Who's Who in "RFK"?

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Senator Robert F. Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy was only 42 years old at the time of his death, (his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was 46 at the time of Dallas in 1963). As Attorney General of the United States, Robert Kennedy was not only the major confidant to his brother the President, but was personally responsible for handling some of the most critical crises in American and World History. Arguably, in fact, America and the World have probably never again seen such potential for disaster (9-11 included), and under the stewardship of another, things might be very different today. It is not an understatement to say that it was Robert Kennedy who had to enforce civil rights at a time when a second kind of Civil War seemed a possibility. At the very least, were it not for Bobby's actions at the time in protecting the Freedom Riders, and James Meredith as he sought to enter an all-white Alabama University, the cause of civil rights in the US might have been set back by decades and/or led to prolonged and bloody rioting across America. During the Cuban Missile crisis, it was Bobby who carried out much of the back door diplomacy between the White House and The Soviet Embassy, as well as coming up with the strategy that eventually ended the crisis without a shot being fired. As a Senator for New York he pioneered projects to rebuild neighborhoods from the ashes of slums, and stood up for the rights of minorities and the oppressed  everywhere from South Africa to the Farm Workers in California under the leadership of Cesar Chavez, with whom he became good friends. Bobby became a major voice to speak out against the War in Vietnam and the policies of the Johnson administration. Following his win in the California Democratic Primary on June 4, 1968, Bobby would have been facing a situation at the Democratic convention similar to the one being faced today --- he could only have taken the nomination away from Vice President Hubert Humphrey if the "super delegates" had been released to vote their conscience rather than stay committed to Humphrey on the first ballot as called for by the party rules. It is, sadly, a fight that Bobby did not live to wage.

above: on the campaign trail in 1968

above: In April of 1968, Bobby attends what was scheduled to be a campaign rally in Indianapolis, only to find himself bearing the news that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed that day. Bobby himself would be assassinated almost two months later to the day.

Paul Schrade

Schrade, who was West Coast Director of the powerful United Auto Workers Union, was an RFK friend and supporter. During the assassination Schrade was struck in the forehead by a bullet, but recovered.

above left: Paul Schrade.  right: Schrade was on the podium (far right, with glasses) when Bobby made his final speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in the early minutes of June 5, 1968. Between Bobby and Schrade was California State Speaker of the House and RFK California Campaign Chairman, Jesse Unruh.

Robert Blair Kaiser:

Kaiser was an eager young reporter in 1968, who acted as go-between for the ACLU and Defense Attorney Grant Cooper to arrange for Cooper to act as Sirhan's Defense Lawyer. Kaiser made a deal with the defense team and Sirhan to provide a substantial part of an advance for a book that he wanted to write on the case to Sirhan's defense fund, in exchange for the exclusive right to interview Sirhan on a daily basis. The result was the milestone best-seller "RFK Must Die!."

above: Robert Blair Kaiser

Vincent Di Pierro:

At age 19, Vincent worked as a part-time waiter at the Ambassador Hotel. He was one of the closest people to Bobby Kennedy at the time of the shooting. Di Pierro's face was spattered with blood from the RFK head shot and almost simultaneously the Senator, Paul Schrade, and shooting victim Ira Goldstein fell against Di Pierro, knocking him to the ground. Vincent saw Sirhan standing in the pantry just before the shooting, in the proximity of a woman whom he remembers to have been wearing a black and white polka dot dress. He was pressured to recant his story by an LAPD Police Lieutenant. Vincent was under police protection from the day of the assassination on June 5, 1968, until the trial ended in the spring of 1969, as a material witness. At the trial in 1969, he identified Sirhan Sirhan as the shooter.

 

above: Vincent Di Pierro shows with his rearmost hand his orientation behind Bobby at the time of the shooting

Sandra Serrano:

Serrano told of seeing a young woman in a black and white polka dot dress leaving the Ambassador Hotel screaming "We shot him! We shot him!" When she asked "Who did you shoot?" Serrano says that the woman replied "We shot Senator Kennedy." She was also pressured to recant her story by an LAPD Police Lieutenant.

  

above, left: Sandra Serrano tells her story LIVE national television shortly after the assassination.  right: The prosecutor presented Valerie Schulte, an RFK Campaign worker, as being the polka dot girl. She was wearing a green and yellow dress that night.

Roosevelt Greer:

Rosie Greer was a star NFL football player and close Kennedy friend. He would often accompany Bobby on campaign appearances, and act as a sort of unofficial bodyguard. On the night of June 4, 1968, he had been asked to stay close to Ethyl Kennedy, who was pregnant with their 11th child. After the initial shots were fired, Rosie covered Ethyl, then raced into the pantry where he pulled Sirhan Sirhan onto a metal steam table. He and Olympic star Rafer Johnson wrestled the gun out of Sirhan's grip.

  

above, left: Rosie Greer.  right: the chaos in the pantry as numerous people wrestled with Sirhan Sirhan, as Bobby Kennedy lay on the floor.

below: the page from Sirhan's notebook in which it was written that RFK must be assassinated by 5 June 1968.

 

Alfonso Galindo:

One ofthe 12 jurors who voted to convict Sirhan Sirhan for 1st degree murder.

above: Galindo indicates that the powder on Kennedy's neck indicated that the gun was fired from a close distance to the Senator.

Munir Sirhan:

The youngest brother of Sirhan Sirhan, and the last living member of Sirhan's family, Munir says that Sirhan is now open to any form of "un-blocking" technique to alleviate his memory loss. Sirhan's lawyer Larry Teeter had been pushing to put Sirhan back under hypnosis for that purpose and consulted with Dr. Spiegel, the father of modern hypnosis, in that regard, although the project fell apart after Sirhan was placed into Solitary confinement on 9-11, 2001, on suspicion of being a part of planning 9-11. Since being cleared of that charge, Sirhan has been afraid to leave solitary, believing that the other inmates --- some of the most dangerous murderers in the world --- would kill Sirhan at the first possible opportunity as a patriotic gesture in retaliation against Sirhan's alleged role in planning 9-11. Prison Officials say that Sirhan's continued confinement is his own choice. Munir says that Sirhan feels that he has no choice except be killed on returning to the regular housing unit --- "he feels that both the guards AND the inmates are out to get him."  Sirhan has applied to be transferred to another prison, without success. Sirhan's attorney Teeter died of cancer in 2005. Sirhan has been in solitary confinement since 9-11 2001.  

above: Munir Sirhan

Grant Cooper:

Grant Cooper was one of the most respected criminal defense attorneys of the time. He took on the Sirhan case for free, and pled Sirhan "not guilty" by reason of Sirhan being in a state of "diminished capacity" at the time of the assassination --- that he didn't understand what he was doing (if the jury agreed, that would save Sirhan from the death penalty). The defense psychiatrist, Dr. Bernard Diamond, told the jury that Diamond was convinced that Sirhan had been triggered into a "trance" at the time of the assassination, stemming from Sirhan's ability to go easily into such trances as a result of Sirhan's own experiments in self-hypnosis. One could think of it as postulating, in effect, that Sirhan was like a sleepwalker --- physically mobile but mentally in a state of non-consciousness; unable to understand what he was doing at the moment of the shooting. Diamond speculated that the alcoholic drinks that Sirhan had that evening, along with the bright lights in the hotel, triggered the trance, (one option never considered by Diamond was the possibility that TV lights in the pantry may have been flipped on just moments prior to the shooting --- in conversation with Paul Schrade, Schrade clarified that he remembers seeing the TV lights in a 'lit' state just before he blacked out). Diamond arrived at his theory after placing Sirhan under hypnosis on a few occasions just before the trial began, and discovered for the first time that Sirhan had been engaged in self-hypnosis at many times in the past and that at least some of the entries in the Sirhan notebooks (such as "RFK Must Die") were probably written while Sirhan was in such a trance. (See the clip of the actual moment of this discovery in the "Streaming Online Video" sectuion, via the Main Menu).

Because of the defense strategy, there was no attempt to dispute the charges or to seek answers to some puzzling questions that have been raised about the assassination in the years since. That is not a criticism of Cooper, however, as Grant Cooper saw his #1 job being to save Sirhan's life. The purpose of the trial was not to explain anything else that seemed puzzling ... in short, under those particular circumstances, the trial was not acting as a vehicle to answer the unanswered questions. Indeed, when questions of muzzle distance seemed to be in the air, the defense would seek to move away from that subject in an effort to avoid "confusing" the jury with information that did not pertain to the defense strategy. In fact at one point in the trial when the prosecution questioned an arms expert to establish if the Sirhan Iver-Johnson pistol could kill at a distance of one inch --- the distance that the autopsy said was the maximum likely distance of the muzzle from Senator Kennedy's head for the fatal shot --- Cooper then sought to establish from the same witness that the gun could also kill at much further distances.

If this had been a case where the defendant was claiming that he was too far away for his gun to have killed anyone, then such an approach would have been undertaken by the Prosecutor. But because Cooper was admitting that Sirhan did the shooting, questions of distance were just a potential distraction.

above: Grant Cooper in 1975

Ted Charach:

Charach was a reporter at the Ambassador Hotel covering the Kennedy victory. He was just outside the doors of the pantry when the shooting occurred. As Charach spoke to witnesses in the months and years to follow, he was struck by the observation that some of them did not feel that Sirhan had come as close to RFK with the gun as required by the autopsy findings. Charach produced a Golden Globe Nominated documentary feature film released in 1973 entitled "The Second Gun," advocating that there was a second shooter in the pantry as part of an assassination plot.

above: Ted Charach

Godfrey Issac:

Sirhan's appeal attorney, who raised the question of Sirhan's distance from RFK at the time of the shooting in filing the appeal to try to save Sirhan from execution. Eventually the appeal to avoid execution became a moot point, when the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty. Sirhan's sentence was changed to life in prison.

above: Godfrey Issac

Lynn Mangan:

Lynn Mangan became a close friend of Sirhan Sirhan's mother Mary shortly after the assassination, and began doing research on the case for the Sirhan family after the trial. In the early 1990s, she re-discovered what had been left out of press reporting during a court ordered re-examination of the pantry bullets in 1975.

In 1975, as a result of a lawsuit brought by Paul Schrade, a panel of 7 firearms experts had been assembled to re-examine the RFK assassination victim bullets to see if more than one gun was involved in firing them. The panel could not say if a second gun was involved or not, due largely to the mutilated condition of most of the bullets. Of the 3 intact bullets, though, the panel did find that they were all fired by the same gun.

There was, however, a very unexpected result of the firearms panel --- the discovery that of the three intact bullets that were all fired from one gun, it was not possible to say whether or not they had been fired in the SIrhan gun to the exclusion of other guns. This finding contradicted the testimony given by the LAPD Lab firearms expert at the 1969 trial. This alleged perjury by the LAPD Lab expert at the 1969 trial had gone unreported by the news media in 1975.

This 1990s re-discovery of alleged perjury was presented in a writ to the court in the 1990s by Sirhan's then lawyer Larry Teeter, however the court decided that no action was warranted.

above: Lynn Mangan

Lowell Bradford:

Lowell Bradford was the firearms examiner placed by CBS News on the 1975 RFK Firearms Panel --- also known as the "Wenke Panel" after Judge Robert Wenke. CBS had also filed a lawsuit simultaneous to the one filed by Paul Schrade, seeking access to have the pantry bullets re-tested, and so CBS was allowed to select one of the panel experts. Their interest, they told Bradford, was in doing a Dan Rather special on the RFK Assassination controversy, and CBS wanted his expert opinion as to what the bullet evidence showed regarding the possible existence of a second gun.

The Panel's final Report noted that their findings were not consistent with those of the LAPD Lab Examiner's testimony at the 1969 trial.

above: Firearms expert Lowell Bradford, one of the 7 experts on the 1975 Court-ordered RFK Firearms Panel (Wenke Panel) to re-examine the pantry bullets.

below: under hypnosis, SIrhan is asked to write down the answer to "who killed Kennedy?"

below: Sirhan is asked to write down if he was hypnotized when he wrote his notebooks at home.

Sirhan was never asked if anyone else was with him when the notebooks were written or if anyone else had ever performed the hypnosis, nor if the text of passages that Sirhan wrote were ever dictated by someone else; this was a cursory ad-hoc examination. Based on what was said in the tapes, Dr. Diamond had planned to conduct more hypnosis sessions, but never did).

below: during hypnosis, Sirhan's memory is jogged about following a beautiful girl "into a dark place" ... but a place that also had "a lot of lights too."

 

others also featured in "RFK":

 

above: Richard Mankiewitz, member of the 1992 LA Grand Jury

above: Scott Enyart - 15 year-old high school newspaper photographer who took the only photos during the assassination

above: Frank Burns - California Campaign organizer and assassination eyewitness who was part of the first group to wrestle with Sirhan

 

above: Marilyn Barrett - Attorney who represented Paul Schrade before the 1993 LA Grand Jury in an futile effort to obtain a special prosecutor to investigate the investigation

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