Headline: RFK-Sirhan

Wire Service: APn (AP US & World)

Date: Son, 4. Mai 1997 Copyright 1997 The Associated Press.

By SCOTT LINDLAW

Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A lawyer claimed on Saturday that police and prosecutors altered and destroyed evidence to convict Sirhan Sirhan of the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

In a petition filed Thursday in the state Court of Appeals, lawyer Lawrence Teeter argued that evidence relating to bullets and a gun used in the 1968 assassination make it unlikely Sirhan acted alone.

Teeter said he has uncovered evidence that undermines the credibility of the investigation and prosecution of Sirhan, 53, who is serving a life term at Corcoran State Prison.

Asked Saturday why he filed the petition nearly 30 years after Kennedy's death, Teeter responded, "Because somebody is in prison still."

"We are pulling together (evidence) as part of a general analysis we think convincingly proves a concerted cover-up by the police department and prosecution in this case," he said.

If granted by the court, the petition would allow Sirhan to challenge the legality of his imprisonment. Teeter is also seeking an evidence hearing.

An LAPD spokesman, Eduardo Funes, declined comment and county prosecutors did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Among the claims in Teeter's petition:

-- A Los Angeles police photo of the murder weapon depicts a different gun than that introduced at trial and now in storage.

-- The bullet removed from Kennedy's neck during an autopsy was marked "TN31" by the coroner. But the bullet introduced at trial was marked "DW" and "TN" when scrutinized by a court-appointed examiner in 1975.

-- A bullet fragment removed from Kennedy's brain is missing.

-- A police officer, David Butler, told a journalist he saw his superiors remove two bullets from a door beam. Teeter said authorities believe eight bullets were fired, but the ones Butler saw removed made a total of 10.

The FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department have concluded the murder at the Ambassador Hotel was the work of one man. Witnesses saw Sirhan fire the first shot. In the melee that followed, he continued to fire while several people grabbed him.

Three shots hit Kennedy, including the fatal wound behind his right ear.

But conspiracy theorists point to incomplete police files and suggest that a second gunman fired at Kennedy from behind, while Sirhan stood in front of him. They cite witnesses who claimed that Sirhan was seen with an unidentified young woman in a polka dot dress shortly before the shooting.

A Los Angeles County grand jury declined to open a new investigation in 1992 when activists, including Kennedy's former press secretary and "JFK" film director Oliver Stone, raised similar doubts.