Sirhan lawyers: Bullet was switched and he was hypnotized before Robert Kennedy assassination
By Associated Press, Published: November 29
LOS ANGELES — Lawyers 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 Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
In the latest of many appeals filed on behalf of Sirhan, the attorneys 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.
MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- New forensics evidence presented Tuesday during a symposium at Foxwoods suggests Sirhan Sirhan did not fire the fatal shots that killed Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1968.
Experts from all over the world met Wednesday to discuss problems in crime solving during the annual symposium, hosted by the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science. This year’s event was about conspiracies and solving complex crimes.
Dr. Robert Joling, a forensics investigator who has studied the Robert Kennedy assassination for almost 40 years, determined that the fatal shots must have come from behind the senator.
Sirhan, however, was 4 to 6 feet in front of Kennedy and never got close enough to shoot Kennedy from behind, the investigator said.
The other evidence was the Pruszynski recording. This is the only audio recording of the assassination. Another scientist analyzed it and concluded that at least 13 shots were fired from two different guns.
Philip Van Praag, a forensic engineer, said he made three discoveries.
The first two demonstrate that there must be more than one shooter, he said. The third conclusion is that the shots fired by the second shooter matched the firearm a security guard behind Kennedy carried.
Joling and Van Praag presented their findings together, although the two investigated the Kennedy shooting independently. They had never met until last year. During a seminar, they realized their separate findings were perfectly wed.
Sirhan Sirhan remains jailed in California.
What gets me is the supposed premeditated murder uncovered in his diaries but how would he have known that RFK was going to go through the kitchen that he worked (and that day he just happened to have his .22 pistol with him while he worked all ready and loaded) - a very unlikely coincidence.
Could Robert F. Kennedy's Assassin Have Been 'Hypno-Programmed'?
Date: 13 December 2011 Time: 04:30 PM ET
This past March, 42 years into his life prison sentence for assassinating Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan stood in front of a parole board and repeated the same thing he had been saying at parole hearings for decades: that he had no memory of the shooting or his subsequent trial and confession of guilt. For the 14th time, his application was denied. Two weeks ago, Sirhan's attorneys filed the latest in a series of appeals that aim to get Sirhan back in front of a judge to correct what they call "an egregious miscarriage of justice."
Sirhan, they argued, had been hypnotized to carry out the crime.
In addition to presenting expert audio analysis indicating that there were two guns fired from different directions and a claim that a bullet from Kennedy's neck was switched out to match Sirhan's gun, the filings bolster a long-repeated conspiracy theory asserting that Sirhan was a victim of hypnosis, an unwitting shill whose Arab name made him an easy scapegoat and drew attention from the true architects of the assassination. According to the new pleadings, "[Sirhan] was an involuntary participant in the crimes being committed because he was subjected to sophisticated hypno-programing and memory implantation techniques which rendered him unable to consciously control his thoughts and actions at the time the crimes were being committed." [Where Do Murderous Tendencies Come From?]
Anticipating the skeptical firewall that the phrase "hypno-programming" raises in many inquiring minds, the filings also maintain that, "The public has been shielded from the darker side of the practice. The average person is unaware that hypnosis can and is used to induct antisocial conduct in humans."
If nothing else, Sirhan's lawyers may be right about a general lack of public awareness on the true potential of hypnosis. According to Dr. Richard Kluft, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Temple University and the past-president of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, the scenario that Sirhan's legal team advances is "certainly within the realm of plausibility."
To put the seemingly far-fetched theory into context, Kluft notes that it is undisputed and freely available information that U.S. government security agencies have extensively researched the possibility of creating so-called "hypnotic assassins" and "hypnotic couriers." (A hypnotic courier would theoretically memorize a classified message while under hypnosis and then only be able to retrieve that information if provided with the proper post-hypnotic cue by the message's intended recipient, thus eliminating the possibility that the agent could divulge the information if captured and tortured.) Information on whether and how covert organizations have put the findings of their hypnosis research — such as that conducted in the CIA's allegedly discontinued human experimentation program MKULTRA — to use, however, is harder to obtain.
According to Kluft, it is not possible to hypnotize someone to do something that obviously violates their beliefs or desires. In hypnosis, though, context is everything. Say, for example, an unethical hypnotist wanted to hypnotize a suggestible vegetarian to eat a steak. If the hypnotist simply put the vegetarian into a state of hypnosis and then presented him or her with a steak, identified it as a steak, and told the person to eat it, the hypnotized vegetarian would almost certainly refuse.
But if the hypnotist put a vegetarian into a state of hypnosis and then made repeated misleading suggestions that in a short period of time a waiter would deliver a mouth-watering, mock-meat, soy-based protein slab that would be both delicious and meat-free, and then proceeded to order genuine filet mignon, the vegetarian would probably be more amenable to taking a bite.
The very uncomfortable and very serious question, then, is whether an exceptionally suggestible human brain, manipulated in just the right way, might be seduced by its delusions into committing an act far beyond the violation of a dietary code — namely, gunning down a gifted politician in the early stages of an auspicious bid for the American presidency. Could a hypno-programmed Sirhan Sirhan really have fired on Kennedy if he didn't actually want to?
There is not a simple answer. It is all but inconceivable that Sirhan could have been picked up off the street and then successfully hypnotized to kill against his will after one session with a master hypnotist, but if hypnosis is combined with brainwashing regimens and used to make persistent suggestions that a subject misperceive external circumstances and re-contextualize personal beliefs, its limits are not well defined, Kluft said.
