California Parole Board Votes To Release Sirhan; Governor To Makes Final Ruling

sirhan sirhan cdcr

Sirhan B. Sirhan is shown at a California parole board hearing on Aug. 27 in San Diego a photo released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

A California parole board voted on Friday to recommend the release of Sirhan B. Sirhan, who has served more than 50 years in prison following his 1969 conviction for murdering U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 following Kennedy's victory speech in California's Democratic presidential primary that year.

"The recommendation from the two commissioners does not necessarily mean Mr. Sirhan, 77, will walk free," the New York Times reported, "but will most likely put his fate in the hands of Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat facing a recall election that will determine his political future. A spokeswoman for Mr. Newsom declined to robert f. kennedy 1964 wsay whether he would approve the recommendation, only that he would consider the case after it is reviewed by the parole board’s lawyers."

Kennedy is shown at right in a photo when he was U.S. attorney general in his brother John F. Kennedy's administration.

"The slaying of Kennedy (D-N.Y.), then a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, likely changed the course of American history," reported the Washington Post's Thomas Jackman, who has followed the case closely. "But Sirhan’s lawyer argued that was an irrelevant consideration for parole — that the criteria of rehabilitation, remorse and future dangerousness applied to all prisoners should also be applied to Sirhan, now 77."

“Over half a century has passed,” Sirhan told the two parole commissioners, according to the Post report, “and that young impulsive kid I was does not exist anymore...Sen. Kennedy was the hope of the world and I injured, and I harmed all of them and it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed.”

The Post further reported:

Kennedy’s family made a late decision to appear at the hearing, with son Douglas H. Kennedy speaking in favor of Sirhan’s parole. “I really do believe any prisoner who is found to be not a threat to themselves or the world should be released,” Douglas Kennedy said, according to the Associated Press. “I believe that applies to everyone, every human being, including Mr. Sirhan...I was very deeply moved by Mr. Sirhan’s expression of remorse and at times it brought tears to my eyes and affected me very deeply.”

Another son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., sent a letter to the parole board on Friday in support of Sirhan after learning that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had sent a letter opposing parole “on behalf of the Kennedy family.”

“Please know that that letter was not at the direction of the ‘family,’ and certainly not me,” Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote. “As you may know, I have been a strong advocate for the release of Mr. Sirhan B. Sirhan since I learned of evidence that was not presented to the court during his trial.”

After the ruling, Robert Kennedy Jr. said, “My father, I think, would be really happy today. My father believed in compassion. The ideals of our justice system are the possibility of redemption and the importance of forgiveness. He didn’t believe the justice system was just about revenge.”

Sirhan's lead attorney for the parole hearing was Angela Berry of Encino, Calfornia. She has been working also with Dr. William F. Pepper of New York, who became Sirhan's lead attorney in 2008 after becoming convinced that he did not fire any bullet that fatally wounded Kennedy, a friend and political ally of Pepper's beginning in william pepper headshot1964.

"It's been a long struggle," Pepper, left, told this editor on Friday evening in a phone interview, "but justice has finally triumphed."

The Justice Integrity Project has been working with Pepper on a pro bono volunteer basis on Sirhan's behalf for more than four years and more recently with Berry also. This editor also has submitted multiple comments about the case to civic groups and the reader comment sections of Jackman's recent coverage for the Washington Post.

We have emphasized repeatedly that, contrary to most reader comments, considerable doubt exists whether Sirhan fired the fatal shots. Also, we have noted that the parole board's focus is largely on current considerations. The defense has been barred from obtaining evidentiary hearings.

cyril wecht with quote latest smallDr. Cyril H. Wecht, (shown above in a graphic prepared by our project five years ago), has followed the case closely since Los Angeles Coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi called him after the killing to seek his continuing counsel. Wecht phoned the Justice Integrity Project on Aug. 26 to share his view that the forensic problems with the RFK prosecution were even more obvious than in the John F. Kennedy Assassination, which he has also studied and written about extensively.

This editor posted a ccomment on the Washington Post website of a story published yesterday, as follows, in response to many comments by readers who thought they knew the evidence and that it proved that Sirhan killed RFK.

I owe it to one of America's greatest civic heroes -- who just phoned me about this story -- to try to respond once more to these reader comments. Nearly everyone seems eager for vengeance against Sirhan but unaware of key facts.

My caller was Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D., now age 90, the famed forensic pathologist based in Pittsburgh, where he was county coroner for 20 years. He was longtime chair of county's Democratic Party, a medical school professor, a strong supporter of his region's Jewish community, and a Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. senate, among other civic projects. He authored or co-authored about 60 books, including textbooks, and still performs hundreds of autopsies a year (500 last time I checked two years ago).

Most relevantly, he has lived with this case since Los Angeles County Medical Examiner Thomas Noguchi called on him as trusted advisor during the RFK autopsy. Dr. Wecht was an official consultant also on the JFK death.

On a forensic and other scientific basis, he told me this evening, the disturbing problems with the case against Sirhan exceed even those in the JFK murder. He listed many examples. They include evidence of 12 to 14 shots fired when Sirhan's gun could hold just eight, and evidence that RFK had been shot from a distance of between 1 and 1.5 inches from the rear. All of this is detailed in documents, books and other materials for anyone willing to learn.

