A California parole board this month rejected a dramatic plea to release the convicted slayer of 1968 presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy, thereby continuing one of the nation's most notorious murder cover-ups.
Kennedy friend Paul Schrade, 91, argued that the accused assassin Sirhan B. Sirhan, firing from Kennedy's front, could not have killed the New York senator in a hotel massacre that left Schrade wounded in June 1968.
"Kennedy was a man of justice," Schrade told the parole board Feb. 10 in a prepared statement at a state prison in San Diego, CA.
"But, so far," Schrade continued, "justice has not been served in this case. And I feel obliged as both a shooting victim and as an American to speak out about this -- and to honor the memory of the greatest American I've ever known, Robert Francis Kennedy."
The board refused to grant clemency despite additional evidence from multiple witnesses and books through the years supporting defense claims that Kennedy (shown with Schrade, at left, in a 1968 photo) was killed from the rear.
The full text of Schrade's unsuccessful arguments to California's parole board are appended to a longer version of this column on the Justice Integrity Project site, and provide a powerful new dimension to the historical debate regarding the 1968 deaths of Kennedy (widely known as "RFK" in news headlines) and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This month was the first time Schrade has made such a verbal plea on behalf of a Sirhan, who is widely regarded by researchers (but not publicly by authorities) as a likely victim of mind-control before he fired at Kennedy, who had left a ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel via a hotel pantry when he was shot.
Sirhan, a former race track exercise jockey who disappeared from his family for many weeks shortly before the shooting, has maintained that he could not remember details of his actions, including repetitious entries in his diary "RFK must die!" that defenders describe as a symptom of mind control by unknown perpetrators.
Authorities have kept Sirhan in solitary confinement in essence for more than 45 years while his advocates have unsuccessfully argued for a new investigation or clemency. His most recent parole hearing before this year's was in 2011.
Schrade addressed his remarks in part to Sirhan.
"Sirhan, I forgive you," said Schrade, whom Sirhan shot in the forehead in the pantry. Schrade, shown in a photo courtesy of the documentary film maker Interesting Stuff Entertainment, continued:
"The evidence clearly shows you were not the gunman who shot Robert Kennedy."