"Post-hypnotic subjects can be induced to misunderstand their circumstances and, as a result of them misunderstanding their circumstances, do and say some things that are very likely to be potentially detrimental and injurious," said Kluft, careful to note that he cannot speculate on Sirhan's past or present mental state specifically, as he has not personally evaluated him. "In the most general sense, you can't make a person do something against their principles with hypnosis, but you can deceive them as to what's truly the case so that they may wind up doing something that they themselves regard as reprehensible but that they did under circumstances of not really getting the whole picture."
It would be very unlikely for an appeal be granted based solely on new evidence of hypnosis in a crime that occurred more than 40 years ago, said Stephen J. Morse, a professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. But if Sirhan's attorneys do manage to win their client a re-trial based on any of their latest allegations, proof that he was in a state of hypnosis at the time of Kennedy's assassination would absolve him of responsibility. "All crimes require some prohibited act as one of the elements," Morse explained. "In most American jurisdictions, an act performed under hypnosis is not considered an 'act' and thus the defendant would simply be acquitted of the crime charged."
Nina Rhodes-Hughes agrees, if called, to testify about a second shooter
Rhodes-Hughes: Sirhan Sirhan was not the only shooter in the pantry
Sirhan was the only person charged and convicted in RFK assassination
Witness says FBI altered her account of RFK shooting
Los Angeles (CNN) -- A woman who witnessed the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy says she has agreed to testify for Sirhan Sirhan's new defense team.
Nina Rhodes-Hughes insists Sirhan was not the only gunman firing shots when Sen. Kennedy was murdered only a few feet away from her at a Los Angeles hotel. She says there were two guns firing from separate positions and that authorities altered her account of the crime.
"What has to come out is that there was another shooter to my right," Rhodes-Hughes has told CNN. "The truth has got to be told. No more cover-ups."
As a federal court has been preparing to rule on Sirhan's current legal challenge to his conviction in the Kennedy murder, Rhodes-Hughes says she has been contacted by Sirhan's lead defense lawyer, New York attorney William Pepper. "He asked me if indeed I would testify that there was another shooter and I said yes, I would," she said. Rhodes-Hughes says she has not been contacted by the California attorney general's office, which represents the other side in the Sirhan federal court case.
Rhodes-Hughes has described for CNN various details of the June 1968 assassination as well as her long frustration with the official reporting of her witness account and her reasons for speaking out 44 years later: "I think to assist me in healing -- although you're never 100% healed from that. But more important to bring justice.
"For me it's hopeful and sad that it's only coming out now instead of before -- but at least now instead of never," said the former Los Angeles resident now living near Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada.
Sirhan, the only person arrested, tried and convicted in the shooting of Robert Kennedy and five other people, is serving a life sentence at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California.
The U.S. District Court in Los Angeles is set to rule on a request by Sirhan, now 68, that he be released, retried or granted a hearing on new evidence, including Rhodes-Hughes' firsthand account.
At his 1969 trial, Sirhan's original defense team never contested the prosecution's case that Sirhan was the one and only shooter in Kennedy's assassination. Sirhan testified at his trial that he had killed Kennedy "with 20 years of malice aforethought." He was convicted and sentenced to death, which was reduced to life in prison in 1972.
After the trial, Sirhan recanted his courtroom confession.
Was there a second RFK shooter?
Sirhan Sirhan's federal case
Convicted RFK assassin awaits ruling
In recent federal court filings, state prosecutors led by California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued that even if there was a second gunman involved in the Kennedy shooting, Sirhan hasn't proven his innocence and he's still guilty of murder under California's "vicarious liability" law. Sirhan's new legal team disputes Harris' assertion concerning the state statute.
The current battle has prosecutors and Sirhan's lawyers engaging directly the merits of new evidence -- as well as witness recollections such as Rhodes-Hughes' account -- never before argued in court.
The particular clash over Rhodes-Hughes was triggered five months ago by prosecutors under the attorney general when they contended that Rhodes-Hughes had told the FBI she heard no more than eight gunshots during the assassination. In court papers filed in February, Harris' prosecutors argued that Rhodes-Hughes was among several witnesses reporting "that only eight shots were fired and that all these shots came from the same direction."
Three weeks later, Sirhan's lawyers challenged those assertions in a response also filed in federal court in Los Angeles. The defense team led by William Pepper contended that the FBI misrepresented Rhodes-Hughes' witness account and that she actually had heard a total of 12 to 14 shots fired.
"She identified fifteen errors including the FBI alteration which quoted her as hearing only eight shots, which she explicitly denied was what she had told them," Sirhan's lawyers argued in February, citing a previously published statement from Rhodes-Hughes in which she stated, "I heard 12-14 shots, some originating in the vicinity of the Senator [and] not where I saw Sirhan."
The FBI and the California attorney general's office have both declined comment to CNN on the controversy over Rhodes-Hughes' witness account since the matter is now being reviewed by a federal judge.
When the dispute over her account erupted in February, CNN sought out Rhodes-Hughes for comment, eventually locating her in March in the Vancouver area.
Rhodes-Hughes, now 78, told CNN that she was a television actress working as a volunteer fundraiser for Kennedy's presidential campaign and that she had been invited to the Ambassador Hotel to celebrate, along with the senator and hundreds of his supporters, his anticipated victory in the June 4, 1968, California primary election. She said she witnessed the Kennedy shooting shortly after midnight on June 5 inside a hotel kitchen service pantry.
The FBI report indicates that she was indeed inside the hotel pantry during the crucial moments of the Kennedy shooting, but Rhodes-Hughes contends the bureau got details of her story wrong, including her assertions about the number of shots fired and where the shots were fired from.