The stakes, Dr. Wecht continued, go far beyond this defendant's fate. Unlike most commenters here, his focus is not vengeance. Instead, in the RFK spirit, he cares about the integrity of the U.S. justice and democratic institutions -- and fears that if they continue to fail in this case the dangers fester.

This is not an abstraction. Those like Dr. Wecht who perform independent autopsies are the front line in holding police and prosecutors accountable for accurate reports in everyday cases. This hero has called out gross misconduct many times and paid the price.

Additional coverage is shown below. This includes a link to our Readers Guide To RFK Assassination: Books, Videos, Archives, which presents key books, videos, documents, websites and other archives most relevant to his career and murder. The materials include both those affirming and those questioning whether Sirhan fired the fatal shots.

As Tom Jackman of the Washington Post reported earlier this week as part of his in-depth coverage of the case extending back years:

sirhan sirhan 2016Sirhan (shown in a 2016 photo) was arrested at the scene of Kennedy’s shooting in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the slaying of a U.S. senator who appeared headed for the Democratic presidential nomination. The assassination, along with that of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. two months earlier, created a turning point in American history with the sudden elimination of the charismatic leaders of the American civil rights movement and the Democratic Party respectively.

When California abolished the death penalty, Sirhan’s sentence was reduced to life with the possibility of parole.

And now Sirhan, who has been incarcerated for 53 years, may benefit from a new push among progressive prosecutors to seek the release, or not oppose the release, of convicts who have served decades behind bars, no longer pose a threat to society and will be costly to treat medically in their later years.


1968 Democratic Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy announcing his victory in that year's California primary at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly before he was murdered after leaving the stage.

 1968 Democratic Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, center, announcing his victory in that year's California primary at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly before he was murdered after leaving the stage shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968.


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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.


Sept. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: For Sirhan Sirhan, no remorse, no release, Charles Lane, right, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). As political leaders are wont to do after terrorist charles laneattacks, President Biden directed angry words at the branch of the Islamic State behind the Aug. 26 bombing in Kabul that killed 13 American service members. “We will not forgive,” he declared. “We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Never is a long time, though, and the years have a way of eroding such sentiments.

The day after Biden spoke, a two-member panel of California’s parole board offered a measure of forgiveness to a forgotten terrorist: They recommended release for Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, the Palestinian refugee who fatally shot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), then 42, on June 5, 1968, leaving 11 children fatherless, snuffing out a remarkable career and decapitating a political movement.

Sirhan’s case raises complex questions about punishment and redemption. It centers, or should center, on remorse, which is the key to unlocking any decent society’s store of forgiveness — while honoring its pain and preserving the truth.

On behalf of society, the parole commissioners should have been more demanding. They duly noted Sirhan’s “lack of taking complete responsibility,” as one put it, then legalistically assigned greater, mitigating, weight to Sirhan’s advanced age now, and, per a 2018 California law, his youth at the time of the offense.

The majority of Kennedy’s immediate family — six children and his widow, Ethel, 93 — issued statements decrying the parole recommendation. It may be overturned within four months by the full 16-member board or, failing that, by the winner of Tuesday’s gubernatorial recall election.

These Kennedys should be heeded — not because they are the victim’s family, of course, and still less because they are Kennedys.

This is about sending the right message to California and to American society as a whole: Justice may be tempered by mercy, for those offenders who sincerely, humbly, seek it.

Sept. 7

Fox News, RFK's widow, Ethel Kennedy, objects to Sirhan Sirhan's release: ‘He should not be paroled,’ Louis Casiano, Sept. 7, 2021. 2 of Kennedy's sons have spoken in favor of Sirhan's release.

sirhan sirhan 2016Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy, said Tuesday that she is opposed to the release of Sirhan Sirhan, right, the man imprisoned and recently recommended for parole in the 1968 killing of her husband.

"Our family and our country suffered an unspeakable loss due to the inhumanity of one man," she said. "We believe in the gentleness that spared his life, but in taming his act of violence, he should not have the opportunity to terrorize again."

At the end of the letter, Kennedy hand-wrote: "He should not be paroled."

Two of Kennedy's sons – Douglas Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – said they support Sirhan's parole. The board recommendation still needs approval from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

RFK's son and Fox News correspondent Douglas Kennedy explained why he believes his father's murderer should be granted parole by California Gov. Gavin Newsom. "Bobby believed we should work to 'tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world.' He wanted to end the war in Vietnam and bring people together to build a better, stronger country. More than anything, he wanted to be a good father and loving husband," Kennedy said in a typed statement.

Sirhan, a Christian Palestinian from Jordan, has been imprisoned for more than 50 years for fatally shooting Kennedy inside the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles following the then-New York senator's California primary victory speech. Sirhan opposed Kennedy's support for Israel.

He has said he doesn't remember shooting Kennedy. A two-panel parole board in California recommended last month that he be released. It was Sirhan's 16th appearance before the board.


Sept. 5

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Investigation: Sirhan May Go Free — But Truth on the Kennedy Assassinations Remains Locked Up, Russ Baker and Milicent Cranor, Sept. 5, 2021. The possible parole of Sirhan Sirhan — convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy and imprisoned for more than half a century — reminds us that disturbing questions still remain about what really happened in the pantry of Los Angeles’s Ambassador Hotel shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968.

