Lawyers: Bullet Was Switched at Sirhan's Trial

By: Linda Deutsch, Associated Press
By: Linda Deutsch, Associated Press

Los Angeles, CA (AP) - 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.

Prosecutors had no comment, said Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the California attorney general's office, which is handling the appeal.

The lawyers, William F. Pepper and Laurie Dusek, also said sophisticated audio tests recently conducted on recordings from the assassination night show 13 shots from multiple guns were fired - five more than Sirhan could have fired from his small pistol.

Authorities have claimed eight bullets were fired, with three hitting Kennedy and the rest flying wildly around the kitchen and striking five other victims who survived.

Paul Schrade, who was struck by gunfire, refused to comment on the new filing, saying he is working on his own new analysis of the assassination.

Pepper and Dusek argue that before Sirhan's trial, someone switched a bullet before it was placed in evidence because the bullet taken from Kennedy's neck did not match Sirhan's gun. The lawyers suggest a second gun was involved in the assassination, but they do not know who fired it.

Pepper said the new evidence outlined in a 62-page federal court brief filed in Los Angeles is sufficient to prove Sirhan is innocent under the law.

"They put fabricated evidence into court before the judge and jury" Pepper told The Associated Press. "We are satisfied that for the first time in 43 years of this case we think we have the evidence to set this conviction aside,"

The motion was filed last week in federal court in Los Angeles.

Sirhan, now 67, a Palestinian immigrant, was denied parole after a hearing last March where he denied any memory of shooting Kennedy on June 5, 1968, moments after he claimed victory in the California presidential primary.

Parole officials said he doesn't understand the enormity of his crime that changed U.S. history.

Pepper and Dusek are the latest attorneys to take up Sirhan's case after his conviction and argue on his behalf before parole boards and courts.. All of his appeals have been turned down. Pepper, who has taken on other unpopular cases including that of Martin Luther King assassin James Earl Ray, stepped in after Sirhan's previous lawyer died.

At trial, Sirhan took the witness stand and said he had killed Kennedy "with 20 years of malice aforethought." He later recanted the confession. Prosecutors introduced in evidence handwritten diaries in which he wrote: "RFK must die."

The latest filing by Pepper and Dusek relies heavily on a report by audio analyst Philip Van Praag who did tests on an audio recording made by a news reporter during the shooting. The expert concluded that 13 shots were fired and that none of the sounds on the recording were echoes or other anomalies.

The report also claims that the sounds of gunfire were not isolated to one spot in the room but came from different directions.

The lawyers also contend that Sirhan did not have adequate assistance of counsel at trial, noting that his chief attorney, Grant Cooper, decided Sirhan was guilty at the outset and never pursued available defenses.

The Sirhan defense team settled on a claim of diminished capacity and never denied that Sirhan was the shooter of Kennedy, the brief noted.

"Defense counsel did not pursue the issue of a possible substitution of another bullet," the brief said.

Acknowledging "the difficulty of retrying a case of this vintage," the lawyers asked that the sentence be set aside and Sirhan set free.

"Petitioner fully understands that he is likely to be deported to Jordan where he would hope to quietly live out the rest of his life with family and friends, but at long last he would, at least, have received long delayed justice," the filing states.

As an alternative, they asked that the judge set an evidentiary hearing to reexamine the case.

