A two-person panel of the California Parole Board on Friday granted parole to Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted assassin of US Sen Robert F Kennedy.
Two of Kennedy’s sons spoke in favor of the 77-year-old Sirhan’s release — environmental lawyer and anti-vaccine advocate Robert F Kennedy Jr and journalist Douglas Harriman Kennedy, the senator’s youngest son who was a toddler at the time of the 1968 assassination — according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The decision does not assure Sirhan’s release. The Parole Board’s staff now has 90 days to review the decision before sending it to the California governor, as CrimeOnline previously reported. The governor will have 30 days to approve, deny, or change it.
Sirhan has served 53 years for the murder of the New York senator — and brother of President John F Kennedy — who was running for the Democratic nomination for president in 1968 when he was shot down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California primary. He was 42.
Douglas Kennedy, 54, was present for the virtual hearing and told the board he was moved to tears by the remorse he saw from Sirhan.
“I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face,” he said. “I think I’ve lived my life both in fear of him and his name in one way or another. And I am grateful today to see him as a human being worthy of compassion and love.”
Kennedy Jr, who has previously spoken in favor of Sirhan’s release, did not attend the hearing but sent a letter supporting parole. Paul Schrade, the now-93-year-old former union leader who advised Kennedy and was shot in the head in the shooting, also spoke in favor of Sirhan’s release.
For his part, Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian from Jordan who has said he was angry with Kennedy for his support of Israel, told the parole board the situation in the Middle East pains him but he is too old to participate and has learned to control his anger.
“I would never put myself in jeopardy again,” he said. “You have my pledge. I will always look to safety and peace and non-violence.”
Parole Board Commissioner Robert Barton noted at the start of the hearing that other Kennedy family members, Los Angeles law enforcement officers, and some members of the public had sent letters opposing Sirhan’s release. No prosecutor, however, appeared to argue against parole. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, a former police officer, declined to appear, saying that he believes the prosecutor’s job is done when the trial is done.
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[Featured image: Left: Sirhan Sirhan/California Department of Corrections and Robert F Kennedy on May 9, 1968/AP Photo]