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Robert F. Kennedy died forty-seven years ago. The key dates can be a little hard to track:

  • Tuesday, June 4, 1968: California presidential primary. Bobby Kennedy defeats Eugene McCarthy, 46% to 42%.
  • Wednesday, June 5, a few minutes after midnight following the primary election: Bobby Kennedy shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
  • Thursday, June 6: Kennedy dies twenty-six hours after he his shot.

Suppose I had said, for the June 5 entry above, that Sirhan Sirhan shot Robert Kennedy. How many people would have thought, “Of course,” and how many would have asked, “How do you know that?” The bullet that killed Kennedy entered his head behind his right ear. The weapon that fired the bullet was close to his head. Sirhan Sirhan stood in front of Kennedy and pointed his weapon at Kennedy’s mid-section.

I wonder why more people did not ask at the time: If Sirhan shot Kennedy at point blank range from the front, and Kennedy died from a bullet wound to the head, why do we not see the wound in the well-known picture of Kennedy lying on the floor after he is shot? The elements that comprise the front page report – photograph, headlines, and text – contradict each other.

The autopsy and ballistics investigation that followed Kennedy’s assassination in 1968 were both of far higher quality than the Warren Commission’s investigation into Jack Kennedy’s death four years earlier. Nevertheless, high quality evidence collected in Bobby Kennedy’s case did not affect the prosecution’s ability to convict Sirhan Sirhan as the sole shooter in the Ambassador Hotel. A great deal of evidence indicates Sirhan was not the sole shooter.

So if you think Sirhan Sirhan walked up to Robert Kennedy in the Ambassador Hotel pantry and shot him in the head, think again. The two men faced each other. The bullet that killed Bobby Kennedy entered from the back of his head. The truth is usually more complicated than the reports you read in the newspaper. In Robert Kennedy’s case, it is a lot more complicated.

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