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Handwritten notes by Robert F. Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan shed new light on killer

A recent photo of Sirhan Sirhan, 66.Last month his lawyer tried to convince a parole board that Sirhan Sirhan was a brainwashed hit man when he gunned down Sen. Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1968.

But handwritten notes purportedly from Sirhan, kept for 42 years by a Century City business executive, suggest that his behavior was calculated and controlled as he waited to shoot the presidential candidate in the hotel’s kitchen pantry area.

Michael McCowan was an investigator and the youngest member of Sirhan’s defense team in 1969 when the accused assassin wrote the narrative of his visit to a target practice range and his later election-night trip to the hotel trip on a legal notepad.

RFK “He wrote it right in front of me,” said McCowan, now 78. Sirhan signed a second statement giving McCowan the rights to the documents, which next week will be sold by a Brentwood auction house.

In March, Sirhan appeared before a parole board for his 14th hearing since his conviction in May 1969.

The lawyer currently representing Sirhan suggested he was “manipulated” and “set up” and did not act alone when Kennedy was shot.

William Pepper, who could not be reached Wednesday for comment at his New York office, said Sirhan did not remember the shooting because he was “hypno-programmed” to kill Kennedy.

McCowan disagrees. “It never seemed to me to be a conspiracy. He wanted to be a martyr for the Palestinian cause,” he said of Sirhan.

“Sirhan’s not stupid. In his 10th-grade history book from his high school in Pasadena he’d underlined the assassination of President McKinley and on the next page of Archduke Ferdinand.”

Sirhan had then written words to the effect that there would be many more such assassinations, McCowan said. “I think he wanted to be a martyr. To me, he was the first terrorist,” he said.

Before volunteering for Sirhan’s defense team, McCowan had been a Los Angeles police officer and earned his law degree. He offered to help defense lawyers “because everybody’s entitled to a defense, to their day in court,” as he put it Wednesday.

Along with the handwritten narrative, materials being sold in the online auction include a telegram from the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, the killer of President John F. Kennedy, to Sirhan’s mother, Mary Sirhan. “Please accept my sincerest and deepest sympathy,” Marguerite Oswald wrote in 1968.

Many of those involved with Sirhan’s trial are dead. McCowan is the last survivor from the defense team.

In the trial’s closing arguments, Sirhan lawyer Grant Cooper acknowledged that “we are not here to free a guilty man. He is guilty of having killed Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.”

Sirhan was incapable of premeditation, added another of his lawyers, Russell Parsons, who praised the testimony of psychiatrists and psychologists who labeled Sirhan as a paranoid schizophrenic.

Prosecutor Lynn Compton, a chief deputy district attorney, argued that the psychiactric expertise had “highly overcomplicated” the case. One psychologist had testified that Sirhan had been in some sort of hypnotic trance when he shot Kennedy.

Sirhan, now 66 and serving a life sentence, was denied parole at last month’s hearing. Deputy Dist. Atty. David Dahle, who represented prosecutors at the hearing, was out of town and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

But Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for his office, was a news reporter in 1968 who saw Kennedy moments before he was killed and then covered Sirhan’s trial.

She said the auction-bound narrative was never introduced as evidence. “Sirhan had a diminished-capacity defense,” Gibbons said.


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Photos, from top: A recent photo of Sirhan Sirhan, now 66; Robert Kennedy lies mortally wounded on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles as busboy Juan Romero tries to give aid on June 5, 1968. Credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (28)

Will someone please step forward and inform Sirhan that his boring use of the "amnesia shtick" is simply not working.

He`ll be 72 at his next scheduled charade of a parole hearing. The one and only remaining question in this 40+ year saga is the exact date he will leave prison in a pine box.

The least he owes the public is to share with us his honest and candid recollections and insights from that day, and to take us through what his thought process was.

Anyone who believes there was a conspiracy, or that Sirhan cannot recall any aspect of what took place on the biggest day of his life, is utterly moronic!

I once heard Gore Vidal say, at a book signing, say how in the US, where people hardly write postcards anymore, assassins like Oswald and Sirhan leave detailed diaries and notes as to their future crimes...

Is it me or does that mug shot of Sirhan Sirhan look a bit like George W. Bush?

Raise your hand if you've seen the movie The Manchurian Candidate.

(The original "banned" version with Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, etc.)

McCowan said. “I think he wanted to be a martyr. To me, he was the first terrorist,” he said.

There's a big difference between a political assassin and a terrorist. And the two high school examples cited in the story were both political assassinations. But most people don't seem to understand that. The goal of an assassin is to remove a political obstacle. The goal of terrorism is quite simply to terrorize a population in the name of some cause or other.

That may seem like hair splitting to some, but I think it's important from both a legal and journalistic standpoint to make the distinction clear.

Since 9/11, there has been a tendency to label every crime or conspiracy against a public official a terrorist act, and not just in the US..

A huge fact central to this story is Sirhan Sirhan was originally sentenced to death, and only when the California Supreme Court threw out the death penalty in 1972 in Calif. v Anderson did Sirhan become eligible for parole, since at the time there was no "life without parole" sentence. That is the same reason another famous murderer from that era, Charles Manson, is periodically up for parole.


