THE ACTUAL INNOCENCE OF SIRHAN B. SIRHAN
IN THE ASSASSINATION OF SENATOR ROBERT F. KENNEDY
by William Pepper
For forty four years, Sirhan Sirhan has been in prison for the assassination of Robert Kennedy. During all of that time, he has never had a hearing in which all of the evidence of his actual innocence could be heard. At his original Trial he was represented by Grant Cooper, a Los Angeles criminal attorney, who, himself, was under a Federal indictment throughout the Trial. When Cooper successfully obtained a guilty verdict against his client that indictment went away. That verdict was the result of no challenge being made to fabricated ballistics evidence, the suppression of eye-witness testimony, which clearly indicated that Sirhan was always in front of the Senator who was shot from the rear at powder-burn range, and Cooper convincing Sirhan –who had no memory of the actual event- that he was guilty and should confess in order to avoid the death penalty. In fact, he received the death penalty, which Statue was later declared to be unconstitutional.
From 1969, to the present, the case has been enmired in procedural issues used to prevent any evidentiary hearing where the miscarriage of Justice would emerge.
The current Habeas Corpus proceeding is before Magistrate Judge Wistrich and he proposes to issue a recommendation to the Federal Judge, Snyder, that the Petition be denied. His arguments have a double focus: once again, procedural defects, resulting from prior Counsel’s failure to file in a timely fashion; and a rejection of the new evidence as not being adequately convincing of Sirhan’s actual innocence. The problem faced by the State and the Magistrate is that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the case jurisdiction) ruled in the case of Lee v. Lampert, that credible evidence of actual innocence must override any procedural defects. The strength of the evidence is, of course, determinative.
So, what is some of this evidence, that was either not available or not introduced at Trial forty four years ago?
Twelve eye witnesses have given statements that Sirhan was always in front of the Senator at the time of the shooting. They differ with respect to the distance with estimates varying from 1.5 feet to 5, or more feet, but uniformly they (all) confirm that he was in front of the Senator at all relevant times. The Senator was shot at four times (being hit by three of the bullets) at powder burn range in an upward angle indicating that the shooter was likely kneeling just behind the Senator.
Six eye witnesses gave statements that Sirhan’s hand was pinned to the steam table after he fired twice, and though he continued in robot-like fashion to pull the trigger with his hand pinned down he had no control over the direction of the firing and certainly could not have gotten off four shots at the rear of the Senator.
A high technology analysis of a tape recording of the sounds of the shots in the pantry - the technology has only recently become available- indicated that thirteen shots were fired. Sirhan’s gun only had eight bullets. Clearly there was a second shooter.
There was no ballistics match, with Sirhan’s gun, of the only recovered bullet from the Senator –one which lodged in the Senator’s neck. There is a strong indication that the bullets introduced at the Trial (taken from other victims and the Senator’s neck) were not the actual bullets recovered. This emerged from the work of an investigating commission in 1973.
The reason for Sirhan’s previous inability to remember the immediate events of the shooting and the fact that he was hypno-programmed over a two week period, when he was strangely missing, emerged from the seventy-plus hours of interviews conducted by Dr. Daniel Brown, a Harvard University psychologist and mind control specialist. Even the facility used appears to have been identified during the interviews which were conducted using both free recall and hypnosis.
Aside from the conflict of interest of Sirhan’s defense counsel, resulting in the denial of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel, this is only some of the evidence which deserves to be tested in open Court. It is our intention to push the envelope all the way across the table to the Justices of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals if we are denied an evidentiary hearing at the District Court level.
I did not take on this case lightly. As a young man, I was Bob Kennedy’s Citizen Chairman when he ran for the Senate in New York. When approached, after the death of the previous defense counsel, Larry Teeter, I had to be convinced of Sirhan’s actual innocence. On the basis of what was then available, I went forward. In light of what we have been able to develop since then, my opinion is even more firm. The problem we face, however, is that we struggle financially against the gatekeeping State which has unlimited resources and we are basically tapped out in terms of being able to fund this case from fees derived from other work.
Anyone wishing to help, would be gratefully received and any person with interest in this regard may make contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Justice, and the realization that following the political assassinations of the 1960’s, our Republic has never been the same.