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New photo of Sirhan Sirhan, RFK assassin, is released as he seeks freedom

March 1, 2011 |  6:13 am

ME.Sirhan Sirhan Sirhan, who has spent 42 years behind bars for the assassination U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, will have his 13th parole hearing Wednesday.

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.

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

Pepper claims that James Earl Ray, who was convicted of killing civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. 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.

Sirhansirhan 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 he claimed victory in the California presidential primary at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Sirhan was convicted and sentenced to death in April 1969. (He is seen above in a new photo released by the state.) 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."

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


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-- Andrew Blankstein

Photos, from top: a current photo of Sirhan Sirhan, 66. Credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Sirhan in 1997. Credit: Associated Press