Sirhan Sirhan denied parole as Newsom rejects board recommendation

SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom of California on Thursday denied parole to Sirhan B.Sirhan , deviating from the recommendation of a s...


SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom of California on Thursday denied parole to Sirhan B.Sirhan, deviating from the recommendation of a state parole board in August that the man convicted of murdering Robert F. Kennedy be released.

“Mr. Sirhan’s assassination of Senator Kennedy is one of the most notorious crimes in American history,” the governor wrote in his decision, saying he weighed the recommendation but determined that Mr. Sirhan, 77, who has spent more than 50 years in prison, still poses an unreasonable threat to public safety.

“After decades in prison, he has failed to remedy the shortcomings that led to his assassination of Senator Kennedy,” the governor wrote. “Mr. Sirhan lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the same kinds of dangerous decisions he has made in the past.

The announcement, made after nearly five months of deliberations, was widely expected, and Mr Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, and six of his nine surviving children said in a statement that they were grateful and “deeply relieved”. . Mr Newsom, a Democrat, had repeatedly noted that most of the Kennedy heirs opposed Mr Sirhan’s release, as did state parole board members at 15 previous parole hearings.

The governor has also repeatedly expressed his admiration for Mr. Kennedy and noted at a press conference in September that “the first picture – the only picture – you will see in my office is a picture of my father and Bobby Kennedy a few days before Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.

Angela Berry, Mr Sirhan’s lawyer, said in a statement that she planned to challenge the governor’s decision. “Not one iota of evidence exists to suggest that Mr Sirhan is still a danger to society,” she said.

New laws passed after Mr Sirhan’s previous parole hearing in 2016 required the state to take into account his advanced age and relative youth at the time the crime was committed. Mr Sirhan was 24 when he shot Mr Kennedy, a New York senator campaigning for the presidency in 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Mr. Kennedy walked through the hotel pantry shortly after winning the California Democratic primary.

A Jerusalem-born Palestinian who had emigrated to the United States from Jordan, Sirhan almost immediately confessed; he said in a television interview from prison in 1989 that he killed Mr. Kennedy because he felt betrayed by the senator’s campaign offer to send 50 military planes to Israel. Since then, however, he has said he has no recollection of committing the crime.

Consideration of the parole board members’ recommendation was the absence of a prosecutor from the hearing, the first time Mr Sirhan’s parole plea was not challenged by Los Angeles County . George Gascon, his progressive prosecutor, has made it a policy for prosecutors not to attend parole hearings, saying the parole board has all the facts it needs to make an informed decision.

At the hearing, which was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Sirhan said he ‘must have’ brought the gun to the scene but did not remember much of the shooting. His lawyer argued there was no need to keep the aging man in jail, where he was battling heart disease, prostate cancer and an attempt on his life by another inmate in 2019.

Robert Barton, one of two parole commissioners on the panel, noted that Mr Sirhan had improved by taking courses in prison, and two of the senator’s sons urged leniency, diverging from the rest of the family .

A son, Douglas Kennedy, who is a correspondent for Fox News, said he felt ‘compassion’ for Mr Sirhan, and another son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., pointed to his ‘impressive rehabilitation record’ . A leading promoter of vaccine misinformation, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said he believed Mr Sirhan was innocent.

But most members of the Kennedy family insisted Mr Sirhan be kept behind bars. Six of the senator’s nine surviving children signed a statement urging the governor not to release the person who “took our father from our family” and “from America.” Mr Kennedy’s widow, now 93, also urged against parole.

“Our family and our country have suffered an indescribable loss because of the inhumanity of one man,” the family wrote in a statement. “We believe in the gentleness that spared his life, but by taming his act of violence, he should not have the opportunity to terrorize again.”

Nicolas Bogel-Burroughs contributed report.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Sirhan Sirhan denied parole as Newsom rejects board recommendation
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