Rhodes-Hughes tells CNN she informed authorities in 1968 that the number of gunshots she counted in the kitchen pantry exceeded eight -- which would have been more than the maximum Sirhan could have fired -- and that some of the shots came from a location in the pantry other than Sirhan's position.
Photos: Kennedy family tragedies
The 42-year-old Kennedy was the most seriously wounded of the six people shot inside the pantry only moments after the New York senator had claimed victory in California's Democratic presidential primary. The presidential candidate died the next day; the other victims survived.
The Los Angeles County coroner determined that three bullets struck Kennedy's body and a fourth passed harmlessly through his clothing. Police and prosecutors declared the four bullets were among eight fired by Sirhan acting alone.
Rhodes-Hughes told CNN the FBI's eight-shot claim is "completely false." She says the bureau "twisted" things she told two FBI agents when they interviewed her as an assassination witness in 1968, and she says state Attorney General Harris and her prosecutors are simply "parroting" the bureau's report.
"I never said eight shots. I never, never said it," Rhodes-Hughes told CNN. "But if the attorney general is saying it then she's going according to what the FBI chose to put into their report."
"There were more than eight shots," Rhodes-Hughes said. She says that during the FBI interview in her Los Angeles home, one month after the assassination, she told the agents that she'd heard 12 to 14 shots. "There were at least 12, maybe 14. And I know there were because I heard the rhythm in my head," Rhodes-Hughes said. She says she believes senior FBI officials altered statements she made to the agents to "conform with what they wanted the public to believe, period."
"When they say only eight shots, the anger within me is so great that I practically -- I get very emotional because it is so untrue. It is so untrue," she said.
Contacted by CNN for comment, Sirhan lawyer William Pepper called the alleged FBI alteration of Rhodes-Hughes' story "deplorable" and "criminal" and said it "mirrors the experience of other witnesses."
Other witnesses also mentioned more than eight shots
Law enforcement investigators have always maintained that only eight shots were fired in the RFK assassination, all of them by Sirhan. His small-caliber handgun could hold eight bullets, but no more.
But released witness interview summaries show at least four other people told authorities in 1968 that they heard what could have been more than eight shots. The following four witness accounts appear not in FBI reports but in Los Angeles Police Department summaries:
-- Jesse Unruh, who was speaker of the California Assembly at the time, told police that he was within 20 to 30 feet behind Kennedy when suddenly he heard a "crackle" of what he initially thought were exploding firecrackers. "I don't really quite remember how many reports there were," Unruh told the LAPD. "It sounded to me like somewhere between 5 and 10."
-- Frank Mankiewicz, who had been Kennedy's campaign press secretary, told police that he was trying to catch up to the senator when he suddenly heard sounds that also seemed to him to be "a popping of firecrackers." When an LAPD detective asked Mankiewicz how many of the sounds he'd heard, he answered: "It seemed to me I heard a lot. If indeed it had turned out to have been firecrackers, I probably would have said 10. But I'm sure it was less than that."
-- Estelyn Duffy LaHive, who had been a Kennedy supporter, told police that she was standing just outside the kitchen pantry's west entrance when the shooting erupted. "I thought I heard at least about 10 shots," she told the LAPD.
-- Booker Griffin, another Kennedy supporter, told police that he had just entered the pantry through its east entrance and suddenly heard "two quick" shots followed by a slight pause and then what "sounded like it could have been 10 or 12" additional shots.
An analysis of a recently uncovered tape recording of the shooting detected what an expert said was at least 13 shot sounds erupting over a period of less than six seconds. The audiotape was recorded at the Ambassador Hotel by free-lance newspaper reporter Stanislaw Pruszynski and is the only known soundtrack of the assassination.
Audio expert Philip Van Praag told CNN that his analysis establishes the Pruszynski recording as authentic and the 13 sounds electronically detected on the tape as gunshots.
"The gunshots are established by virtue of my computer analysis of waveform patterns, which clearly distinguishes gunshots from other phenomena," Van Praag said. "This would include phenomena that to human hearing are often perceived as exploding firecrackers, popping camera flashbulbs or bursting balloons."
The Pruszynski recording is now a major point of controversy among the new evidence being argued between the two sides in the Sirhan federal court case.
California Attorney General Harris contends that Van Praag's findings amount to an "interpretation or opinion" that is not universally accepted by acoustic experts. However other audio experts have reported finding more than eight gunshots in Stanislaw Pruszynski's recording.
In 2005, Spence Whitehead of Atlanta told CNN that he had located "at least 9, possibly 11 shot sounds" captured by Pruszynski's audiotape of the Kennedy shooting.
A 2007 Investigation Discovery Channel television documentary reported that Wes Dooley and Paul Pegas of Pasadena, California, along with their colleague Eddy B. Brixen of Copenhagen, Denmark, had located "at least ten" shots in Pruszynski's recording of the kitchen pantry gunfire.
Also appearing in the TV program was Philip Harrison of York, England. In a published analysis, Harrison described locating within the Pruszynski tape more than ten "impulse sounds" occurring inside the pantry: seven that he attributed to gunshots, three that he considered candidates for an eighth shot and several other impulse sounds that he said he could not identify.
CNN initially reported on the Pruszynski recording in 2008 and then with additional details in a BackStory segment in 2009.
Shots fired from two different locations
California prosecutors have argued that witnesses heard shots coming from only one location, but Rhodes-Hughes tells CNN that while the first two or three shots she heard came from Sirhan's position several feet in front of her, she also heard gunshots "to my right where Robert Kennedy was."
According to the autopsy report, the coroner concluded that the senator's body and clothing were struck from behind, at right rear, by four bullets fired at upward angles and at point-blank range. Yet witnesses said Sirhan fired somewhat downward, almost horizontally, from several feet in front of Kennedy, and witnesses did not report the senator's back as ever being exposed to Sirhan or his gun.
