Bullet switch claim in Bobby Kennedy killing
Convicted assassin’s defence team submits new evidence
L AWYERS representing convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan argue in newly filed court documents that a bullet was switched in evidence at his trial and new forensic details show he is innocent of the 1968 killing of Senator Robert F Kennedy.
In the latest of many appeals filed on behalf of Sirhan, the lawyers are seeking to overturn his conviction.
They repeated a previous assertion and presented reports from experts who said Sirhan was programmed through hypnosis to fire shots as a diversion for the real killer.
Prosecutors had no comment, said Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the California attorney-general’s office, which is handling the appeal.
The lawyers, William F Pepper and Laurie Dusek, also said sophisticated audio tests recently conducted on recordings from the assassination night show 13 shots from multiple guns were fired – five more than Sirhan could have fired from his small pistol.
Authorities have claimed eight bullets were fired, with three hitting Mr Kennedy and the rest flying wildly around the kitchen and striking five other victims who survived.
Paul Schrade, who was struck by gunfire, refused to comment on the new filing, saying he is working on his own new analysis of the assassination.
The lawyers argue that before Sirhan’s trial, someone switched a bullet before it was placed in evidence because the bullet taken from Mr Kennedy’s neck did not match Sirhan’s gun.
They suggest a second gun was involved in the assassination, but they do not know who fired it.
Mr Pepper said the new evidence, outlined in a 62-page federal court brief filed in Los Angeles, is sufficient to prove Sirhan is innocent under the law. “They put fabricated evidence into court before the judge and jury,” Mr Pepper said. “We are satisfied that for the first time in 43 years of this case we think we have the evidence to set this conviction aside.”
The motion was filed last week in federal court in Los Angeles
Whether it has any chance of success is questionable, said leading appellate lawyer Dennis Fischer of Santa Monica.
“It’s a long shot in the longest way,” he said, “but they certainly are raising intriguing questions.”
He said the passage of time weighs against defence appeals, with courts tending to ask why it took so long to raise the issues. However, he said federal courts frequently are willing to take a closer look at cases in which governmental misconduct is alleged, even if it is so long after the fact.
“The current thinking by the US Supreme Court is these things need to end,” said Mr Fischer. However, he added in a case with such historical importance: “Noone will ever be satisfied.”
Sirhan, now 67, a Palestinian immigrant, was denied parole after a hearing last March where he denied any memory of shooting Mr Kennedy on June 5, 1968, moments after he claimed victory in the California presidential primary.
Parole officials said he does not understand the enormity of his crime that changed US history.
NEW APPEAL: Sirhan Sirhan, top, being arrested in 1968 for the shooting of Senator Robert F Kennedy. The assassin’s lawyers claim their client, above, now 67, is innocent.