The Fight to Release RFK Autopsy Photos from the National Archives to the Public
On June 5th, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy, the then Senator and Presidential candidate, was assassinated in Los Angeles, California. Kennedy, known for his progressive policies and desire for equality, was a hopeful beacon for many Americans. The assassination of such a prominent figure was not only a shock to the nation but an event that still holds controversy today.
In the years following the assassination, controversy has surrounded the case, with many conspiracies and unanswered questions arising. One lingering question that many have is the demand for the release of RFK’s autopsy photos. Currently, these photos are kept in the National Archives, categorized as confidential and not available to the public. However, there is an ongoing fight for the release of RFK’s autopsy photos, and many individuals and groups are advocating for their release.
One of the most notable individuals advocating for the release of RFK’s autopsy photos is Paul Schrade, a former aide to the Senator, who was also injured in the attack. Schrade has been fighting for the release of these photos for years, believing that they could reveal new evidence that will allow the public to view the assassination in a different light. In 2018, Schrade filed a federal lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department, accusing them of destroying evidence, manipulation and cover-up.
The fight for the release of these photos is not just about conspiracy theories, but it’s about transparency and trust in the government. Kennedy was a highly influential public figure, and the circumstances surrounding his death were highly suspicious. The official report determined that a lone gunman, Sirhan Sirhan, killed Kennedy, but many still question the statement, noting there was a security guard behind Kennedy who shot Kennedy, rather than Sirhan Sirhan. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that the assassination was part of a larger conspiracy.
The demand for the release of RFK’s autopsy photos was reignited in September 2020, after Netflix released a new documentary called “Bobby Kennedy for President,” which uses previously unseen footage to create a powerful narrative. The documentary features Paul Schrade and outlines his quest to find the truth surrounding RFK’s death. This documentary has once again drawn public attention to the fight to release the photos.
In addition to Schrade’s fight for the release of the photos, several organizations also advocate for their release. One of these groups is the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), an organization that is dedicated to the investigation of assassinations of public figures. The AARC has been at the forefront of the fight to release the photos, expressing that it would be a significant step towards transparency in the investigation of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
The National Archives, however, remains firm in their stance that the photos must remain confidential, citing that privacy concerns and the protection of investigation protocols are vital aspects of their decision. The Archives argue that releasing the photos would violate the privacy rights of Kennedy’s family and Sirhan’s family, as well as the medical examiners involved in the investigation.
In response to the National Archives’ stance, Schrade and the AARC have filed several lawsuits, including one in 2019 that cites the 100 years limitation on the disclosure of confidential records, claiming that the disclosure of the records does not qualify for the exemption.
Furthermore, Schrade filed a lawsuit in the State of California in 2017, seeking the release of records related to the assassination, including transcripts of witness interviews, documents, and autopsy photographs. Although the case was initially unsuccessful in the lower courts, it was finally heard by the California Court of Appeal.
The three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal heard oral arguments in May, and their decision is still pending. If the Court of Appeals grants Schrade’s request, it would set a significant precedent for those advocating for transparency in government.
In conclusion, the fight for the release of RFK’s autopsy photos is not just about conspiracy theories or satisfying public curiosity. It’s about transparency, trust, and the right to access information. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy was a pivotal moment in American history, and it’s essential that all the evidence related to the case be made available to the public. Releasing the photos may provide insight into the circumstances surrounding RFK’s death, bringing closure to his family and supporters. It remains to be seen how the fight for the autopsy photos will end, but one thing is for sure, the fight for transparency will continue.