While he was on Death Row, Sirhan Sirhan memorably wrote his trial attorney Grant Cooper: “Don’t ever forget, you dirty son of a bitch that you cost me my life.” Cooper later testified for Sirhan at his 1982 rescission hearing and put Sirhan’s comments down to his mental state at the time (see transcript of Cooper’s testimony below, from page 104). While I can’t justify Sirhan’s turn of phrase, it’s true that Cooper’s inept defense of Sirhan condemned him to a conviction of first-degree murder and a probable death sentence.
Since his trial, Sirhan has generally been blessed with fine attorneys, all working pro bono to represent his best interests. I developed a new-found respect for Sirhan’s appeal attorney Luke McKissack reading his defense of his client at parole hearings in the eighties and early nineties and had the pleasure to interview Larry Teeter – who represented Sirhan from 1994 until his death in 2005 – for my film RFK Must Die.
William Pepper and Laurie Dusek took over as Sirhan’s attorneys in 2007 and Dr. Dan Brown began his work with Sirhan the following year. In the video above posted today, you can watch William Pepper giving his closing statement to the parole board in 2011 and Pepper and Dusek commenting on Sirhan’s five-year denial, which Dusek calls ‘a travesty of justice’.
After the 2011 hearing, Sirhan’s legal team put tremendous energy into pursuing the habeas corpus petition begun by Teeter in 1997 and you can follow their battle with the state of California in a new collection of court documents posted to the Mary Ferrell Foundation site, with an essay that addresses both the history of the petition and Sirhan’s parole hearings.