In a published analysis of the Pruszynski sound recording, Philip Van Praag described five of the gunshots captured in the tape as being fired opposite the direction of Sirhan's eight shots. Van Praag also described the five shots -- the third, fifth, eighth, 10th and 12th gunshots within a 13-shot sequence -- as displaying an acoustical "frequency anomaly" indicating that the alleged second gun's make and model were different from Sirhan's weapon.
In this NBC photo taken in December 1965, TV actress Nina Roman, today known as Nina Rhodes-Hughes, left, and her "Morning Star" co-star Elizabeth Perry, right, meet Robert F. Kennedy at NBC's Burbank studios. Two and a half years later, Rhodes-Hughes witnessed Kennedy's assassination.
A chance meeting with Bobby Kennedy
The path that eventually led Nina Rhodes-Hughes to the Ambassador Hotel kitchen pantry began 2½ years earlier during a chance meeting with Robert Kennedy in December 1965 at NBC-TV studios in Burbank, California. She was being made up for her co-starring role in the daytime drama "Morning Star" when Kennedy suddenly entered the makeup room. The actress was starstruck. "I saw Robert Kennedy and everything else disappeared from view," she said. "There was an aura about him that was very captivating. He kind of pulled you in. His eyes were very deep set and they were very blue. And when you looked at him, you got very drawn in to him."
As Rhodes-Hughes remembers it, the senator had arrived to pre-record an interview on "Meet the Press" and the two discussed political issues while awaiting their separate TV appearances. "Here I am, just an actress in a soap opera, and he took the time to have an in-depth conversation with me," said Rhodes-Hughes, who was then known professionally by her screen name Nina Roman.
As impressed as Rhodes-Hughes was with Robert Kennedy, she says the senator indicated that he was impressed with her ability to quickly memorize many pages of TV script. She says he confided to her that he had no such talent himself but that his older brother, the assassinated President John F. Kennedy, had possessed similar skills.
"Our conversation basically was the clincher for me," Rhodes-Hughes told CNN. "I said to him, 'You know, I have followed your career in politics and I really believe in you and I love all the things that you did -- and are trying to do, and propose to do -- and so if ever you declare yourself a candidate for the presidency, I will work for you, heart and soul.' And he smiled and said, 'Well, I don't know if that's going to happen.' And he was very humble and very sweet."
Rhodes-Hughes says that later, in the spring of 1968, shortly after Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency, she helped form a campaign support group in Los Angeles called "Young Professionals for Kennedy" and assisted in raising funds for the California phase of the senator's White House bid.
Weeks later, as he claimed victory in the California primary, addressing hundreds of supporters in the Ambassador Hotel's Embassy Room shortly after midnight on June 5, Kennedy paid tribute to the many volunteers, like Rhodes-Hughes, who had assisted his campaign. Referring to his own role during his brother's successful run for the presidency in 1960, Kennedy told them, "I was a campaign manager eight years ago. I know what a difference that kind of an effort and that kind of a commitment makes."
Trying to keep Kennedy from heading to the pantry
For Rhodes-Hughes there was one more commitment to keep. She had promised Kennedy aide Pierre Salinger that following the candidate's victory speech she would try to meet the senator as he exited the ballroom and usher him to a backstage area where Salinger had been keeping abreast of the California primary returns. She says although she and another campaign volunteer made sure to carefully position themselves to greet the candidate, the opportunity never came. According to Rhodes-Hughes, shortly after Kennedy completed his remarks in the Embassy Room, he was whisked away by others down a corridor and toward the kitchen pantry while she scurried to catch up.
"No, no, that's the wrong way!" Rhodes-Hughes told CNN she shouted to the senator and his escorts as she chased after them in an unsuccessful effort to turn them around. "It's this way! Come back! You're going the wrong way!"
Kennedy and Sirhan almost face-to-face
Rhodes-Hughes says that after she entered the kitchen pantry's west entrance, she could see Kennedy in left profile, "greeting" well-wishers a few feet ahead of her. She says a moment later she was looking at the back of the senator's head, as he continued onward, when suddenly the first two or three shots were fired.
"I saw his left profile. And then, very, very quickly, he was through greeting, and he turned and went into the original direction that he was being ushered to," Rhodes-Hughes told CNN. "At that point, I saw the back of his head and part of his shoulders and back."
"My eyes were totally on him, and all of a sudden I started hearing popping sounds, which I thought at first were flashbulbs from a camera," she said.
It was Rhodes-Hughes' account of Kennedy's movements in the pantry that Sirhan's lawyer William Pepper focused on in particular when CNN asked him to comment on her recounting of the shooting.
"This observation is vital," said Pepper. "Her clear recollection of being some short distance behind the Senator and seeing his left profile and then seeing him quickly turning so that the back of his head was in her sight at the time the shooting began -- this reveals that the Senator was almost directly facing Sirhan just before he took three shots, from behind, in his back, and behind his right ear at powder burn range, making it impossible for Sirhan to have been Robert Kennedy's shooter," the defense lawyer told CNN. "It clearly evidences the existence of a second gunman who fired from below and upward at the senator."
Rhodes-Hughes says that while she was behind Senator Kennedy, looking at the back of his head and hearing the first two or three gunshots, Kennedy did not appear to be struck by bullets at that point.
Still believing the first shots were merely flashbulbs, she says she then took her eyes off the senator, while turning leftward, and caught her first glimpse of Sirhan standing in front of Kennedy and to the candidate's left.
