Black Op Radio interview

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I did a forty-minute interview with Len Osanic of Black Op Radio the other day, which you can now listen to above. Len has a summary of our discussion on his site and has William Pepper, Lynn Mangan and Paul Schrade lined up for next Thursday’s show, reacting to Wednesday’s hearing.

Sirhan Sirhan

The photo above, published here for the first time courtesy of California State Archives, shows Sirhan in his cell in August, 1968 and I’ll be posting more rare photos tomorrow. As Sirhan’s hearing draws near, here are links to some of the key research material we’ve released during this campaign and the earlier work it was based on:

The Mind of an Assassin

“My brother was a man of love and sentiment and compassion. He would not have wanted his death to be a cause for the taking of another life”

On May 21, 1969, despite an eloquent plea from Senator Edward Kennedy on behalf of his fallen brother, Sirhan’s death sentence was confirmed. The next day, Sirhan Sirhan was interviewed by Jack Perkins of NBC and their eighteen-minute interview aired as First Tuesday – The Mind of an Assassin two weeks later. It’s a fascinating distillation of the mysteries and conundrums of the trial. Perkins leads Sirhan through the case and often seems bewildered by his responses.

The clips below from The Killing of America give a flavour of the interview but are sensationalist and misleading, with fake gunshots added and Perkins’ voice redubbed. When Sirhan says Kennedy “seemed like a saint”, he’s talking about seeing him at the Ambassador on Sunday, June 2nd, not the night of the assassination. So below the video, I’m posting audio of the complete Perkins interview – a fascinating insight into Sirhan’s state of mind the day before he was moved to Death Row in San Quentin.

Inside Sirhan’s Mind

Today’s post continues our audio retrospective and keeps the focus on the mental state of Sirhan Sirhan on the night of the shooting. On January 26, 1969, shortly before Sirhan’s trial, the defense and prosecution psychiatrists, Dr. Bernard Diamond and Dr Seymour Pollack, went up to see Sirhan with defense investigator Robert Blair Kaiser. They put him under hypnosis and had him try to re-enact the night of the shooting in one of the most disturbing sessions you’re ever likely to hear.

During his first summer on Death Row in San Quentin, Sirhan received twenty weekly visits from the prison’s senior psychologist Dr. Eduard Simson Kallas. They built a strong rapport and Sirhan wanted Simson-Kallas to use hypnosis to help him remember the night of the shooting but the warden terminated the visits before the hypnosis sessions could start. Here, Simson-Kallas reflects on the Sirhan case with Mae Brussell.

Diamond, Pollack, Kaiser and Simson-Kallas all believed Sirhan was in a hypnotic state when he fired his gun at the Ambassador. Sirhan practiced self-hypnosis at home in his room and Diamond believed that, triggered by the mirrors at the Ambassador Hotel, Sirhan had carried out the posthypnotic suggestion repeatedly inscribed in his notebooks “R.F.K. must die.” Kaiser and Simson-Kallas believed Sirhan was a Manchurian Candidate, hypnotically programmed by persons unknown to kill Kennedy. What they all agreed was that Sirhan was not in his right mind on the night of the shooting.

June 5, 1968

Bobby Kennedy was shot at 12.16 a.m. on June 5, 1968 in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Here are six audio recordings from the night of the shooting that capture the horror and confusion in the immediate aftermath of the assassination and Sirhan Sirhan’s mental state during his first hours in custody.

Track 1: Radio reporter Andrew West catches the end of Kennedy’s victory speech and rolls tape again in the chaotic aftermath of the gunfire as Kennedy supporters struggle to restrain Sirhan.

Track 2: The police department respond laconically, at first, to an emergency call from the hotel before we hear patrol cars racing to the scene on police radio channels, with 2L30 (Sgt Paul Sharaga) one of the first officers to arrive.

Track 3: The captured assailant is interviewed by Sergeant Bill Jordan at Rampart police station 29 minutes after the shooting. This recording is crucial in establishing Sirhan’s state of mind in the aftermath of the assassination. Was he cool, calm, sober and sharp as a tack, as Jordan later told the jury? Or is there evidence he was high on four Tom Collins cocktails and in a dissociated state, unaware of what he had just done?

Track 4: A brief chat between “John Doe” and Deputy D.A. John Howard at 2.05 a.m. The prisoner wishes to remain incommunicado.

Track 5: Following her NBC interview with Sander Vanocur on national TV, Sandra Serrano is interviewed by LAPD about the girl in the polka-dot dress she saw fleeing the scene, exclaiming “We shot him, we shot Kennedy”. Serrano would later recognise Sirhan as one of two men she saw walking up a fire escape with the girl and entering the hotel twenty minutes before the shooting.

Track 6: We hear excerpts from Sirhan’s conversations in the Central Jail between 3.15 and 5.35 a.m. with Officer Frank Foster, Sergeant Jordan, John Howard and his chief investigator George Murphy and Sergeant Melendres. See transcript below.