California’s parole board voted Friday to grant parole to Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin with the support of two of the former U.S. Attorney General’s sons.
Kennedy served as a U.S. senator for Massachusetts and as the U.S. Attorney General under the administration of his older brother, John F. Kennedy, in the early 1960s, The Associated Press (AP) reported. During RFK’s presidential candidacy, Sirhan Sirhan gunned him down at the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel on June 6, 1968, moments after finishing his California primary election victory speech.
Over a half-a-century after their father’s assassination, Douglas and Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. persuaded the panel to grant Sirhan parol, arguing Sirhan’s release would reflect RFK’s “commitment to fairness and justice,” the outlet reported. (RELATED: Robert F. Kennedy’s Last Words Revealed 50 Years After His Assassination)
“I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face,” Douglas said. “I’ve lived my life both in fear of him and his name in one way or another. And I’m grateful today to see him as a human being worthy of compassion and love.”
“While nobody can speak definitively on behalf of my father, I firmly believe that based on his own consuming commitment to fairness and justice, that he would strongly encourage this board to release Mr. Sirhan because of Sirhan’s impressive record of rehabilitation,” RFK Jr. wrote in a letter to the panel.
SAN DIEGO (@AP) — Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin granted parole by California board after 2 of RFK’s sons say they support his release.
— Stefanie Dazio (@steffdaz) August 27, 2021
The question of parole received widespread opposition from the Los Angeles Police Department and members of the public, Parole Board Commissioner Robert Barton told the AP. His attorney, Angela Berry, argued that the decision should be judged based on the person he is today, rather than by his actions in the late 1960s.
Sirhan reportedly smiled, thanked the board and gave a thumbs-up after the panel approved his 16th request for parole, the outlet reported. The board’s staff will review the decision over the next 90 days and will then transfer the paperwork to Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will have 30 days to approve, disapprove, or modify the board’s approval, according to the AP.
If the governor approves the request, Sirhan will spend six months in a transitional home where he will be required to enroll in an alcohol abuse program and receive therapy, the outlet reported. In his last hearing in 2016, the panel decided that Sirhan did not appear to be remorseful and showed a lack of understanding of the severity of his crime.
The convicted criminal, a Palestinian Christian, could face deportation to Jordan if he is granted release, the AP reported.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, who has expressed his affection for RFK, said the prosecutors’ role in a trial should end after the defendant’s sentencing and should have no influence on issues regarding the release of prisoners, according to the AP. Therefore, prosecutors did not participate in the parole hearing.
Sirhan said in a 2011 hearing that he does not remember shooting Kennedy but can recollect being there. At his 1969 trial, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. However, his death sentence was overturned due to the California Supreme Court’s decision to temporarily outlaw capital punishment in 1972, according to the outlet.
He had formerly admitted to being angry with Kennedy over his support for Israel, according to the outlet.