Rhodes-Hughes told CNN that the 5-foot-5-inch tall Sirhan was propped up on a steam table, several feet ahead of her and slightly to her own left. She says part of her view of Sirhan was obstructed and she could not see the gun in his hand but she says that, as soon as she caught sight of Sirhan, she then heard more shots coming from somewhere past her right side and near Kennedy. She told CNN that at that point she was hearing "much more rapid fire" than she initially had heard.
"It was rapid fire and a different sound than the other gun which Sirhan had," Rhodes-Hughes said. "The shots that I heard coming from my right, more towards the Senator, were much more deeper resounding and were rapid, rapid, rapid fire."
In his analysis of the Pruszynski recording, Philip Van Praag found that some of the 13 shot sounds he located in the tape were fired too rapidly, at intervals too close together, for all of the shots fired in the pantry to have come from Sirhan's Iver Johnson revolver alone.
Sirhan's lawyers report in their federal court papers that gunshot echoes have been ruled out as the cause of the Pruszynski recording's "double shots." Ricochets also are ruled out according to the two Pasadena forensic audio engineers who corroborated Van Praag's second-gun findings for the 2007 TV documentary "Conspiracy Test: The RFK Assassination."
'They've killed him! They've killed him!'
Rhodes-Hughes told CNN she heard gunshots coming from some place not far from her right side even while Sirhan was being subdued several feet in front of her. "The shots to my right, where Senator Kennedy was, continued," she said. "It was a deeper sound, a different sound and much more rapid."
During all of that time, Rhodes-Hughes told CNN, "people are falling around me. I see a man sliding down a wall. Then I see Senator Kennedy lying on the floor on his back, bleeding. And I remember screaming, 'Oh no! Oh, my God, no!' And the next thing I know, I'm ducking but also in complete shock as to what's going on.
"And then I passed out," she said.
Rhodes-Hughes says that, moments later, while she was regaining consciousness from having fainted to the floor, she noticed that her dress was wet and that she was missing a belt and one of her shoes. It was clear to her that she had been trampled, but she was unhurt.
She then looked across the room and saw Kennedy once again, lying on the floor and bleeding, this time with his wife Ethel kneeling and trying to comfort him. Rhodes-Hughes said the sight horrified her, sending her screaming out of the pantry and back through the corridor, where she was attended to by her then-husband, the late television producer Michael Rhodes. She said Rhodes and members of the senator's presidential campaign tried to calm her down.
"I'm running out of the pantry and I'm yelling, 'They've killed him! They've killed him! Oh, my God, he's dead! They've killed him!'" Rhodes-Hughes told CNN. "Now, the reason I said, 'they' is because I knew there was more than one shooter involved."
Little more than 25 hours later, Robert F. Kennedy was pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.
Rhodes-Hughes describes the events of early June 1968 as "the most iconoclastic experience" of her life.
"Although it was 44 years ago, I will swear that this is exactly what happened. I remember it like it was almost yesterday, because you don't forget something like that when it totally changes your life forever," she said. "It took a great toll on me. For a while, even the backfiring of a car would send me into tears."
Never called to testify
Despite the fact her FBI interview summary indicates Nina Rhodes-Hughes was inside the kitchen pantry during the assassination, she was never called to testify at Sirhan's 1969 trial or at any subsequent inquiry over the years. Rhodes-Hughes said she made a point of telling two FBI agents in July 1968 that she would be willing to make herself available to appear as a witness anywhere at anytime and to testify "that there were more shots."
"They never wrote that down," she said of the FBI agents who conducted the interview in her Los Angeles home. She also said that when the pair of agents departed following their visit, they forgot to take along their attaché case and, minutes later, had to return to her residence and retrieve it.
Rhodes-Hughes said that, in the months following the June 5, 1968, assassination, she and some others who had been at the Ambassador Hotel refused news media interviews so as to avoid interfering with preparations for Sirhan's trial. It wasn't until the 1990s that Rhodes-Hughes was asked whether she would ever be willing to testify under oath -- an invitation coming not from a prosecutor or law enforcement official but from author Philip H. Melanson, a chancellor professor of policy studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
At Melanson's request, Rhodes-Hughes reviewed her 1968 FBI interview summary for the first time and found it contained more than a dozen inaccuracies. She provided Melanson with a statement, but the professor died some years later and Rhodes-Hughes once again missed her opportunity to testify. Before his death, Melanson published Rhodes-Hughes' statement in one of several books he wrote on the Robert Kennedy assassination.
Rhodes-Hughes recounted the Kennedy shooting and her initial contact with Melanson in a 1990s interview on "Contact," a local TV program in Vancouver carried at the time by Rogers Cable.
Defense lawyer Pepper calls Rhodes-Hughes' recollections "significant verification" of new assassination evidence that the Sirhan legal team is currently presenting. "It provides further verification of a dozen or more gunshots and mirrors the experience of other witnesses which confirms the existence of the cover-up efforts," he told CNN.
"Along with all of the other evidence we have provided, one wonders why it has taken so long for this innocent man to be set free, a new trial to be ordered or, at least, a full investigatory hearing to be scheduled," Pepper said. "Nothing less than the credibility and integrity of the American criminal justice system is at stake in this case."
Sirhan Sirhan's current legal team is doing something his original lawyers never did. They are asserting that Sirhan did not shoot Kennedy.
Sirhan's original defenders had decided at the outset that Sirhan was the lone shooter. Because Sirhan's initial lawyers presented a diminished capacity case in 1969, they never pursued available defenses. Evidentiary conflicts, and issues such as a possible second gun, simply were not addressed at Sirhan's trial. Most of the original prosecution's evidence was stipulated by the original defense team, which agreed that Sirhan had killed the presidential candidate.