The official story states that Sirhan was a militant Palestinian Christian, driven to murder the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee over his support of Israel. According to this view, anything suspicious about Sirhan’s identification as RFK’s sole killer can be explained away as inconsequential details; probing deeper into the killing is self-indulgent conspiracy theorizing, and releasing Sirhan now would be an affront to justice.

Many of us pride ourselves on being “pro-science” and are appalled by those who react reflexively to almost any “establishment” narrative with suspicion and counter-theories. COVID-19 and climate change come to mind.

Russ Baker is editor-in-chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

Milicent Cranor is a senior editor at WhoWhatWhy. She was a creative editor at E.P. Dutton; comedy ghostwriter; co-author of numerous peer-reviewed articles for medical journals; and editor of consequential legal and scientific documents.

Sept. 3

America's Untold Stories,

, Eric Hunley and Mark Groubert, Sept. 3, 2021 (101 mins). America's Untold Stories with Eric Hunley and Mark Groubert is featuring part two of Sirhan Sirhan and the assassination of Robert F Kennedy. Mark presented at the Sirhan Sirhan Parole Hearing on August 27, 2021.

This is exclusive coverage of the parole hearing and the trial that put him in prison.

Sept. 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Man Who Murdered My Father Doesn’t Deserve Parole, Rory Kennedy (a documentary filmmaker and the youngest child of Robert Kennedy, right, the New York senator and presidential candidate assassinated in June 1968), Sept. 1, 2021.

I never met my father. When Sirhan Sirhan murdered him in the kitchen hallway of the Ambassador Hotel in front of scores of witnesses, my mother was three months pregnant with me. Of my 10 older brothers and sisters, Robert F. KennedyKathleen, the eldest, was 16, and Douglas, the youngest, was little more than 1. I was born six months after my father’s death.

My mother and the majority of my siblings agree with what I now write, although a couple do not. But I will say, for myself, while that night of terrible loss has not defined my life, it has had impact beyond measure.

In 1969, when Mr. Sirhan was found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to death, I was barely a toddler. I know, as it is part of the historical record, that my uncle Teddy sent a five-page handwritten letter to the district attorney in a last-minute plea to save the condemned assassin’s life. The letter invoked my father’s beliefs: “My brother was a man of love and sentiment and compassion. He would not have wanted his death to be a cause for the taking of another life.”

Despite this plea, Superior Court Judge Herbert Walker upheld the sentence, ruling that Mr. Sirhan should “die in the manner prescribed by law,” which in California in 1969 was the gas chamber. There was no consideration of future rehabilitation. The court’s decision seemed based entirely upon the prevailing conception of justice in California at that time: As my father was taken forever, so too should Mr. Sirhan be.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional and suspended it. At the time, “life without parole” was not yet an alternative in California; it wouldn’t take effect there for another six years. Mr. Sirhan’s sentence was commuted to “life with the possibility of parole.” Because of this, in legal terms, the word “forever” was taken off the table.

But as last Friday’s parole hearing made clear, his suitability for release has not changed. According to Julie Watson, an Associated Press reporter present, Mr. Sirhan still maintains that he does not recall the killing and that “it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed, if I did in fact do that.” If? How can you express remorse while refusing to accept responsibility? And how, having committed one of the most notorious assassinations of the latter part of the 20th century, can you be considered rehabilitated when you won’t even acknowledge your role in the crime itself?

Yet last week’s parole commissioner, Robert Barton, found a way. Although the official transcripts have not yet been released, he is reported as telling Mr. Sirhan, “We did not find that your lack of taking complete responsibility” for the shooting indicates that you are “currently dangerous.”

It is true that Mr. Sirhan has been incarcerated for a long time. For 53 years, to be exact. That is, after all, an easy number for me to track. It is the same number of years that my father has been dead. It is the age that I turn on my birthday this year.

The decision to release Mr. Sirhan still has to be reviewed by the full parole board and then by California’s governor. I ask them, for my family — and I believe for our country, too — to please reject this recommendation and keep Sirhan Sirhan in prison.

Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig, a pro bono consultant attorney for the defense, submitted the following reader comment appended to the column above:

Anyone's heart and sympathies must go out to the author of this column, as well as other Kennedy family members, supporters and supporters everywhere of the late senator's dedication to democracy, justice and human rights.

Even so, this column and nearly all of the reader comments sidestep several vital elements of this proceeding that illustrate those kinds of RFK ideals.

Most importantly, the parole board focused on the relevant law and facts generally applicable to California cases, such as the prisoner's age, prison good conduct and strong evidence he could be released to his family home/community or deported without undue risk to society.

Also powerful evidence exists that Sirhan did not fire the fatal shots, as numerous books, witnesses and other evidence have shown. That evidence has persuaded two of the RFK children to argue that Sirhan could not have killed their father and that instead someone else must have fired the fatal shots from the rear. A third child, the family's eldest and a former state lieutenant governor, has argued that doubts about the prosecution are so powerful that there should be a new investigation. These arguments are expressed, among other places, in a powerful series of in-depth articles by Tom Jackman, an experienced justice system reporter at the Washington Post.

