Six of Robert F. Kennedy’s children are speaking out against the release of Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated their father in 1968, despite two of their brothers supporting his parole hours earlier.
Sirhan Sirhan was granted parole on Friday with the support of Douglas Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
However, siblings Kerry Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy, Maxwell T. Kennedy and Rory Kennedy issued a statement slamming the decision and calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to reverse it.
“As children of Robert F. Kennedy, we are devastated that the man who murdered our father has been recommended for parole,” the statement began. “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.”
“Given today’s unexpected recommendation by the California parole board after 15 previous decisions to deny release, we feel compelled to make our position clear. 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,” they continued. “Our father’s death impacted our family in ways that can never adequately be articulated and today’s decision by a two-member parole board has inflicted enormous additional pain.”
As the statement continued, the siblings (six of RFK’s total 11 children) wrote that they are “in disbelief that this man would be recommended for release.”
“We urge the Parole Board staff, the full Board, and ultimately, Governor Newsom, to reverse this initial recommendation. It is a recommendation we intended to challenge every step of the way, and we hope that those who also hold the memory of our father in their hearts will stand with us,” the statement concluded.
The California Parole Board now has 90 days to review the ruling before it is passed on to Gov. Newsom for consideration.
During the parole hearing, Douglas, who was a toddler at the time of his father’s murder said he was “overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face-to-face.”
“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,” he added.
The New York senator (and brother of President John F. Kennedy) was a Democratic presidential candidate when he was gunned down on June 6, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, moments after delivering a speech to his supporters after his pivotal victory in the California primary. Five other people at the event were also shot, but all five recovered.
Sirhan, who was convicted of first-degree murder, has said he doesn’t remember the killing. His lawyer, Angela Berry, argued that the board should base its decision on who Sirhan is today.
“I would never put myself in jeopardy again,” Sirhan said at one point during the parole hearing. “You have my pledge. I will always look to safety and peace and non-violence.”
Prosecutors did not attend the parole hearing or argue against Sirhan’s release under a new policy from Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.