SAN DIEGO – US Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin was granted parole on Friday after two of RFK’s sons spoke out in favor of Sirhan Sirhan’s release and prosecutors refused to claim he should be kept behind bars.
The decision was a major victory for the 77-year-old prisoner, although it did not secure his release.
The two-person panel’s decision at Sirhan’s 16th parole hearing will be reviewed over the next 90 days by staff at the California Parole Board. Then it will be sent to the governor, who will have 30 days to decide whether to grant, cancel or modify it.
Douglas Kennedy, who was a toddler when his father was shot in 1968, said he was moved to tears by Sirhan’s remorse and should be released if he is not a threat to others.
“I am overwhelmed just being able to see Mr. Sirhan face to face,” he said. “I think I have 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 of love.”
New York Senator and brother of President John F. Kennedy was a Democratic presidential candidate when he was shot on June 6, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after delivering a victory speech during the crucial California primary.
Sirhan, who was convicted of first degree murder, said he did not remember the murder.
His lawyer, Angela Berry, argued that the board should base its decision on who Sirhan is today.
Prosecutors have refused to participate in or oppose his release under a policy of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, a former police officer who took office last year after running for office on a platform for reform.
Gascón, who has said he idolized the Kennedys and mourned the RFK assassination, believes prosecutors ‘role ends with sentencing and that they should not influence prisoners’ release decisions.