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Sirhan Denied Parole After Saying He Didn't Kill Kennedy

Assassination: His claim of innocence stuns board at Corcoran State Prison and prosecutors. In rejecting his bid for release, panel says he remains a danger to society.

June 19, 1997| From Associated Press

CORCORAN, Calif. — Convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan was denied parole again Wednesday after stunning a parole hearing by declaring that he now believes he did not kill Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

"I believe I'm innocent of this crime and that I did not commit this crime," Sirhan told the hearing at Corcoran State Prison.

The prosecutor assigned to Sirhan's 10th parole hearing, Thomas L. Trapp, was outraged.

"Today's denial of guilt is preposterous. It is mind-boggling and insulting to the American people. It is hurtful to the family of Sen. Kennedy. It is so shocking," Trapp said.

Trapp urged the Board of Prison Terms to use Sirhan's new statement as a basis to deny him parole for the longest period possible.

In denying parole, the board said Sirhan remained a danger to society although it commended him for being free of disciplinary problems in prison. The board made no comment on his claims of innocence.

Sirhan was grim as the decision was delivered. He may seek parole again in three years.

Kennedy was shot June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angles minutes after claiming victory in the California presidential primary.

Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant, was wrestled to the ground with a gun in his hand. At his trial, he was portrayed as a rabid anti-Israeli who turned against Kennedy because of the sale of 50 fighter jets to Israel.

Sirhan, now 54, said he believes he should go free.

"I am ready to live in compliance with the law and I am ready to live as a normal citizen. Please give me that chance."

Sirhan, appearing relatively youthful but with flecks of gray in his hair, spoke in a steady, unemotional voice and continued to maintain that he suffers from amnesia about all events on the night Kennedy was slain.

He said he was the victim of "gross injustice" and "an out-and-out frame-up by the district attorney."

Trapp reminded the panel that on the day of the killing Sirhan told police that "I did it for my country" and at his trial blurted out on the witness stand that he killed Kennedy "premeditatedly with 20 years of malice aforethought."

He reminded the board that evidence against Sirhan included notebooks found in his room that contained the repeated statement "RFK must die."

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