Rhodes-Hughes says she believes the full truth of Robert Kennedy's murder has been suppressed for decades, and says she hopes that it will now finally come out and that the alleged second shooter will be identified and brought to justice.
Sirhan Sirhan, who supposedly assassinated Robert F. Kennedy (right) in 1968. California Department of Corrections; Associated Press files
SAN DIEGO — Sirhan Sirhan was denied parole Wednesday for fatally shooting Robert F. Kennedy after a confidante of the slain senator who was shot in the head forgave him and repeatedly apologized for not doing more to win his release.
Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times via Associated Press
Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times via Associated PressSenator Robert Kennedy awaits medical assistance as he lies on the floor of the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles moments after he was shot June 5, 1968. Juan Romero, a busboy at the Ambassador Hotel, crouches beside him.
Paul Schrade’s voice cracked with emotion during an hour of testimony on his efforts to untangle mysteries about the events of June 5, 1968. The 91-year-old former labour leader said he believed Sirhan shot him but that a second unidentified shooter felled Kennedy.
“I should have been here long ago and that’s why I feel guilty for not being here to help you and to help me,” Schrade said.
The men faced each other for the first time since Schrade testified at Sirhan’s 1969 trial. Schrade apologized for not going to any of Sirhan’s 14 previous parole hearings.
As Sirhan left, Schrade shouted, “Sirhan, I’m so sorry this is happening to you. It’s my fault.”
Sirhan, who had nodded politely when the victim addressed him, tried to shake hands with Schrade but a guard blocked him.
Commissioners concluded after more than three hours of intense testimony at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Center that Sirhan did not show adequate remorse or understand the enormity of his crime.
Associated PressSirhan Sirhan, right, accused assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy with his attorney Russell E. Parsons in Los Angeles in 1968.
Sirhan, who is serving a life sentence that was commuted from death when the California Supreme Court briefly outlawed capital punishment in 1972, will next be eligible for parole in five years.
“This crime impacted the nation, and I daresay it impacted the world,” commissioner Brian Roberts said. “It was a political assassination of a viable Democratic presidential candidate.”
Sirhan, 71, stuck to his account that he didn’t remember the shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after Kennedy delivered a victory speech in the pivotal California primary.
Sirhan recalled events before the shooting in some detail — going to a shooting range that day, visiting the hotel in search of a party and returning after realizing he drank too many Tom Collins’ to drive. He drank coffee in a hotel pantry with a woman to whom he was attracted.
Gregory Bull / Associated Press
Gregory Bull / Associated PressPaul Schrade, a Kennedy confidante who was shot in the head by Sirhan Sirhan, points towards Sirhan during a parole hearing Wednesday.
The next thing he said he remembered was being choked and unable to breathe.
“It’s all vague now,” he said. “I’m sure you all have it in your records, I can’t deny it or confirm it. I just wish this whole thing had never taken place.”
Sirhan, a native of Jerusalem, listened intently during most of the hearing, turning testy when commissioners pressed him on his memory and any feelings of remorse. He said he felt remorse for any crime victim but added that he couldn’t take responsibility for the shooting.
“If you want a confession, I can’t make it now,” Sirhan said. “Legally speaking, I’m not guilty of anything. … It’s not that I’m making light of it. I’m responsible for being there.”
Schrade, who was alongside Kennedy and four others who were injured and served as western regional director of the United Auto Workers Union at the time, provided much of the drama. He angrily ignored the commissioner’s admonishment to avoid directly addressing Sirhan and chastised the prosecution for a “venomous” statement advocating that Sirhan stay in prison.
Killed in front of me The Robert F. Kennedy shooting
Schrade, who long advocated the second-gunman theory, recalled how he became depressed and upset after the shooting and vividly described his extensive efforts to find answers. He stopped occasionally to apologize for being nervous and emotional.
The commissioner asked Schrade to wrap up after about an hour, saying, “Quite frankly, you’re losing us.”
“I think you’ve been lost for a long time,” Schrade shot back.
At one point, the commissioner asked if anyone wanted a break.
“No, I want to get this over,” Schrade answered from the audience. “I find it very abusive.”
David Dahle, a retired prosecutor appearing for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, said Sirhan was guilty of “an attack on the American political system and the American political process.”
“The prisoner has still not come to grips with what he has done,” he said.
In one of many emotional outbursts during his 1969 trial, Sirhan blurted out that he had committed the crime with 20 years of malice aforethought.
That and his declaration when arrested, “I did it for my country,” were his only relevant comments before he said he didn’t remember shooting Kennedy.
Sirhan said incriminating statements he made at trial were the result of an ineffective defence attorney who pressured him into thinking he was guilty.
“I feel if I had a proper defence at the time then the results would have been quite different,” he said.
Sirhan said he was initially reluctant to attend the hearing — feeling he was mistreated at his last appearance in 2011 — but his attorneys successfully urged him to reconsider.
Sirhan told the panel that if released, he hoped he would be deported to Jordan or would live with his brother in Pasadena, California.
His hope, he said, was “just to live out my life peacefully, in harmony with my fellow man.”
“This is such a traumatic experience, it’s a horrendous experience that for me to keep dwelling on it is harmful to me,” Sirhan said. _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
Full text of Paul Schrade’s prepared remarks for delivery at Sirhan Sirhan’s February 10th Parole Suitability Hearing. Transcription provided by Brad Johnson, Concept Producer for Rob Beemer, Interesting Stuff Entertainment, Los Angeles (Rob accompanied Paul Schrade to yesterday’s Sirhan parole hearing, acting as Mr. Schrade’s support person).
