LOS ANGELES (Apr. 23)
Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, the Palestinian-born immigrant who killed Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, admittedly because he considered the Senator pro-Israel, heard a jury decree today that he is to die in the gas chamber for the murder. His attorney immediately made an appeal for a hearing on a new trial and Superior Court Judge Herbert V. Walker set a May 14 date for the new hearing.
Appeals to higher courts will stay indefinitely the execution of the 23-year-old slayer. Under California law, the same jury which found Sirhan guilty of first degree murder in the June 5, 1968 killing had the responsibility of determining whether he should receive a life sentence or the death penalty. The jury rejected in both judgments the testimony of many psychologists and psychiatrists who contended that the defendant was a paranoic schizophrenic incapable of deliberate premeditation in the slaying of the Senator, who was then seeking the Democratic nomination for President in a California primary. Sirhan, who frequently displayed excitable behavior, was particularly irked at one stage of the trial in which material from a notebook of his was read into the record. It said that he had been infuriated by Sen. Kennedy’s support of a proposed sale by the United States to Israel of 50 Phantom jet fighter-bombers.