Among those living experts alive and available are Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the medical examiner, consultants Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. Dan Brown, and shooting victim Paul Schrade.

robert kennedy paul schrade maldef youtube

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy is shown at right campaigning in 1968's California primary with Paul Schrade, Western states director for the United Auto Workers and a close aide to the candidate. Schrade was shot non-fatally in the head at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles along with Kennedy in June 1968.

ny times logoNew York Times, Parole Board Urges Release of Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy’s Assassin, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is campaigning to win a recall election in California, can choose to uphold or reject the recommendation, which would free Mr. Sirhan after more than five decades.

California parole commissioners recommended on Friday that Sirhan B. Sirhan should be freed on parole after spending more than 50 years in prison for assassinating Robert F. Kennedy during his campaign for president.

The recommendation from the two commissioners does not necessarily mean Mr. Sirhan, 77, will walk free, but will most likely put his fate in the hands of Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat facing a recall election that will determine his political future. A spokeswoman for Mr. Newsom declined to say whether he would approve the recommendation, only that he would consider the case after it is reviewed by the parole board’s lawyers.

george gascon oThe parole hearing was the 16th time Mr. Sirhan had faced parole board commissioners, but it was the first time no prosecutor showed up to argue for his continued imprisonment. George Gascón, right, the progressive and divisive Los Angeles County district attorney who was elected last year (after working his way up from patrolman to San Francisco police chief), has made it a policy for prosecutors not to attend parole hearings, saying the parole board has all the facts it needs to make an informed decision.

At the hearing, which was conducted virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Sirhan said he had little memory of the assassination itself, but he said he “must have” brought the gun into the hotel.

“I take responsibility for taking it in and I take responsibility for firing the shots,” he said. Mr. Sirhan, much of his short hair turned white, was seated in front of a computer and wearing a blue uniform with a paper towel in his chest pocket.

Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, Kennedy gave a victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles following his victory in the Democratic primary in California. As Kennedy, a senator from New York, walked through the hotel’s pantry, Mr. Sirhan shot him with a revolver. Five other people around Kennedy were shot as well, but they all survived.

Kennedy died the next day, less than five years after President John F. Kennedy, one of his brothers, had been assassinated.

In a telephone interview, Douglas Kennedy, who is a correspondent for Fox News, said his family was split over Mr. Sirhan’s release. Emphasizing that he was speaking only for himself, he said he believed that Mr. Newsom should follow the recommendation of the parole board and release Mr. Sirhan.

He also said that seeing Mr. Sirhan at the hearing had made him feel more compassion for him.

“I spent my life sort of avoiding words like ‘killed,’ ‘assassin,’ ‘assassination,’ and Sirhan’s name in general,” said Mr. Kennedy, who was 1 at the time of his father’s assassination. “So I’m grateful for today’s hearing just to demystify some of that.”

In Friday’s statement, six of Kennedy’s nine surviving children said they were “devastated” by the recommendation that Mr. Sirhan be released.

They had largely avoided engaging in the parole process because of how traumatic their father’s death had been, they said, but felt compelled to denounce the recommendation, which they said caused “enormous additional pain.”

Many of the questions at the hearing focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Mr. Sirhan at one point began crying when he spoke about refugees suffering in the Middle East.

“Whatever I would want to do in the future, it would be towards resolving that peacefully,” he said, but he also added that he wanted to “disengage” from the conflict because he was too old.

An odd coalition has urged prison officials to release Mr. Sirhan over the years, including those who say Mr. Sirhan has served his time and others who believe he is not the real assassin.

Though several investigations have determined that Mr. Sirhan was the lone gunman, and Mr. Sirhan has said the same, some have pursued a conspiracy theory that claims there was a different killer, citing what many say was a sloppy police investigation and varying theories about how many shots were fired and what the ballistic evidence shows.

Mr. Sirhan also said he was grateful to have been spared from execution and promised that he would live a peaceful life.

“Over half a century has passed and that young impulsive kid that I was does not exist anymore,” he said.

The decision to grant parole will first be reviewed by the legal division of the Board of Parole Hearings, a process that can take up to about four months. If the lawyers find an error, they can send the case to the full slate of commissioners to review.

If not, then the case will be sent to the governor, who has 30 days to review it. The governor, who has said that Robert F. Kennedy was his hero, can either approve the recommendation, send it back to the parole board, reverse the recommendation or take no action and let it go into effect.

In several instances, Mr. Newsom has denied parole to people whom the parole board has recommended for release, including two followers of the notorious cult leader Charles Manson, most recently in June.

washington post logoWashington Post, California parole panel votes in favor of release from prison for Sirhan Sirhan, Tom Jackman (shown at right), Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Parole for 77-year-old convicted tom jackmanof assassinating Robert F. Kennedy still must be approved by full board, governor.

A California parole board panel on Friday voted in favor of Sirhan B. Sirhan’s request for release from prison on parole, 53 years after he was arrested and convicted of the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, finding that he was no longer a threat to society, according to Sirhan’s brother, one of Kennedy’s sons and one of Sirhan’s surviving victims.

