The man who killed Robert F Kennedy was paroled Friday after two of the former attorney general’s sons, senator and aspiring president spoke in favor of his release and prosecutors declined to argue that he should remain behind bars.
The decision was a major victory for Sirhan Sirhan, 77, although it did not secure his release.
The two-person panel’s decision at Sirhan’s 16th parole hearing will be reviewed for 90 days by the California parole board. It will then be sent to the governor, who will have 30 days to decide whether to grant, reverse or modify it.
Douglas Kennedy, a boy when his father was assassinated in 1968, said Sirhan’s remorse moved him to tears and said he should be released if he is not a threat to others.
“I am overwhelmed to see Mr. Sirhan face to face,” he said. “I think I’ve lived my life fearing both 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. “
Robert Kennedy, senator from New York and brother of President John F Kennedy, was a Democratic presidential candidate when he was assassinated on June 6, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, moments after delivering a victory speech in the primary of California.
Sirhan, convicted of first degree murder, has said he does not remember the murder. His attorney, Angela Berry, argued that the board should base its decision on who Sirhan is today.
Prosecutors refused to participate or oppose his release, according to a policy from Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, a former police officer who took office last year. Gascón, who said he idolized the Kennedys and lamented the RFK assassination, believes that the role of prosecutors ends with sentencing and that they should not influence decisions to free the prisoners.
As Douglas Kennedy spoke, Sirhan, wearing a blue prison uniform and a paper towel folded like a handkerchief and tucked into his pocket, smiled as Kennedy spoke. Sirhan said that he had learned to control his anger and was committed to living in peace.
“I would never put myself in danger again,” he said. You have my promise. I will always seek security, peace and non-violence ”.
Letters opposing Sirhan’s release were filed by members of the Kennedy family, Los Angeles law enforcement officers and the public, parole board commissioner Robert Barton said at the beginning of the proceeding, which took place. virtually.
“We don’t have a district attorney here, but I have to consider all sides,” Barton said.
Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian from Jordan, has turned 53. He has acknowledged that he was angry at Kennedy for his support of Israel. When asked how he feels about the Middle East conflict today, Sirhan broke down in tears and was temporarily unable to speak.
“Take a few deep breaths,” said Barton, who noted that the conflict had not gone away and still hit a nerve.
Sirhan said he does not follow what is happening in the region, but thinks about the suffering of the refugees.
“The misery that these people live. It’s painful, ”Sirhan said.
If released, Sirhan could be deported to Jordan. Barton said he was concerned it could become a “symbol or lightning rod to encourage more violence.”
Sirhan said he was too old to be involved in the Middle East conflict and would walk away from it.
“The same argument can be made or made that I can be a peacemaker and a contributor to a friendly, non-violent way of solving the problem,” Sirhan said.
Paul Schrade, who was injured in the shooting, also spoke in favor of his release. Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who has spoken out in favor of Sirhan’s release in the past, wrote in favor of parole.
Sirhan was sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to life in prison when the California Supreme Court briefly banned capital punishment in 1972. At their last parole hearing in 2016, commissioners concluded after more than three hours of intense testimony. that Sirhan did not show adequate remorse or understand the enormity of his crime.
Sirhan has stuck to his mind that he does not remember the murder.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism