Monday, 28 December 2020 19:24

Sirhan’s Upcoming Parole Hearing

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[UPDATE] According to Lisa Pease, due to factors related to COVID 19, Sirhan’s parole hearing has been postponed until the summer. We do not have a definite date yet, but when we do get one we will post it. Meanwhile, please continue to write in letters in favor of him being released due to the reasons cited in this article, and at the address listed below. Thank you.

With Sirhan Sirhan’s next parole board hearing coming up on March 21, 2021 sometime this summer, Jim DiEugenio reviews the basic facts regarding the conduct of Sirhan’s defense team at the original trial and urges our readers to write to the parole board requesting Sirhan’s release.

Anyone who knows anything about the assassination of Robert Kennedy should understand that his assassination is in some ways even more clearly a conspiracy than the murder of President Kennedy. The true facts of the case were covered up by the local authorities, and the defense team was—to put it mildly—rather less than zealous in their obligations to their client, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. The best analysis of Sirhan’s phony trial is in Lisa Pease’s book A Lie Too Big to Fail. (See pp. 135–95) And in this author’s opinion, that is the best, most comprehensive book we have on the Bobby Kennedy case.

As both Lisa Pease and the late Philip Melanson have noted, Sirhan’s defense was so inept—as we shall see, it may have been compromised—that they let the prosecution’s psychiatrist talk directly to their client. This is something he was not supposed to do and it would appear to be an ethical violation by Sirhan’s lead lawyer, Grant Cooper. What makes this more than just odd is that, as Pease notes, Cooper was accused of bribing a court clerk in order to pilfer grand jury transcripts and then lying to a judge about it. His investigation for these violations was going on at the time of Sirhan’s trial. (See Pease’s earlier article, “Rubik’s Cube”, Probe Magazine, Volume 5 Number 4)

It then gets even more curious. After his inept defense of Sirhan, Cooper got off with a slap on the wrist for this offense: he was fined a thousand dollars. The late Larry Teeter, one of Sirhan’s attorneys, thought the light penalty for the serious violations was a result of Cooper’s rather dubious performance for Sirhan. Teeter voiced this opinion with the author in an in-person interview in late 2002.

Perhaps that is one way to explain the direct interviews that the prosecution’s Seymour Pollack had with Sirhan. Pollack was a forensic psychiatrist from USC employed by the prosecution. That Cooper allowed this to occur was so unethical that defense assistant and later author on the RFK case, Robert Blair Kaiser, tried to say it did not happen. (Kaiser, RFK Must Die!, p. 151) But it did and the forensic psychiatrist spent hours with Sirhan trying to supply him with a motive for why he really killed Bobby Kennedy. What was that motive? Because he was standing up for the Arabs against Israel. (Philip Melanson, The Robert Kennedy Assassination, p. 152) In fact, Pollack went as far as to say that it would be better for his case if he did say this, than to say that he did not really know what his motive was. What is even more remarkable about this is that Cooper’s own psychiatrist, Bernard Diamond, ended up joining Pollack in trying to get Sirhan to say this. In fact, Diamond did this when he had Sirhan under hypnosis. (Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, pp. 417–18)

One of the most oft repeated external indications of this motive was one that was used not just by the prosecution, but again, by the defense. And not just Sirhan’s original team, but later lawyers like Luke McKissack. It consisted of an entry in Sirhan’s notebooks which contained a notation on May 18, 1968, with the refrain “RFK must die”. The original story made up by the prosecution was that Sirhan saw a TV special that day in which candidate Kennedy endorsed a sale of fighter aircraft to Israel made by President Johnson. There is a very large problem with this allegedly incriminating scenario. The TV special did not air on May 18th, but on May 20th. (Philip Melanson and William Klaber, Shadow Play, pp. 136–37). Further, there was no mention of the weapons sale in the program. (ibid) Yet, the tall tale has grown so long, that years later Kennedy was supposed to be endorsing the deal in the program while in a temple wearing a yarmulke. This was a myth meant to supply Sirhan with some kind of motive, since initially he said he did not recall the circumstances of the shooting and did not know why he performed the act.

As anyone who has read Pease’s book understands, not only did Sirhan not shoot Bobby Kennedy, he could not have shot the senator. It is simply a physical impossibility in light of Thomas Noguchi’s autopsy. (See Pease, pp. 65–69; pp. 255–91) All the indications are that Sirhan was under post hypnotic suggestion at the time of the shooting and, further, that he was being manipulated by a young, attractive woman in a polka-dot dress. This woman actually led Sirhan into the pantry after they had drank coffee together. And they were standing next to each other in the pantry while Kennedy was walking through. (Pease, p. 50) She was one of the very few people who actually ran out of the pantry area after the shooting.

That young woman has all the indications of being the same person who Sandy Serrano saw after the shooting. Serrano was a Kennedy worker, who was standing outside the Ambassador Hotel to get some fresh air. The young lady ran down the stairs to the hotel and she yelled, “We’ve shot him! We’ve shot him!” When Serrano asked who she shot, the reply was, “We’ve shot Senator Kennedy.” When newsman Sander Vanocur interviewed Serrano live on national television, he had delayed reaction to what Serrano said. After a delay, he went back and asked, “Did this young lady say ‘we’?” Serrano replied in the affirmative. (Pease, pp. 35–36)

Serrano never testified at Sirhan’s trial. Yet, her testimony clearly denotes some kind of a conspiracy. Combined with the incompatible forensics of the case, Sirhan should have been acquitted. As Pease demonstrates, for many, many reasons, this did not happen. Between the efforts of the LAPD to cover up the case, the incompetence—or worse—of Sirhan’s attorneys, and a rather sickening performance by the media, Sirhan was convicted. But it’s actually worse than that, because of the three monumental cases of the sixties—the murders of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy—that one became known as the “open and shut case”. In other words, you could not even ask any questions about it. When, as I noted earlier, it is the one in which the facts of the case most easily disprove the guilty verdict.

Unfortunately for both Sirhan and justice, the defendant has been in prison since 1969, a total of over 51 years. The reason for this notice is that Sirhan has a new parole hearing that is coming up on March 21st. His current attorney, Angela Berry, is requesting that interested parties write the parole board.

But, and this is important, do not focus on the facts of the case in order to prove his innocence. I have done so here only to try and motivate the reader into writing on his behalf. She suggests instead that the writer of the letter accent things like Sirhan’s age, his spotless record in prison, the fact that the prisons are overcrowded and he is not a threat to anyone.

In fact, he once said that if he ever got out, he would like to live a quiet life somewhere and help people if he could. (Klaber and Melanson, p. 318) One might also add that Sirhan has served a much longer time than others convicted of homicide.

Also, there is a new law (see pages 7 and 9 of Youth Offender Parole, that says people under age 26 at the time of the crime—Sirhan was 24—should have their youth weighed higher in the parole decision. A key factor in a parole hearing can be public opinion. Hence this appeal for you to write.

Letters should be mailed to:

State of California Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
Board of Parole
P. O. 4036
Sacramento, CA 95812-4936

Open with “Dear Parole Board:” and ask them to parole Sirhan in accordance with the fact that he has served his time. Under normal conditions, being a model prisoner, Sirhan likely would have been released in 1985. (Shane O’Sullivan, Who Killed Bobby? p. 3)

Thanks in advance. This kind of activism is what this site is about.

Last modified on Monday, 22 March 2021 07:22
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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