The assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy on June 6, 1968 shocked the world and changed the course of U.S. history.
The assassin, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, was a 25-year old Palestinian emigrant who shot Senator Kennedy with a 22-caliber revolver in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Five others were also shot although Senator Kennedy was the only fatality when he succumbed from his wounds 26 hours later. Sirhan was forcibly restrained at the scene by numerous witnesses and gave a full confession to police afterward.
The assassination and its aftermath were recorded on videotape and photographs of the wounded Senator have become iconic. Although Sirhan initially pleaded not-guilty, he attempted to change his plea during the trial but was refused. Sirhan was eventually sentenced to the gas chamber although this was later commuted to life in prison.
Now 67 years of age and serving his sentence in California's Pleasant Valley State Prison, Sirhan is seeking clemency on the grounds that he had been manipulated into committing the assassination by intelligence agencies. His attorney, William F. Pepper, maintans that his client had been under hypnosis and subjected to mind control.
Pepper adds that the entire assassination had been staged by a "mysterious woman in a polka-dot dress" who gave the cue that triggered Sirhan's "brainwashed" action to fire a gun. Federal court documents submitted by Sirhan's attorneys also claim that the gun fired by Sirhan was only a diversion and that Robert Kennedy had actually been killed by an unknown gunman.
No other possible shooters are named (and numerous eyewitnesses clearly established Sirhan as the only gunman). The documents also allege that Sirhan had been a victim of the CIA's MK-ULTRA mind control program which programmed him to fire the gun.
While Sirhan has been maintaining in recent years that he has no memory of shooting Robert Kennedy, this directly contradicts the testimony provided during his 1969 trial. Although he later recanted his confession (and claimed to have no memory of making it), he admitted to the shooting under questioning and stated that he had killed Senator Kennedy with "20 years of malice aforethought").
In explaining his reasons for the murder, Sirhan launched into a bizarre diatribe about the Middle Eastern conflict. Evidence from Sirhan's notebooks also showed clear premeditation for the murder and it was determined that he had gone to the Ambassador Hotel on several occasions prior to the murder to familiarize himself with the layout.
In spite of his bizarre antics throughout the trial ( and attempts by defense psychiatrists to establish that he was suffering from diminished capacity at the time of the murder), Sirhan was later ruled to be of sound mind and subsequently sentenced. Later appeals have been filed citing allegations of brainwashing and government tampering but Sirhan remains in prison.
On March 2, 2011, Sirhan Sirhan's 14th parole hearing was held. Although he continues to maintain that he has no memory of the murder or of the trial, his application was denied on the grounds that he does not understand the full ramifications of his crime.