It was Sirhan’s 16th parole hearing. Since California abolished capital punishment in 1972, and Sirhan’s sentence was reduced to life, he has been eligible for release since 1975. The decision by the two-person panel will be reviewed by the full parole board for 90 days before it is final. Then the California governor, currently Gavin Newsom (D) who is facing a recall election which ends on Sept. 14, will have 30 days to uphold the decision, reverse it, or send it back to the board.

Paul Schrade was one of five people who were wounded in the shooting as they walked behind Kennedy, and Schrade has long believed that Sirhan shot him, but did not shoot Kennedy. After the ruling, Schrade said, “I’m pleased that we’ve done this for Sirhan because he didn’t deserve all of the very bad behavior from the prison system," meaning repeated parole denials, "and prosecutors and police. He was innocent and didn’t deserve this for 53 years.”

For the first time, the Los Angeles County district attorney did not appear at one of Sirhan’s parole hearings to argue in opposition. Newly elected prosecutor George Gascòn issued a policy that his office would no longer participate in parole hearings.

“The role of a prosecutor and their access to information ends at sentencing," Gascon adviser Alex Bastian said, noting that parole boards are better suited to judge a prisoner’s time behind bars and likelihood of reoffending. “If someone is no longer a threat to public safety after having served more than 50 years in prison, then the parole board may recommend release based on an objective determination. Our office policies take these principles into account and as such, our prosecutors stay out of the parole board hearing process.”

Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of Robert F. Kennedy assassination, seeks parole with no opposition from prosecutors

Only one journalist, Julie Watson of the Associated Press, was permitted to observe the hearing. She reported that Commissioner Robert Barton pointed out that Sirhan qualified as a youthful offender for purposes of parole consideration — he was 24 in 1968 — and the board is required to give that “great weight” under the law. Sirhan also qualified for “elderly parole” for being 77 and having served more than 20 years.

Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, Kennedy gave a speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California Democratic presidential primary. As he walked through a hotel pantry after the speech, Sirhan ran toward him from the front and fired a .22-caliber pistol, witnesses said. Sirhan was immediately wrestled onto a table and the gun seized, but Kennedy was mortally wounded. He died the next day.

Sirhan’s defense team claimed that he was mentally ill at the time of the shooting. Psychiatric experts on both sides of the case agreed, and Los Angeles County prosecutors reached a deal with the defense to allow Sirhan to plead guilty to first-degree murder and accept a life sentence, rather than face a capital murder charge and a possible death sentence. But a Los Angeles judge rejected the deal and demanded a trial.

At the trial, prosecutors said Sirhan had developed hatred for Kennedy because of the senator’s support of American military aid to Israel. Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian, experienced the Israeli takeover, and emigrated with his family to the United States. In his bedroom, police found a notebook in which Sirhan had repeatedly scribbled, “RFK Must Die."

At Friday’s parole hearing, Barton asked Sirhan if he still followed the conflicts in the Middle East and his feelings today. Sirhan said he did not follow it but thinks about the refugees and the suffering, and he broke down crying, the AP reported.

Barton said the conflict has not gone away, and he noted it “obviously is still able to touch a nerve.”

At his trial, Sirhan’s lawyers, one of whom was under indictment by the same prosecutors he was facing, continued to make a case that Sirhan was mentally ill, and did not challenge the physical evidence in the case.

The Guardian, Sirhan Sirhan: six Kennedy children condemn decision to grant killer parole, Martin Pengelly, Aug. 28, 2021. Two children of assassinated Senator Robert F Kennedy support California decision, which may be reversed.

Six children of Robert F. Kennedy have condemned the decision to grant parole to Sirhan Sirhan, the man who shot and killed the New York senator as he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968.

“He took our father from our family and he took him from America,” the six said in a statement late on Friday. “We are in disbelief that this man would be recommended for release.”

The statement was signed by Joseph P Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher G Kennedy, Maxwell T Kennedy and Rory Kennedy.

Two Kennedy children supported the decision. Douglas Kennedy, a toddler when his father was killed, said he was “overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr Sirhan face to face. I’ve lived my life both in fear of him and his name in one way or another. And I am grateful today to see him as a human being worthy of compassion and love.”

Robert F. KennedyRobert F. Kennedy, right, was US attorney general under his older brother, John F Kennedy, when the president was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. Five years later the younger Kennedy was a senator from New York when he was killed at the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles, moments after delivering a victory speech in the California primary. Five others were wounded.

Sirhan, now 77, insists he does not remember the shooting and had been drinking beforehand but was convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to death, commuted to life when the California supreme court briefly outlawed capital punishment.

The hearing on Friday was his 16th attempt to gain parole. Because of laws passed in 2018, the board was required to take into account the fact that Sirhan suffered childhood trauma from the conflict in the Middle East, committed the offense at a young age and is now elderly.

Appearing by video from a San Diego county prison, Sirhan said: “Senator Kennedy was the hope of the world … and I harmed all of them and it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed, if I did in fact do that.”

The board found Sirhan no longer poses a threat to society, noting his enrollment in programmes including anger management classes, Tai Chi and Alcoholics Anonymous, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We think that you have grown,” commissioner Robert Barton said.

The ruling will be reviewed over 120 days then sent to the governor, who will have 30 days to decide whether to grant, reverse or modify it. If Sirhan is freed, he must live in a transitional home for six months, enroll in an alcohol abuse program and get therapy.

