RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan denied parole in San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- The man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy was denied parole for a 15th time Wednesday in Otay Mesa.

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, 71, was convicted in April 1969 of first-degree murder and assault in connection with the June 5, 1968, assassination of Robert Kennedy, 42, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Five others were shot during the attack but survived.

Sirhan's parole hearing lasted 3 hours and 2 commissioners deliberated an hour.

"They said he did not understand the enormity of his crime and he failed to express adequate remorse," said Elliott Spagat, Reporter.

Spagat is a reporter for the Associated Press, he was the only journalist allowed in the hearing room.

"Sirhan maintained that he remembered nothing from that night almost 50 years ago," said Spagat.

He said Sirhan showed very little emotion.  The emotion came from 91-year old Paul Schrade.  Schrade was the man standing beside Bobby Kennedy, the day was shot and killed.  Schrade was also a victim, taking a bullet in the head.

He told commissioners Sirhan shot him, but not Robert Kennedy.

"When the first shots were fired, his gun hand was pounded on the steam table.  He fired off 6 shots away from Kennedy, so he never got close enough to Robert Kennedy to shoot him," said Schrade.

Schrade and other witnesses said Sirhan was in front of Kennedy.   The 91-year old victim argued the theory of two gunmen.  He said audio tapes examined by forensic experts found 12 shots fired, when Sirhan had an 8-shot revolver.

"He had one shot left.  Kennedy got hit in the back, where Sirhan never got close to him," said  Schrade. "The prosecution never had one witness of Sirhan shooting Robert Kennedy, never had any physical evidence."

The hearing was the first time Schrade and Sirhan came face to face.

"I told him I was so sorry.  I asked him to forgive me, forgive me that I didn't get involved earlier in fighting for his release.

Sirhan's attorney, William Pepper said he's seeking an appeal, asking for an evidentiary hearing.

"The outcome would have been much different, if Sirhan had different representation from the very start," said Pepper.  "His initial lawyer threw the case on purpose.  He told Sirhan "Say you did it.  We have to, just to save your life."

Sirhan, a native Palestinian was initially sentenced to death, but it was later commuted to life in prison after the state Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional in 1972.

As Sirhan left the hearing room to go back to prison, Schrade once again apologized.  He said Sirhan tried to shake his head, but was denied.

He was transferred to Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa from a Kings County penitentiary on Nov. 22, 2013 -- the 50th anniversary of the murder of the Democratic senator's older brother, President John F. Kennedy. He previously was housed at Corcoran State Prison in Central California.

Sirhan has claimed amnesia brought on by excess consumption of alcohol and denied committing the killing, despite having admitted to the crime in open court during his trial.

He was last denied parole in March 2011.


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