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Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan seeks freedom at parole hearing

March 2, 2011 |  7:19 am

A recent photo of Sirhan Sirhan, 66. A California parole board on Wednesday will consider whether the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy at a Los Angeles hotel should be set free.

Sirhan Sirhan has spent 42 years behind bars for the assassination in 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel. This will be his 13th parole hearing.

The parole board has repeatedly rejected Sirhan's appeals for release for failing to accept responsibility or show remorse for Kennedy's death.

Sirhan's attorney, William F. Pepper, told the Associated Press that his client had no memory of the events and suggested a second gunman was involved in the crime.

Sirhan in 1997. Pepper, who is based in New York, gained publicity for his efforts to prove the innocence of James Earl Ray in the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Pepper claims that Ray, who was convicted of killing King two months before Kennedy was slain, was framed by the federal government and that King was killed in a conspiracy involving the FBI, the CIA, the military, the Memphis police and organized-crime figures from New Orleans and Memphis.

Ray, who confessed to killing King and then recanted and won the support of King's widow and children, died in 1998.

Sirhan, now 66, shot Kennedy on June 5, 1968, moments after the New York senator had claimed victory in the California presidential primary. Sirhan was convicted and sentenced to death in April 1969. The sentence was commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole when the death penalty was outlawed in California in 1972 before being re-instituted.

In Sirhan's case, he said on the day of the killing, "I did it for my country." At his trial, Sirhan said on the witness stand that he killed Kennedy "premeditatedly with 20 years of malice aforethought."

Robert Kennedy lies mortally wounded on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968.


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Photos, from top: A recent photo of Sirhan Sirhan, 66; Sirhan in 1997; Robert Kennedy lies mortally wounded on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. Credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; Associated Press; Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times