The six Kennedy children who oppose release said they were “devastated” and appealed to the governor, Gavin Newsom, “to reverse this initial recommendation” which had “inflicted enormous initial pain”.

“Sirhan Sirhan committed a crime against our nation and its people,” they said, adding: “We hope that those who also hold the memory of our father in their hearts will stand with us.”

thomas noguchi with quote latest smallFamed coroner Thomas Noguchi (shown above in a graphic prepared by the Justice Integrity Project) found that Kennedy had been shot three times at point-blank range from the back, with a fourth shot passing through his jacket without striking him, though witnesses said Sirhan was in front of Kennedy. Noguchi determined the shots were fired from a distance of three inches.

Sirhan’s lawyers moved Noguchi off the stand quickly without raising the issue of the gunshots. The defense also did not raise the issue of apparent multiple bullet holes found in the ceiling and door frames of the pantry, in addition to those which struck Kennedy and five other victims, possibly indicating more than the eight bullets that Sirhan’s gun held were fired.

A jury convicted Sirhan in April 1969 and sentenced him to death. When California eliminated the death penalty, Sirhan was resentenced to life. California has since reinstated the death penalty, but has a labyrinthine appeals process and rarely executes anyone.

The conviction was a source of controversy in Los Angeles almost immediately after it was handed down, after a weekly newspaper pointed out the bullet holes indicating more than eight shots were fired. The Los Angeles police then destroyed the ceiling tiles and door frames where the holes had been seen, though the case was still on appeal.

Beginning in the 1970s, surviving victim Paul Schrade became involved in pushing for further investigation, citing ballistics tests done on Sirhan’s gun which showed that bullets test fired from the gun did not match the bullets pulled from Kennedy and two other victims. He also cited a recording made from the hotel ballroom where Kennedy had just spoken, on which some analysts say 13 shots can be heard, while others say only eight shots were recorded.

  • Washington Post, Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn't think it was Sirhan Sirhan

Schrade appeared at Sirhan’s previous parole hearing in 2016, informing the board that he was a friend of Kennedy’s and had worked on campaigns with him since 1960. He apologized to Sirhan for not speaking at earlier hearings on his behalf.

“I know that he didn’t kill Robert Kennedy,” Schrade said in 2016. “And I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t sure of that. Because I loved Robert Kennedy and I would not defend somebody who killed him. Kennedy was a man of justice. So far, justice has not been served in this case. … There is clear evidence of a second gunman in that kitchen pantry who shot Robert Kennedy.”

Schrade helped convince Robert Kennedy Jr. of that view, and in December 2017, Kennedy Jr. visited Sirhan in prison and told him he believed he was innocent of the assassination, according to an interview with The Post in 2018. Kennedy Jr. said this week he still holds that view.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of RFK assassination, seeks parole with no opposition from prosecutors, Tom Jackman, right, Aug. 26, 2021. Sirhan B. tom jackmanSirhan, convicted of the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, will face a California parole board for the 16th time Friday in a prison outside San Diego. But unlike the first 15 times, no prosecutor will stand to oppose the release of Sirhan, who is now 77.

Newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón told The Washington Post shortly before his inauguration in December that he was creating a sentencing review unit to revisit the cases of about 20,000 prisoners for possible resentencing, analyzing both the fairness of long sentences and the cost savings for releasing low-risk or older inmates. Gascón issued a directive that his office’s “default policy” would be not to attend parole hearings and to submit letters supporting the release of some inmates who had served their mandatory minimums, while also assisting victims and victim advocates at parole hearings if requested.

A growing group of prosecutors, who say the job is more than locking people up, wants to help free criminals, too

In Sirhan’s case, Gascón’s office is remaining neutral. The office said it will not attend the parole hearing, as Los Angeles prosecutors have done historically, but it also will not send a letter in support of Sirhan’s parole.

“The role of a prosecutor and their access to information ends at sentencing,” said Alex Bastian, special adviser to Gascón. “The parole board’s sole purpose is to objectively determine whether someone is suitable for release. If someone is the same person that committed an atrocious crime, that person will correctly not be found suitable for release. However, if someone is no longer a threat to public safety after having served more than 50 years in prison, then the parole board may recommend release based on an objective determination.”


The Pruszynski Recording

robert kennedy sirhan quote 5 23 18


brad johnson cnn with quote latest

Former CNN writer Brad Johnson and later author on his decades-long research into the murder of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.

During recent years, the discovery and analysis of a journalist's tape-recording of the shooting spree has helped helped convince some experts that it strongly supports a conclusion that a second shooter was active at the murder scene besides Sirhan. The analysis below is drawn from the 2018 book The Assassination of tim tate brad johnson rfk coverRobert F. Kennedy: Crime, Conspiracy and Cover-up -- A New Investigation. Co-authors Tim Tate, an experienced BBC reporter, and the late Brad Johnson, above left, who worked many years at CNN, began their book research 25 years before its publication. Years ago, Johnson also helped the Justice Integrity Project prepare the slides illustrating this column with quotations from key witnesses.

