- PASADENA, Calif. (Reuters) - As Americans marked the 30th anniversary
of Robert F. Kennedy's death on Friday, supporters of his convicted assassin,
Sirhan Sirhan, used the day to claim he was innocent and call for a new
trial. Speaking quietly and asking not to be photographed for fear of reprisals,
Adel Sirhan said his brother was not the man who shot Kennedy in Los Angeles
shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968.
- Kennedy had just won the California Democratic
presidential primary and was leaving celebrations at the Ambassador hotel
in Los Angeles when he was shot dead in a pantry. Witnesses wrestled Sirhan
to the ground and grabbed his smoking gun after seeing him shoot Kennedy.
Kennedy died within 24 hours and, after a trial, Sirhan was eventually
sentenced to death for the crime. The sentence was commuted to life in
prison in 1972 when California's death penalty was ruled unconstitutional.
The 54-year-old Palestinian immigrant is serving his time in Corcoran State
Prison in central California, where he has been denied parole 10 times.
- ``My brother was convicted on fraudulent
evidence,'' Adel Sirhan said. ``He is an innocent man.'' Adel Sirhan was
reluctant to face questions from reporters and mostly shied away from a
bank of microphones set up on his front lawn. But his brother's lawyer
expounded at length on how the man caught with a gun in his hand and who
later admitted to the shooting could be innocent despite testimony from
many witnesses. Lawrence Teeter said Sirhan Sirhan has no memory of what
happened in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel that night, and
might have been hypnotized by unknown persons to act as a patsy.
- ``An unconscious perpetrator does not
commit a crime,'' he said. ``Sirhan is innocent. He was not aware of what
happened.'' While conceding that his client was in the kitchen at the time
of the shooting and did open fire on Kennedy, Teeter said Sirhan probably
had blanks in his gun. He said Sirhan couldn't have killed the former attorney
general because the fatal bullet came from a different angle. ``Sirhan
was out of position, out of range and could not have shot Robert Kennedy,''
he said. The lawyer, backed by a small group of supporters assembled for
Friday's press conference, said Los Angeles authorities covered up for
the real assailant that night -- possibly a security guard ``with strong
anti-Kennedy views'' who was never questioned and who has long since disappeared.
He cited as evidence for this theory bullet holes that he said were found
in a door frame that did not match Sirhan's weapon.
- He added that a ballistics report showed
the presence of a second gun and cited a psychiatrist's conclusion that
Sirhan was probably ``acting out hypnotic commands'' that night. Teeter
has filed a writ of habeas corpus before the California Supreme Court,
asking for a new trial. ``We'd like to find out why this evidence was suppressed,''
he said. ``The only way to properly mourn Robert Kennedy is to find out
who killed him.'' Kennedy's murder came less than five years after his
brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas.