Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, was granted parole on Friday after two of the former U.S. senator’s sons spoke in favor of his release and prosecutors declined to argue that he should remain behind bars.
The two-person ruling comes after 16 parole hearings for the 77-year-old prisoner. Although his release is not a sure thing, the decision marks a major victory for Sirhan.
Next, the ruling will be reviewed within the next 90 days by the California Parole Board’s staff before being sent to the governor, who will then have 30 days to decide whether to grant it, reverse it or modify it.
Douglas Kennedy, who was a toddler when his father was murdered in 1968, said he was moved to tears by Sirhan’s remorse and that he should be released if he’s not a threat to others.
“I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face,” he said. “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.”
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 victory in the pivotal 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.
Prosecutors declined to participate or oppose his release.
Although not nearly as saturated in pop culture as his brother’s assassination, RFK’s murder was fictionalized in the 2002 FX movie “RFK” and in 2006’s “Bobby.”