The man who killed Robert Kennedy was granted parole Friday after two former attorney general, the senator and the presidential candidate’s sons spoke out in favor of his release and prosecutors refused to say he should remain behind bars.
The decision was a major victory for Sirhan Sirhan, 77, although it did not guarantee his release.
The verdict of the two-person panel at Sarhan’s 90-day parole hearing No. 16 will be reviewed by the House of Representatives. California Parole Board. It is then sent to the governor, who will have 30 days to decide whether to grant, reverse or amend it.
Douglas Kennedy, little boy When his father was killed in 1968He said he was moved to tears by Sarhan’s remorse and said he should be released if he did not pose a threat to others.
“It overwhelmed my ability to see Mr. Sarhan face to face,” he said. “I think I have lived my life in fear of him and his name in one way or another. I am grateful today to see him as a human being worthy of sympathy and love.”
Robert Kennedy, a New York senator and brother of President John F. Kennedy, was a Democratic presidential candidate when he was murdered on June 6, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, moments after giving a victory speech in a pivotal California primary.
Sarhan, who was convicted of first-degree murder, said he had no recollection of the killing. His attorney, Angela Berry, argued that the board should base its decision on who Sarhan is today.
Prosecutors declined to participate or oppose his release, under a policy of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, a former police officer who took office last year. Gascon, who said he worshiped the Kennedys and mourned the RFK assassination, believes that prosecutors’ role ends when sentencing and should not influence decisions to release prisoners.
As Douglas Kennedy spoke, Sarhan, in his blue prison uniform and a paper towel folded like a handkerchief and handkerchief in his pocket, smiled while Kennedy spoke. Sarhan said he has learned to control his anger and is committed to living in peace.
“I will never put myself in danger again,” he said. “You have my covenant. I will always seek safety, peace, and nonviolence.”
Parole Board Commissioner Robert Barton said at the beginning of the lawsuit that actually took place that some members of the Kennedy family, law enforcement officers in Los Angeles and the public submitted letters opposing Sarhan’s release.
“We don’t have DA here but I have to think about all aspects,” Barton said.
Sarhan, a Palestinian Christian from Jordan, served 53 years. He admitted that he was angry with Kennedy for his support of Israel. When Sarhan was asked how he feels about the conflict in the Middle East today, he collapsed in tears and was temporarily unable to speak.
“Take a few deep breaths,” Barton said, noting that the struggle was not over and still nerve-wracking.
Sarhan said he does not follow what is happening in the area, but thinks about the suffering of the refugees.
“The misery these people are experiencing,” Sarhan said.
If released, Sarhan could be deported to Jordan. Barton said he was concerned he might become “a symbol or a thunderbolt to provoke more violence”.
Sarhan said he was too old to be involved in the Middle East conflict and would distance himself from it.
“The same argument can be said or put forward that I can be a peacemaker, and a contributor to an amicable, non-violent way of resolving the issue,” Sarhan said.
Paul Schrad, who was wounded in the shooting, also spoke out in favor of his release. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has spoken in favor of Sarhan’s release in the past, has written in favor of parole.
Sirhan was sentenced to death but that sentence was commuted to life when the California Supreme Court briefly banned the death penalty in 1972. At his last parole hearing in 2016, commissioners concluded after more than three hours of intense testimony that Sirhan had been sentenced to death. He did not show proper reprimand or understand the severity of his crime.
Sarhan stuck to his account that he did not remember the murder.