From their book:

In the spring of 1968, Montreal Gazette reporter Stanilaw ("Stash" to his friends) Pruszynski, age 32, took an unpaid leave from his newspaper to cover the Kennedy campaign. He used a cheap casette tape-recorder as a tool for research that he hoped to develop into a book. "Security around Robert Kennedy was non-existent," he later recalled even though the candidate was at time accompanied by, among others, famed athletes like Rafer Johnson and Roosevelt Grier.

In covering Kennedy's victory speech after the California primary on June 4, 1969, the journalist inadvertently switched his recorder back on so that it was functioning from a distance of about 40 feet away when the candidate was shot at the Ambassador Hotel. The reporter failed to realize the significance of his tape and handed it over to investigators shortly after the shooting. The tape was first cataloged as "CSA-K123" and made available to the public in 1990 as part of a huge records dump by the Los Angeles Police Department to California's State Archives in Sacramento. Atlanta-based CNN writer Brad Johnson, interested since the 1970s in controversies surrounding the RFK assassination, studied this recording as part of his unique project to create a comprehensive time-line of broadcast recordings and related coverage. 

On May 31, 2004, Johnson recalled, he recognized the importance of the tapes in showing the sequence of shots over a five-second period beginning at 12:15.59 a.m. He travelled to Poland to interview Pruszynski and made arrangements for review of the tape by expert sound engineers, including Philip Van Praag, author of a history of the audio recording industry.

Van Praag, shown below, identified at least 13 shots, whereas Sirhan's gun could hold only eight bullets and Sirhan had no time to reload because he was wrestled down by Kennedy's aides after he fired his first shots.


philip van praag with quote latest medium 

Background Reports

Readers Guide To RFK Assassination: Books, Videos, Archives, Andrew Kreig. These are major books, videos, documents, websites and other archives most relevant to 1968 Democratic Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy's murder.

The 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 on Nov. 22 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 the 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. 

One illustration of the continuing controversy was the dramatic but unsuccessful plea this year by Kennedy's friend Paul Schrade to California's parole board to free Sirhan on the grounds of innocence in killing Kennedy.

Schrade, now 91, said he was undoubtedly shot by Sirhan in the forehead at the hotel. But, Schrade maintained, Sirhan could not possibly have shot Kennedy because the New York senator was killed from a point-blank shot from behind, according to medical evidence, whereas Sirhan was always several feet in the front of the senator. Sirhan's defenders say he was a patsy and victim of mind-control being unjustly held to enable the real killer to escape. Sirhan is shown in a mug shot soon after his arrest. He says he cannot remember relevant details.

Paul Schrade Associated Press pool

Schrade's reaction is shown during the February parole hearing, as illustrated by an Associated Press pool photograph of the proceedings, which have been marked for decades by unusual secrecy and arbitrary decision-making.

For such reasons, the new Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) has been created as a non-partisan citizen group advocating release of sealed records pertaining to major suspected political assassinations.

This editor is one of CAPA's founding directors. Information from these Readers Guides is expected to be summarized on CAPA's site, subject to CAPA's review procedures from its board of scientific, historical, and legal experts and reader feedback.

Another development involves the continued publication of new revelations, reflections and scholarship. Los Angeles reporter Fernando Faura will publish on June 6 The Polka Dot File regarding his investigation immediately after the shooting of the mysterious woman in the polka dot dress who supposedly yelled "We shot him" and then disappeared.

Fernando FauraFaura said murder investigations completely disregarded his evidence when he presented it after the shooting, which he and others claim exemplified a pattern of stifling other leads to RFK's murder.

Among other recent and planned books (described below) are those of a more historical nature that illustrate the continuing importance of the RFK death, particularly after the JFK and MLK murders had wiped out the other two major progressive leaders of their era.

The goal here is to create a continually updated Readers Guide that provides perspective both on the 2016 elections and on other civic issues as the 50th anniversary of the RFK and MLK killings approaches in 2018.

Especially disturbing for this 2016 election season is the widespread notion promoted by the mass media that all three of the 1960s murders are long-settled issues that concern only wacko "conspiracy theorists" or history "buffs." Even minimal research would illustrate many major security, legal, and propaganda issues that are highly relevant to current affairs and decision-making by the next group of elected and appointed officials taking charge on the world stage.

This guide is a work in progress. Therefore, new materials and suggestions (including clarifications and corrections) are welcome regarding the entries below.

Realistically, the guide cannot include every book, video, official proceeding or archive about such major figures. An electronic format can make a long catalog especially difficult to read on computers and mobile devices. So, the guide seeks to focus on major works and research centers and that sample a full range of perspective. The guide begins with assassination research and  then moves to more general commentary on Robert Kennedy's life and legacy, and their current implications.


paul schrade with quote latest

Sirhan shooting victim Paul Schrade, a presidential campaign aide to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, reflects on his discovery thanks in major part to researchers Brad Johnson and Philip Van Praag of evidence of a second shooter (Photo courtesy of Interesting Stuff Entertainment with graphic for Justice Integrity Project).

Justice Integrity Project, RFK Murder Cover-Up Continues After Dramatic Parole Hearing, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 24, 2016. A California parole board this month rejected a dramatic plea to release the convicted slayer of 1968 presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy, thereby continuing one of the nation's most notorious murder cover-ups.