Update, 02/11/16: A California parole panel late yesterday denied Sirhan Sirhan’s parole application for a 15th time.
ood Morning, Gentlemen:
I am Paul Schrade of Los Angeles. I am 91 years old. And back when I was 43, I was among six persons shot at the old Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles at just after Midnight on June 5th, 1968.
I was shot along with Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who had just won California’s Democratic Primary Election for the Presidency of the United States. Five of us survived our wounds. And as history knows, Senator Kennedy was fatally wounded.
I am here to speak for myself, a shooting victim, and to bear witness for my friend, Bob Kennedy.
Kennedy was a man of justice. But, so far, justice has not been served in this case. And I feel obliged as both a shooting victim and as an American to speak out about this – and to honor the memory of the greatest American I’ve ever known, Robert Francis Kennedy.
Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was originally scheduled for release in 1984 but, after intense political pressure, his parole date was rescinded and he has since been denied 14 times.
In order for you to make an accurate determination of Sirhan Sirhan’s parole, you need to know my feelings on this case and the full picture of what actually happened.
Sirhan, I forgive you.
The evidence clearly shows you were not the gunman who shot Robert Kennedy. There is clear evidence of a second gunman in that kitchen pantry who shot Robert Kennedy. One of the bullets – the fatal bullet – struck Bob in the back of the head. Two bullets struck Bob literally in his back. A fourth bullet struck the back of his coat’s upper right seam and passed harmlessly through his coat. I believe all four of those bullets were fired from a second gunman standing behind Bob. You were never behind Bob, nor was Bob’s back ever exposed to you.
Indeed, Sirhan, the evidence not only shows that you did not shoot Robert Kennedy but it shows that you could not have shot Robert Kennedy.
Gentlemen, the evidence clearly shows that Sirhan Sirhan could not and did not shoot Senator Bob Kennedy.
Several days ago, I made sure that several documents were submitted to this board for you to review. If you have not done so as yet, I would ask you to please review them very carefully during your deliberation. I will be glad to re-submit these documents to you, here today.
I believe, after you review these documents, that it should become clear to you that Sirhan Sirhan did not shoot – and could not have shot – Robert Kennedy. What I am saying to you is that Sirhan himself was a victim.
Obviously there was someone else there in that pantry also firing a gun. While Sirhan was standing in front of Bob Kennedy and his shots were creating a distraction, the other shooter secretly fired at the senator from behind and fatally wounded him. Bob died 25 hours later.
Gentlemen, I believe you should grant Sirhan Sirhan parole. And I ask you to do that today.
Along with what Sirhan’s lawyers have submitted to you, the following are the documents that I made sure were submitted to you and which should also be factored into your decision today.
First, I want to show you this. It’s a letter written in 2012 by my good friend, Robert F. Kennedy Junior. Bobby wrote this letter to Eric Holder, who was then the Attorney General of the United States. In his letter to Mr. Holder, Bobby requests that federal authorities examine the Pruszynski Recording, the only known audio recording made of his father’s assassination at the Ambassador Hotel. The recording was uncovered in 2004 at the California State Archives by CNN International senior writer Brad Johnson.
This next document is a federal court declaration from audio expert Philip Van Praag, who Johnson recruited to analyze the Pruszynski Recording.
In this document, Van Praag declares that his analysis of the recording concludes that two guns were fired in the Robert Kennedy shooting.
Van Praag found a total of 13 gunshots in the Pruszynski Recording. Sirhan’s one and only gun at the crime scene held no more than eight bullets and Sirhan had no opportunity to reload it.
Van Praag also found what he calls “double-shots” – meaning two gunshots fired so close together that they could not both have come from Sirhan’s Iver Johnson Cadet revolver. Van Praag actually found two sets of these “double-shots.”
Additionally, he found that five of the 13 gunshots featured a unique audio resonance characteristic that could not have been produced by Sirhan’s gun model, meaning those five shots were fired from a second gun of a different make.
Van Praag further found that those five gunshots were fired in a direction heading away from Pruszynski’s microphone. Since the microphone was about 40 feet west of the Kennedy shooting, those five shots were fired in an eastward direction, which was opposite the westward direction that Sirhan is known to have fired his eight-shot Iver Johnson Cadet.
These documents are statements from two witnesses to the Robert Kennedy shooting, both of them assistant maître d’s for the Ambassador Hotel. These two men, Karl Uecker and Edward Minasian, escorted Robert Kennedy into the kitchen pantry immediately after the Senator delivered his victory speech in a hotel ballroom for having won the California Primary. Both Uecker and Minasian say Sirhan was in front of Bob Kennedy as the Senator walked toward Sirhan, meaning that Bob and Sirhan were facing each other. Both witnesses say Sirhan was still in front of Bob as Sirhan fired his gun. And both say that after Sirhan fired his first two shots, Uecker quickly pushed Sirhan against a steam table, placing Sirhan in a headlock while grabbing hold of Sirhan’s firing arm, forcing the tip of Sirhan’s gun to point away from where Bob Kennedy was and causing Sirhan to fire blindly his remaining six bullets.
In other words, Sirhan only had full control of his gun at the beginning, when he fired his first two shots, one of which hit me. Sirhan had no opportunity to fire four precisely-placed, point-blank bullets into the back of Bob Kennedy’s head or body while he was pinned against that steam table and while he and Bob were facing each other.
This document is the official Robert Kennedy autopsy report summary. It shows that all bullets directed at Senator Kennedy were fired from behind him at point-blank range. As the autopsy states, and as these drawings show, the bullets traveled from back-to-front at steep upward trajectories. One bullet struck Senator Kennedy at the back of the head, two bullets at the right rear armpit and a fourth bullet at the right rear shoulder of his jacket, which passed harmlessly through his jacket.
