California governor considers RFK killer Sirhan Sirhan


SACRAMENTO, California (AP) – The governor of California must decide soon whether to release one of the most famous assassins in the United States, a decision that he says evokes one of the darkest periods in the country’s history.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has until next month to allow or block the parole recommendation for Robert F. Kennedy’s killer Sirhan Sirhan.

The recommendation of a group of two-year probation commissioners in August divided the iconic Kennedy family more than half a century after the 1968 assassination of the U.S. senator from New York, moments after he claimed victory in California’s Democratic presidential primary.

In addition, he plucked decades-old wounds from the assassinations of RFK and his brother, President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963.

“This is very raw and emotional for people,” said Newsom, who keeps photos of RFK both in its official offices and at home, including one of Kennedy with his late father.

“People not only give an opinion on whether or not, but they express their memories of that time … and connecting the dots with the ’60s and the stress, the anxiety and the wounds,” Newsom said. after the panel made its recommendation.

“And in a way that makes that decision even more powerful, because of the impact it has on opening those memories, a lot of memories that people want to suppress, understandably,” the Democratic governor said. who called RFK his “political hero.” “in a victory speech after refuting the revocation elections in September.

Fifteen times, parole panels rejected the release of Sirhan, now 77, before deciding it was no longer a danger to public safety.

New laws since his last pre-trial parole hearing in 2016 forced the court to consider Sirhan committing the crime at a young age, when he was 24; he is now a great prisoner; and that the Palestinian Christian who emigrated from Jordan had suffered child trauma from the conflict in the Middle East.

In addition, for the first time, Los Angeles County prosecutors did not attend the parole hearing to oppose, according to District Attorney George Gascon’s policy that prosecutors should not be involved in deciding whether the prisoners are ready to be released.

And two of RFK’s sons backed his release, including Douglas Kennedy, who told the parole board that Sirhan was “worthy of compassion and love.” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. he wrote on the instant panel that Sirhan was released, citing his “impressive rehabilitation history.”

But six of Kennedy’s nine surviving children urged Newsom to block the release of a man who “took our father from our family and he took him out of America.” The statement was signed by Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy, Maxwell T. Kennedy and Rory Kennedy.

RFK’s wife Ethel Kennedy said Sirhan “shouldn’t have a chance to terrorize again.”

Sirhan has consistently said he does not remember shooting Kennedy and injuring five others at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. But he told parole officers he was taking responsibility for killing a man he called “the hope of the world.”

He was initially sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to life in prison when the California Supreme Court briefly banned the death penalty in 1972.

Sirhan’s lawyer, Angela Berry, said in a written argument for her release that she suffers from heart disease and has survived prostate cancer, valley fever and another prisoner cut her throat on 2019.

If released, Munir Sirhan says his older brother can live with him if he is not deported to Jordan. Sirhan Sirhan relinquished his right to fight deportation.

“We are just two big brothers who want to live together for the rest of our lives,” he wrote to the parole board.

Following the parole panel’s decision, correctional officials released 101 pages of these documents and letters from across the country, all but one supporting Sirhan’s release.

Some compared him to a political prisoner or advanced various conspiracy theories surrounding Sirhan’s involvement or the assassinations of the two Kennedy brothers. Many were clearly part of an organized effort, with similar wording or answers to fill in the gaps.

Others were more personal.

One man recalled how, as a 19-year-old college student, he traveled by bus to a downtown neighborhood to get Robert Kennedy to vote.

“He was a person whom he loved and respected and in whom he had a deep confidence that he would quickly put an end to that unjust and immoral war in Vietnam,” wrote the man, whose contact information was removed.

Instead, the man was recruited in 1971.

“Sirhan’s involvement in the assassination of RFK changed my life,” he wrote. “But looking at life from that extreme, I forgive him.”

The lone writer who opposed Sirhan’s release said in a handwritten note that he still remembers details of the “horrible ten” murder half a century later.

“Sirhan has caused the death of a man with a great political future,” he wrote, “and with that he has brought out the innocence of the people of my generation.”