‘We adamantly oppose the parole and release of Sirhan Sirhan and are shocked by a ruling that we believe ignores the standards for parole of a confessed, first-degree murderer in the state of California,’ says six of Robert F. Kennedy’s children.
Sirhan Bushara Sirhan, 77, was convicted in 1969 of murdering the former US Attorney General in Los Angeles. Kennedy’s death in 1968 left behind his wife Ethel Kennedy, now 93, and his ten children.
Six of his children have condemned the decision to grant parole to Sirhan; Kerry Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy, Maxwell T. Kennedy and Rory Kennedy. In response to the decision in Los Angeles County, they issued a statement expressing their fury at the decision.
The decision to grant Sirhan parole is largely based on laws passed in 2018, which enable the board to take into account that he suffered childhood trauma growing up as a Palestinian in Jerusalem, as well as his age.
The statement read, “As children of Robert F. Kennedy, we are devastated that the man who murdered our father has been recommended for parole.”
“Our father’s death is a very difficult matter for us to discuss publicly and for the past many decades we have declined to engage directly in the parole process,” it continued.
“We adamantly oppose the parole and release of Sirhan Sirhan and are shocked by a ruling that we believe ignores the standards for parole of a confessed, first-degree murderer in the state of California.”
The statement appealed to California’s governor Gavin Newsom to “reverse the initial recommendation.”
The ruling faces a review over 120 days, and is then submitted to Mr Newsom, who will have 30 days to decide to either grant, reserve or amend the ruling. If Sirhan is let out of prison, he will be required to reside in a transitional home for half a year and engage in self-improvement programmes, such as therapy.
In the parole hearing, Sirhan, via video link from prison in San Diego, praised Robert F. Kennedy for his contribution to the world, saying, “I harmed all of them and it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed, if I did in fact do that.”
The California Parole Board said that Sirhan no longer posed a danger, citing his personal development through anger management courses and consistent participation in Alcoholics Anonymous. Sirhan had tried 15 times previously to be granted parole.
“We think you have grown,” commissioner Robert Barton said on 27 August.
Two of his children, Douglas and Robert Jr, have expressed their support for the decision to give Sirhan parole.
“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,” Douglas Kennedy said.
“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,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr said.
Five years prior in 1963, Robert F. Kennedy’s brother President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald.