Assassin maintains he can’t remember shooting RFK

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“It was very clear to me that this guy did not kill Bob Kennedy,” Mr. Pepper said.

Asked who did kill the senator, he said, “I believe I have it, but I’m not going to deal with it at this time.”

In one of many emotional outbursts during his trial, Sirhan blurted out that he had committed the crime “with 20 years of malice aforethought,” a statement that could now come back to haunt him. That and his declaration when arrested: “I did it for my country” were his only relevant comments before he said he didn’t remember shooting Kennedy.

Public opinion could be an invisible force in the board’s decision.

If Sirhan is released, he would be the first imprisoned political assassin to win parole in this country. James Earl Ray, convicted of killing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Jack Ruby, convicted of killing John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, both died in prison.

Sirhan originally was sentenced to death over objections by Kennedy family members, who said they wanted no more killing. The sentence was commuted to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court briefly outlawed the death penalty in 1972.

Kennedy’s son Maxwell, who has spoken for the family previously, did not return phone calls from the AP regarding Sirhan.

The lawyer notes that he has a personal tie to Kennedy, having been chairman of his citizens committee when he ran for Senate in 1964.

Mr. Pepper also represented James Earl Ray, through 10 years of appeals and a civil trial that he said proved Ray was not King’s killer. By then, Ray was dead.

David Dahle, head Los Angeles deputy district attorney for parole candidates serving life sentences, said his remarks at the hearing will depend on what is presented by the defense.

“At this point, I am skeptical that I will see something that will cause me to not oppose the grant of parole,” he said.

Few high-profile prisoners have been released in the California system. Charles Manson and his followers repeatedly have been turned down for parole. Manson follower Susan Atkins attended her final parole hearing on a gurney dying of cancer but was denied release and died in prison three weeks ago.

Mr. Dahle said the board will review Sirhan’s behavior in prison and whether the explosive outbursts of the young man who stood trial in 1969 have continued as he aged. By all accounts, Sirhan has been a model prisoner, but Mr. Dahle said there also will be discussions of how he might adjust to life on the outside.

Sirhan’s brother, Munir Sirhan, 64, will submit a statement and a plan for Sirhan to live with him in his Pasadena home if released. However, even Mr. Pepper says that is an unlikely prospect because Sirhan, who was a Palestinian immigrant from Jordan, will be considered an illegal alien and would be turned over to immigration officials for deportation.

Munir Sirhan told the Associated Press he has made arrangements with a family in Jordan to house Sirhan if he is deported there.

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