A California Board of Parole on Friday, Aug. 27, voted in favor of granting the assassin who killed Robert F. Kennedy parole. He had been serving a life sentence since 1968.
According to Reuters, Sirhan Sirhan, 77, the murderer of the then U.S. presidential candidate, had been denied parole 15 times during his years in prison.
The decision still has a chance of being thwarted by the governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, who would have 30 days to evaluate his opinion. That is conditional on him being re-elected in the September recall election.
The defendant is set for release if the governor does not act on a parole grant. However, if he is released, Sirhan would still have to spend six months in a transitional home, enroll in an alcohol abuse program, receive weekly counseling, and have his mental health checked, according to ABC 10 News.
Douglas Kennedy, who wanted Sirhan to be released, said the man’s regrets had moved him to tears. He was among the two members of the family that wrote in favor of the parole.
“I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face,” he said, according to Newsmax. “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.”
But six other family members, including Joseph P Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher G Kennedy, Maxwell T Kennedy, and Rory Kennedy, condemned the parole.
“He took our father from our family and he took him from America,” they wrote in a statement late on Friday. “We are in disbelief that this man would be recommended for release.”
Douglas Kennedy did not feel the same, however, and wrote to the board, “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,” he said in his letter.
“Senator Kennedy was the hope of the world … and 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,” Sirhan said in a video by the San Diego County prison.
Kennedy was gunned down in June 1968 at the age of 44 by Sirhan, a Palestinian, in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Reuters reported. Sirhan has stated that he shot Kennedy because he was upset by his support for Israel.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Sirhan’s lawyer, Angela Berry, claimed that her client has never been charged with a severe prison offense and is considered low risk by prison authorities.
Sirhan is being held at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego after being convicted of first-degree murder and assault with intent to murder, per Reuters.
The charges would have cost the assassin his life, but after California abolished the death penalty, his sentence was commuted to life in prison.