Pay the price and stop whining. You chose your fate.

The only remaining mystery is why we paid to feed and house your sorry routine for fifty years.

At least we can watch you rot and waste away into worthless dust.

and now for comedy relief . . . sorry but sirhan is a nut and the more he tries to say he's, "OK" the crazier he seems, of course he was lying in wait, is this a big suprise?

The one giving aid to the Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, is ................
the BUSBOY Juan Romero! Not an FBI agent, not a CIA agent, not a Doctor, nope everyone is standing around while the busboy tends to Robert Kennedy, how strange. Makes me wonder if he was an illegal immigrant? Nevertheless, the only one caring for Kennedy, while everyone stood and stared. Look at the expression on his face.

yes, he does look like george w

I sure hope he never leaves prison walking out, but in a BOX, I am a ex-con, myself and he's crime of shooting Robert will never be justified as forgiven, be done with any attempt to reduce his sentence or modify it; YES he did it and he is very lucky now that he did not go to death row again after commutation of the death system then. But now will live out his days in prison, PERIOD!!

You're right. He does look like W. Bush. The conspiracy deepens.

Throw the keys away...

So what do the notes specifically say about Sirhan's activities and state of mind? I couldn't figure it out.

Quote: "In his 10th-grade history book from his high school in Pasadena he’d underlined the assassination of President McKinley and on the next page of Archduke Ferdinand.”

Sirhan was about 24 when he killed Robert Kennedy. Even if there was a 10th-grade history text with Sirhan's name in it... and even if both assassinations were examined in the same book, which is unlikely to be the case in either a US history or a world history course... how would anyone know whether Sirhan underlined certain passages? Did he write comments in the margin and then sign with his initials?

More likely, someone found an old textbook in a storage room, wrote Sirhan's name in the front, and now hopes to sell it for a few thousand bucks.

Hey Mike, Here's a bid for your auction of Sirhan garbage........one penny!


I'm usually one who says "the guy did his time, let's forgive and move forward, he deserves a second chance, blah blah blah" - but not this time.
Sirhan changed the course of history by ensuring Nixon's election, the continuation of the VietNam war for another 7 years, the installation of the criminal repub regime (Cheney, Rumsfeld et al) and a million other harmful results.
The consequential damages of Sirhan's act are incalculable. In my estimation, the USA has still not recovered.

An entire life wasted in a California prison. Is it worth it for Sirhan? Is it worth for the Kennedy children? Is it worth it for the millions spent by the people of the state of California? I would answer with a resounding NO!

But gosh what a great fellow this former cop-then-lawyer is for selling Sirhan's written statements. What a great example of the human species he is.

After all, he DID get his then-client to sign over the rights of ownership to him during the trial prep. period, so it's all okey-dokey, right?

The scum McCowan belongs in the same box with the entrepreneurs who help Manson sell his "art," and the great folks who sold of Gacey's "clown pictures."
Hey, McCowan, any chance you have a bloody piece of Sirhan's shirt, maybe something with some gore on it? I'll bet that would sell for a fortune!

McCowan thinks that Sirhan was the first terrorist? Maybe he should get his own history book. In addition, the State of California taxpayers paid for Sirhan's defense as McCowan's salary and expenses. The manuscript belongs to the "People". You know, the other side that needs defending.

I can't beleive so many people still fall for this "lone gunman" schtick. 10 shots were fired, when Sirhan held a gun with less than 10 shots... and the headshot came from the rear, when Sirhan stood in front.

People who are too scared to acknowledge that they've been lied to by their gov't are the ones that need psychiatric help.

Bitterness and hate corrode the vessel that carry it. Why is it the lowest of the low kill the good people?

A political assassination represents not only a cold blooded murder, but
undermines our entire political systems, censors our beliefs and, in this case, changes history in significant and negative way. Think abonut the leadership in this country since the assassination of JFK. Now think of how things might have been if RFK had lived to be president.

Sirhan will rot in the next world. Until then he should rot in jail.

McCowan misrepresented the handwritten notation in one of "Sirhan's 10th grade school books". The book McCowan references is Muzzey's The American People which Sirhan bought from Broughton's Used Books in Pasadena, Ca. It was not Sirhan's school book. Also, McCowan fails to mention that he wrote a Confidential Investigation Report for Sirhan's defense attorneys and nowhere in his (McCowan's )book inventory list which included a detailed description of all handwritings in Sirhan's books did McCowan even mention the "many more will come" quote McCowan references. Why McCowan omits that damning quote in his Confidential Report of Sirhan's Book Inventory only McCowan can answer. And now he writes about it as if it was a fact simply amazes me. Also, the diagram McCowan's now selling is NOT the pantry kill zone. Sirhan's memory of Ambassador Hotel events prior to pantry killing has never been questioned. It is the killing in the pantry that is blocked from his memory.
McCowan should get his facts right. And, I ask McCowan what he has to say abt Sirhan Trial Transcript page 3967.
Rose Lynn Mangan

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