murder. But the Los Angeles Police Department decided very early, and quite literally, that what happened in the wee hours of June 5, 1968 would not be another Dallas, as Tate and Johnson say.

June 4

washington post logotom jackmanWashington Post, The assassination of Bobby Kennedy: Was Sirhan Sirhan hypnotized to be the fall guy? Tom Jackman (shown right), June 4, 2018. Even as Sirhan Sirhan was being captured, seconds after the shooting of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles, he behaved oddly. A group of men had tackled him, held him down and tried to wrest the gun out of his hands.

But “in the middle of a hurricane of sound and feeling,” wrote one of those men, author George Plimpton, Sirhan “seemed peaceful.” Plimpton was struck by Sirhan’s “dark brown and enormously peaceful eyes.” A Los Angeles police officer who had rushed in recalled, “He had a blank, glassed-over look on his face — like he wasn’t in complete control of his mind.”

Sirhan SirhanAt the same time, the short, slim Sirhan (shown in a photo after arrest) — 5 feet 5 inches, about 120 pounds — exerted superhuman strength as one man held his wrist to a steam table in the Ambassador Hotel pantry, firing off five or six more shots even as he was held around the neck, body and legs by other men, witnesses said. It took a half-dozen men to wrench the .22-caliber pistol out of Sirhan’s grip.

At the police station, Sirhan was preternaturally calm, officers later said. “I was impressed by Sirhan’s composure and relaxation,” Sgt. William Jordan wrote in a report later that morning. “He appeared less upset to me than individuals arrested for a traffic violation.”

dan brownBut the hypnosis angle gained momentum in recent years after Sirhan was examined for more than 60 hours by a Harvard Medical School professor with vast expertise in forensic psychiatry and hypnosis. In a lengthy affidavit filed with Sirhan’s last appeal in 2011, Daniel P. Brown (shown at right) concluded that “Mr. Sirhan did not act under his own volition and knowledge at the time of the assassination and is not responsible for actions coerced and/or carried out by others.” He was, Brown said, a true “Manchurian Candidate,” hypno-programmed into carrying out a violent political act without knowing it.

“I have written four textbooks on hypnosis,” Brown wrote, “and have hypnotized over 6,000 individuals over a 40-year professional career. Mr. Sirhan is one of the most hypnotizable individuals I have ever met, and the magnitude of his amnesia for actions under hypnosis is extreme.” Brown said he has spent another 60 hours with Sirhan in the years since his 2011 affidavit, further confirming his conclusions.

Brown researched not only Sirhan’s background but also the details of the case, and wove together the CIA’s notorious “MKUltra” mind-control experiments of the 1950s and 1960s; the Mafia; the famed “girl in the polka-dot dress” seen with Sirhan before the shooting; and an unknown “Radio Man” who secretly directed Sirhan to write the incriminating “RFK must die!” statements in a notebook found in his bedroom.

Lawyers for Sirhan are currently using the theory that he was a hypnotized distraction for the actual killer of Kennedy in a pending appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Although it would have no binding power over the case, a positive finding could be used to push California authorities to reopen the case. Sirhan attorney William Pepper said he’s convinced that someone used “both drugs and hypnosis to make him a totally compliant distraction at the time Bobby Kennedy was within range of the second shooter, who was able to get down behind him.” Kennedy’s fatal wound was fired at point-blank range from behind, while witnesses said Sirhan was in front of him.

But to the U.S. court system, that claim simply didn’t fly. In rejecting Sirhan’s final federal appeal in 2013, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Wistrich wrote that Sirhan’s “theory that he was subject to mind control may be intriguing” but that the experts’ views “fall far short of demonstrating that [Sirhan] actually was subjected to mind control.” Wistrich added that “Brown’s retrospective opinion based upon tests assessing [Sirhan’s] mental condition forty years after the fact are of negligible weight.”

May 27

New Doubts About Sirhan's Guilt In RFK Murder

Robert F Kennedy Jr (2017 portrait by Gage Skidmore)

Robert F Kennedy Jr (2017 portrait by Gage Skidmore)

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis: Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan, Tom Jackman, May 27, 2018 (print edition). Just before Christmas, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pulled up to the massive Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, a California state prison complex in the desert outside San Diego that holds nearly 4,000 inmates. Kennedy was there to visit Sirhan B. Sirhan, the man convicted of killing his father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, nearly 50 years ago.

rfk head portrait 1964While his wife, the actress Cheryl Hines, waited in the car, Kennedy met with Sirhan for three hours, he revealed to The Washington Post last week. It was the culmination of months of research by Kennedy into the assassination, including speaking with witnesses and reading the autopsy and police reports.

sirhan sirhan 2016“I got to a place where I had to see Sirhan,” Kennedy said. He would not discuss the specifics of their conversation. But when it was over, Kennedy had joined those who believe there was a second gunman, and that it was not Sirhan (shown in a 2016 prison photo) who killed his father, shown at right.

“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.”