Again, Sirhan’s bullets could not have struck the back of Bob Kennedy’s head or the back of his body or the back of his jacket’s right shoulder, as the autopsy clear shows took place, because Sirhan was never in a position to administer any of those four Kennedy shots. The prosecution never placed Sirhan in that location and position.
These are documents from the Los Angeles Police Department that reveal LAPD misconduct in the police investigation of the Robert Kennedy murder. They detail evidence that was destroyed while Sirhan’s appeal was still pending as well as a photograph that was acknowledged by the LAPD to be “effective rebuttal” but was withheld from the defense team.
Indeed, the LAPD and L.A. County District Attorney knew two hours after the shooting of Senator Kennedy that he was shot by a second gunman and they had conclusive evidence that Sirhan could not – and did not – do it. The official record shows that the prosecution at Sirhan’s trial never had one witness – and had no physical nor ballistic evidence – to prove Sirhan shot Bob Kennedy. Evidence locked up for 20 years shows that the LAPD destroyed physical evidence and hid ballistic evidence exonerating Sirhan – and covered up conclusive evidence that a second gunman fatally wounded Robert Kennedy.
This document is a memo written by Criminalist Larry Baggett, who investigated the Robert Kennedy shooting for the LAPD. The Baggett memo states that the bullets that hit Senator Kennedy and William Weisel, another shooting victim in the pantry, were not fired from the same gun. The memo also states that the bullet that traveled upward through Bob Kennedy’s body and into his neck was not fired from Sirhan’s revolver. Such a finding would be proof that Sirhan did not shoot Robert Kennedy.
Mr. Deputy District Attorney, based on all of this information and more, I ask that you inform Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey that I am formally requesting her to order a new investigation of the Robert F. Kennedy assassination. I will also be making the same request of Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.
Please note, Mr. Deputy District Attorney, that I am using the word “new” here. I am not requesting that the old investigation simply be re-opened. For that would only lead to the same old wrong conclusions. I am requesting a new investigation so that after nearly 50 years, justice finally can be served for me as a shooting victim; for the four other shooting victims who also survived their wounds; for Bob Kennedy who did not survive his wounds because his were the most grievously suffered in that kitchen pantry; for the people of the United States who Bob loved so much and had hoped to lead, just as his brother, President John F. Kennedy, had led only a few years before; and of course for justice, to which Bob Kennedy devoted his life.
Furthermore, Mr. Deputy District Attorney, I ask that you please also tell the District Attorney, Ms. Lacey, that I would appreciate the opportunity to personally meet with her in Los Angeles at her earliest convenience. Would you please convey my message to her?
I hope you will consider all of the accurate details of this crime that I have presented in order for you to accurately determine Sirhan Sirhan’s eligibility for parole. If you do this the right way and the just way, I believe you will come to the same conclusion I have: that Sirhan should be released. If justice is not your aim, then of course you will not.
Again, Sirhan was originally scheduled for release in 1984 but after intense political pressure, his parole date was rescinded and he has since been denied 14 times.
The best example of this can be found in this statement of Los Angeles District Attorney John Van de Kamp.
Again, gentlemen, I believe you should grant Sirhan Sirhan parole. And I ask you to do that today in the name of Robert F. Kennedy and in the name of justice.
Thank you. That concludes my remarks. _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 16145 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:59 am Post subject:
November 22, 1963 — U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was shot dead by Jack Ruby two days later before he could stand trial. In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin. In 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy and that Oswald did not act alone.
June 19, 1964 — U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy was involved in a plane crash in which one of his aides and the pilot were killed. Ted was pulled from the wreckage by fellow senator Birch Bayh and spent weeks in a hospital recovering from a broken back, a punctured lung, broken ribs, and internal bleeding.
June 5, 1968 — U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles immediately following his victory in the California Democratic presidential primary. Sirhan pleaded guilty to Robert's murder and is serving a life sentence at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.
April 25, 1984 — David A. Kennedy died of a cocaine and pethidine overdose in a Palm Beach, Florida hotel room.
July 16, 1999 — John F. Kennedy Jr. died when his plane he was piloting, a Piper Saratoga, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha's Vineyard due to pilot error and spatial disorientation. His wife and sister-in-law were also on board and died.
At 12.16am on Wednesday, June 5, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot and mortally wounded in the kitchen service pantry of the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. He had just won the California Primary, an important victory in his quest for nomination as the Democratic Party’s candidate in the US Presidential election late that year. A little over 24 hours later, he was pronounced dead.
A 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, was captured in the pantry with a smoking gun in his hand. Eyewitnesses had seen him step out in front of Kennedy and begin shooting with a small calibre revolver. He fired all eight bullets in its chamber. In April 1969, Sirhan was convicted of Robert Kennedy’s murder and the wounding of five others. He was sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment. He has been in prison – often in solitary confinement – ever since. Fifteen applications for parole have been rejected.
That is the official history of the murder of Robert F. Kennedy. Now, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination, award-winning investigative journalists Tim Tate and Brad Johnson uncover the true story.
This book is the result of more than 25 years’ painstaking forensic work. The authors have scrutinised more than 100,000 official documents, located previously unknown recordings, and conducted original new interviews with key figures in the case.
They show that Sirhan could not have fired the fatal bullets, reveal detailed evidence of a murderous conspiracy involving organised crime, and disclose CIA documents detailing successful experiments to create a hypno-programmed political assassin. The book also unmasks the likely identity of one of the most enduring mysteries in the case – the infamous ‘Girl in the Polka Dot Dress’
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