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  • by mchammer on Nov 29, 2011 at 04:02 PM
    too legit to acquit.
  • by Johnny Location: Tally on Nov 29, 2011 at 03:38 PM
    To Fear the Government...I fear morons like you more than the government. Like the other post read, and it's TRUE, they wrestled him to the ground with the gun in his hand so why would they have to switch a bullet? Many bullets were fired. People like you are so stupid.
    • reply
      by Fear the Government on Nov 30, 2011 at 06:16 AM in reply to Johnny
      Johnny.... nice - way to have a civilized discussion. I don't claim that they DID switch the bullet, that's the argument to be made in court. I said IF they switched the bullet... my point being that those with the power to take away your life must be held to extreme standards; even if they're just "tweaking" evidence to insure the conviction of someone that everyone is certain is guilty anyway. If concern for the rights of the citizens makes me a moron, so be it. Ever heard the phrase "we are a nation of laws?" If we allow the government to ignore it's own laws then we are ruled by men, not laws. Give it some thought.
      • reply
        by Johnny on Nov 30, 2011 at 08:09 AM in reply to Fear the Government
        They make pills you can take to rid yourself of your paranormal state of mind.
  • by Fear the Government Location: Tallahassee on Nov 29, 2011 at 12:23 PM
    Some of you are missing the point... I don't care if he placed the gun to Kennedy's forehead and pulled the trigger on live national TV - if the government switched bullets to ensure his conviction, then that conviction cannot stand!!!!!
    • reply
      by Chuck on Nov 29, 2011 at 03:36 PM in reply to Fear the Government
      Another dummy who believes everything he reads and you are concerned abou the government??...LOL. Please show me some proof the bullet was switched. Pretty strange after all this time they come up with that B.S.
  • by Anonymous on Nov 29, 2011 at 10:36 AM
    there was another shooter behind the salad bowl
  • by it is what it is on Nov 29, 2011 at 06:05 AM
    He was wrestled to the floor with a gun in his hand. Let him rot in jail.
  • by GA GIRL Location: Georgia on Nov 29, 2011 at 05:42 AM
    Sounds like the attorneys have nothing better to do than waste taxpayers money. As for President Kennedy I'll always believe tha LBJ had a hand in that one. Just like the death of Marilyn Monroe it was a cover up.
  • by history on Nov 29, 2011 at 04:02 AM
    reply to bill they aren't talking about PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY, but the assasination of SEN. ROBERT F. KENNEDY
    • reply
      by Bill on Nov 30, 2011 at 08:12 AM in reply to history
      I know that history. I guess the meaning of my comment went over your head.
  • by Bobby on Nov 28, 2011 at 07:38 PM
    Sirhan somehow fired another of those "magic bullets" because he was facing Kennedy and the fatal headshot came from behind.
  • by Bill Location: Tallahassee on Nov 28, 2011 at 05:42 PM
    What a crock. The guy admitted he did it and there was PLENTY of evidence that he did it. The so called sound experts were wrong when they said there were more than 3 shots fired at President Kennedy in 1963 during his assasination so it depends on how they want to "interpet" the sounds.
  • by Chuck Location: Tally on Nov 28, 2011 at 05:36 PM
    You have got to be kidding me! Are you serious? Talk about living in a fantasy world...LOL. There was plenty of evidence to convict him with without manufacturing evidence. This is why I dislike attorneys.
    • reply
      by litobit on Nov 28, 2011 at 08:42 PM in reply to Chuck
      Plain and simple, IF THE BULLET DOES NOT FIT THE GUN, he is innocent! I don't care what he admitted to, have you never heard of scare tactics? Both Kennedy murders were very questionable as to whom actually did the shooting. As for Oswald, well the fact that they just left him open as a target is the one thing that always made me believe there was a cover-up.
      • reply
        by Lucy on Nov 29, 2011 at 10:26 AM in reply to litobit
        Even if this article is true he is still guilty. If he conspired and fired to cover for the real shooter he is still guilty of murder. Check you facts - you don't have to be the shooter to commit murder.
      • reply
        by Chuck on Nov 29, 2011 at 12:20 PM in reply to litobit
        Sorry to be so blunt, but you are an idiot if you don't think he killed Kennedy. There is plenty of evidence other than his statement.
      • reply
        by John on Nov 29, 2011 at 12:24 PM in reply to litobit
        You sound like OJ's attorney..."if it does not fit, you must acquit" Where is THEIR proof it was switched?? Some people have no common sense and believe anything they read online or in the paper as fact.
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