His name is Sirhan Sirhan, 71-years-old, from Jerusalem originally. For decades, he’s claimed he did not remember assassinating presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Convicted for the shooting, which happened in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, he was saved from a death sentence when the California Supreme Court outlawed it for a time in 1972. Now he’s up for parole, and wants out.
A parole hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. It’s Sirhan’s 15th, and he’s likely to claim what he claimed in the other ones, including his last in 2011: He doesn’t remember it happening.
Sirhan has skipped other hearings, and initially wanted to avoid this one, his attorney Laurie Dusek told the AP. She said that thinking of the 2011 hearing made him ill, but she finally convinced him to show up for Wednesday’s.
“If you don’t show, you’ve got nothing to gain,” Dusek said she told Sirhan, but even if she’s convinced him to come, she’s not sure what he’ll say.
How did she change his mind about coming? It was a witness that says there were multiple gunman that day. Paul Schrade, 91, worked closely with Kennedy, and was one of the five people injured in the 1968 shooting. (He survived a gunshot in the head) Now he says Sirhan didn’t act alone.
Schrade is expected to speak at Wednesday’s hearing. Of the former union leader, Dusk said Schrade “is a family friend of the Kennedys. He’s very much in touch with the senator’s children. He feels that justice has not been served.”
Some background: The 1960s were a traumatic decade for Americans, with the assassinations of several high-profile political figures. Think about President John F. Kennedy (Robert’s brother) in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965, and also Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed two months before Kennedy in 1968. Though official investigations have been completed, some observers think those cases were parts of larger plots. Pretty much every shady figure from the time has been accused of orchestrating those killings: Kennedy Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, the mafia, the leaders of the Nation of Islam, and Cuba are common “suspects” depending on which death you’re talking about.
Sure, those beliefs obviously haven’t been proven in a legal setting, but that hasn’t stopped Sirhan’s attorneys pursuing that angle. In 2015, they said Sirhan couldn’t have fired the killing shot (he was in the wrong position to do so), and that a second shooter possibly did it. The judge, in a LA federal court, didn’t believe them.
Wednesday’s parole hearing may get Sirhan his freedom, but he didn’t always claim a lack of memory. In fact, he said “I did it for my country,” following his arrest.
[h/t AP; mugshot via State of California]