Kennedy friend Paul Schrade argued that the convicted Sirhan B. Sirhan, firing from Kennedy's front, could not have killed the New York senator in a hotel massacre that left Schrade wounded, as shown below in a photo taken at the scene in a pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

paul schrade after shooting


Other Background News Coverage


Aug. 30

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.

Justice Integrity Project, RFK's Collected Works Provide Powerful Lessons For Today, Andrew Kreig, April 11, 2019. The inspirational words and actions of the murdered 1968 presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy came alive once more during a book lecture on April 10 by his eldest daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and biographer Richard "Rick" Allen at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

The speakers, drawing from  RFK: His Words For Our Times, a 480-page book republished last year, provided a compelling and entertaining discussion of why the senator exemplified leadership qualities of enduring value to the public.

RFK, who launched his presidential campaign in March during the war-torn year of 1968 in a challenge to the Democratic incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, faced a stressed and angry electorate comparable to those of today, the speakers said. 

His memorable method included appeals to the public's better nature along with a daring and at times courageous willingness to travel to opposition locales. "RFK had a predisposition to go into hostile crowds," said Allen, a media executive and longtime political aide. "He constantly sought opportunities to wade into crowds that were not friendly."

Townsend, a professor at Georgetown Law Center and a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, shared several examples of how such actions won over crowds. One such time was in 1966 when Kennedy accepted an invitation to speak at the University of Mississippi Law School. Kennedy, by then a U.S. senator representing New York, had been enormously unpopular in Mississippi and the rest of the Deep South three years previously as Attorney General under his brother John's presidency by leading the Justice Department's legal efforts to require integration and African-American voting rights efforts in compliance with federal court orders. 

Huge public opposition resulted in just a narrow 5-4 vote by the university's regents to permit the RFK speech to occur. The senator arrived with his wife, Ethel, holding hands, which surprised some onlookers who had come to think of him as an almost inhuman devil for trying to change the settled ways of segregation and voting restrictions.

The result by the end of the discussions at the school , the daughter recalled, was a 10-minute standing ovation from the audience. "It was his view that if you talk honestly," she recalled, "you can make a difference."

The RFK book, originally published in 1992 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the senator's fatal shooting in 1968 in Los Angeles just after he won California's Democratic presidential primary, collects his major speeches. They began with his brief years as a journalist and his 1950s work as a U.S. Senate committee counsel kathleen kennedy townsend rick allen npc april 10 2019 img 6249helping senators lead hard-hitting investigations of Mafia members and their and allies who ran major labor unions in corruption fashion..

Most of RFK's words in the book are from his years as attorney general, senator and presidential candidate, with the goal of providing an intimate view of a wordsmith who achieved an enduring reputation for speaking persuasively to unify audiences even on such inherently divisive themes as war, peace, poverty and inequality.

"He was able to win over people," said Townsend, "not by criticizing them but by asking what kind of nation they wanted to have." 

She and Allen (shown at left in a Justice Integrity Project photo) explained also RFK had a rare quality of holding seemingly contradictory ideas and acting on them in a positive way. One example was what they called "aggressive civility."

Another was "substantive celebrity," which Townsend described as using the Kennedy family's undoubted celebrity during the 1960s to try to achieve solid results in public policy.

"It was not power for power's sake," Allen  said, "but to help those Americans who needed representation."

The speakers, drawing from RFK: His Words For Our Times, a 480-page book republished last year, provided a compelling and entertaining discussion of why the senator exemplified leadership qualities of enduring value to the public.

RFK, who launched his presidential campaign during the Vietnam War-torn year of 1968 in a challenge to the Democratic incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, faced a stressed and angry electorate comparable to those of today, the speakers said.



June 5

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 dan brownnew audio evidence of a second shooter, is calling for a new investigation into the case.

Over 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.

Consortium 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 tim tate brad johnson rfk coverand 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 31

Boston Globe, Bobby Kennedy’s son thinks he was killed by a second shooter. Is there anything to it? Nik DeCosta-Klipa, May 31, 2018. Conspiracies surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s death may be most widely circulated. However, one theory questioning our understanding of Robert F. Kennedy’s murder in 1968 has arguably gained more recent traction, including from those closest to the assassination and even one immediate member of Kennedy’s family.

“My father was the chief law enforcement officer in this country,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently told The Washington Post. “I think it would have disturbed him if somebody was put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.”

dan moldeaAccording to the Post, Kennedy’s second oldest son now believes, after months of research, that his father was killed by a second gunman.

RFK Jr. even visited Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of shooting and killing his father, because he was “curious and disturbed by what I had seen in the evidence.” He isn’t the only one. But others who’ve deeply investigated the case say the second-shooter explanation is a shallow theory that irresponsibly lets Sirhan off the hook.

“If you believe the LAPD reports about this case, there is no way that Sirhan did it and did it alone,” Dan Moldea, right, an investigative journalist and author of The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy, told

“But if you assume that the LAPD f—ed up — not crimes of commission, but crimes of omission,” Moldea says the theory begins to unravel.

“What Bobby Kennedy Jr. has done, he’s launched a whole new generation of conspiracy nuts who are going to believe that Sirhan didn’t do it and that somebody else did,” he said.

May 27

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.”