Legal History

Lawyer for Sirhan Sirhan Plans to Tell Parole Board His Client Was ‘Hypno-Programmed’

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A lawyer for Sirhan Sirhan plans to tell a parole board today that his client doesn’t remember the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, possibly because he was “hypno-programmed” to commit the crime.

The lawyer, William Pepper, spoke to and the Associated Press. Sirhan was set up and hypnotized, and then his memories were erased, Pepper says. Sirhan “has whole blocks in his mind that are missing,” Pepper told ABC. Both stories note the similarity to the plot of the Manchurian Candidate.

Pepper argues there was a second gunman who shot Kennedy. Sirhan fired his gun while facing Kennedy, Pepper says, but the senator died from a shot fired at close range behind the right ear.

Sirhan remembered the shooting at his trial, claiming he acted “with 20 years of malice aforethought.”

ABC spoke with Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist who examined Kennedy’s body. He was the only member of a nine-person panel who disagreed with the single bullet theory. According to Wecht, the coroner had testified that Kennedy was shot from behind at close range, while witnesses said Sirhan was in front of Kennedy. Wecht wasn’t so sure about the hypnosis theory, though. It is scientifically plausible, he told ABC, but he didn’t know if it was true in Sirhan’s case.

AP describes Pepper as a New York-based lawyer who is also a British barrister. According to ABC, he argued in a 1999 civil case that Memphis police were involved in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

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