This article is about Robert F. Kennedy's assassin. For the Tanzim militant see Sirhan Sirhan (militant).
|Sirhan Bishara Sirhan|
|Born||March 19, 1944 (1944-03-19)
Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine
|Charge(s)||assassination of Robert F. Kennedy|
|Penalty||death, commuted to life imprisonment 1972|
|Parents||Bishara Sirhan and Mary Muzhea|
Sirhan Bishara Sirhan (born March 19, 1944) is the convicted assassin of United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He is serving a life sentence at the California State Prison, Corcoran.
Sirhan was born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian Christian family and immigrated as a child to the United States with his family. In his adult life, however, he made several religious conversions, joining Baptist and Seventh-day Adventist churches, and dabbled in the occult. His family, which moved to the United States when Sirhan was 12, briefly lived in New York, and soon moved to California. He attended Eliot Jr. High School (now known as Charles W. Eliot Middle School, Altadena, California), John Muir High School and Pasadena City College. He was employed as a stable boy in 1965 at the Santa Anita race track in Arcadia, California.
On June 5, 1968, Sirhan fired a .22 caliber Iver-Johnson Cadet revolver at Senator Robert Kennedy and the crowd surrounding him in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. This occurred shortly after Kennedy had finished addressing supporters in the hotel's main ballroom. George Plimpton, Rosey Grier, author Pete Hamill, and Olympic gold medalist Rafer Johnson were among several men who subdued and disarmed Sirhan after a lengthy struggle.
Kennedy was shot three times, with a fourth bullet passing through his jacket, and died nearly 26 hours later. Five other persons at the party were also shot, but all five recovered: Paul Schrade, an official with the United Automobile Workers union; William Weisel, an ABC TV unit manager; Ira Goldstein, a reporter with the Continental News Service; Elizabeth Evans, a friend of Pierre Salinger, one of Kennedy's campaign aides; and a teenager, Irwin Stroll, a Kennedy volunteer.
On February 10, 1969, a motion by Sirhan's lawyers to enter a plea of guilty to first degree murder in exchange for life imprisonment (rather than the death penalty) was made in chambers and denied. The court judge, Herbert V. Walker, ordered that the record pertaining to the motion be sealed.
On March 3, 1969, in a Los Angeles courtroom, Sirhan said that he had killed Kennedy "with 20 years of malice aforethought," although he has maintained since being arrested that he has no memory of the crime. The judge did not accept this confession and it was later withdrawn.
According to Sirhan's mother, Mary Sirhan, he killed Kennedy because of his Arab nationalism. She said, "What he did, he did for his country." Further, Sirhan believed he was deliberately betrayed by Kennedy's support for Israel in the June 1967 Six-Day War, which had begun exactly one year before the assassination. After his arrest, a spiral-bound notebook was found containing this diary entry, several others, and many nonsensical, streams of consciousness scribbles.
The lead prosecutor in the case was Lynn Compton. Attempts by Sirhan's lawyer, Grant Cooper, to move his case to Fresno where he claimed he could be given a fair trial, failed. During the trial, the defense primarily based their case on the expert testimony of Bernard L. Diamond M.D., a well known professor of law and psychiatry at University of California, Berkeley, who testified that Sirhan was suffering from diminished capacity at the time of the murder. Sirhan was convicted on April 17, 1969 and was sentenced six days later to death in a gas chamber. The sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972 after the California Supreme Court, in its decision in People v. Anderson 64 Cal.2d 633, 414 P.2d 366, (Cal. 1972), invalidated all pending death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972. Sirhan's most recent lawyer, Lawrence Teeter, adamantly maintained that Grant Cooper was compromised by a conflict of interest and was, as a consequence, grossly negligent in defense of his client. Teeter died in 2005.
On May 10, 1982, Sirhan told a parole board: "I sincerely believe that if Robert Kennedy were alive today, I believe he would not countenance singling me out for this kind of treatment. I think he would be among the first to say that, however horrible the deed I committed 14 years ago was, that it should not be the cause for denying me equal treatment under the laws of this country."
A parole hearing for Sirhan is now scheduled every five years. On March 15, 2006, he was denied parole for the 13th time. Currently he is confined at the California State Prison, Corcoran. He did not attend the hearing, nor did he appoint a new attorney to represent him. His next possible chance for parole will be in 2011.
|ALTERNATIVE NAMES||Sirhan, Sirhan Bishara|
|SHORT DESCRIPTION||Convicted assassin|
|DATE OF BIRTH||March 19, 1944|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine|
|DATE OF DEATH|
|PLACE OF DEATH|