Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, seen in this 2009 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation photograph released to Reuters on March 2, 2011. — Reuters pic
LOS ANGELES, Jan 14 – California Governor Gavin Newsom said yesterday he has denied parole to Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian refugee serving a life sentence for assassinating US presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.
Newsom made the announcement after a California review board in August recommended Sirhan be released from prison, subject to review by the board’s legal staff and by the governor himself. He had previously been denied parole 15 times.
Outlining his decision in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Newsom said he disagreed with the Board of Parole Hearings finding that Sirhan, 77, was suitable for parole.
“After carefully reviewing the case, including records in the California State Archives, I have determined that Sirhan has not developed the accountability and insight required to support his safe release into the community,” Newsom wrote.
Sirhan’s lawyer, Angela Berry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She has previously said that Sirhan has never been accused of a serious prison violation and that prison officials have deemed him a low risk.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach Kennedy family members for comment on Newsom’s decision.
Sirhan was convicted of gunning down Kennedy, 42, in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968.
The shooting occurred minutes after the US senator and former US attorney general gave his victory speech after winning the California Democratic primary. Kennedy died the next day. Kennedy’s older brother President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.
Sirhan has said he had no recollection of the killing of Robert Kennedy, although he has also said he fired at Kennedy because he was enraged by his support for Israel.
After the parole board issued its recommendation, Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, 93, voiced her opposition to Sirhan’s release, saying “our family and our country suffered an unspeakable loss due to the inhumanity of one man”.
Ethel Kennedy sided with six of her nine surviving children in publicly objecting to letting Sirhan go free. They were reported by the Los Angeles Times to be at odds with two other siblings.
Newsom pointed to what he called Sirhan’s “shifting narrative” over the killing and his refusal to take responsibility for it as proof he was ineligible for release.
Sirhan was sentenced to death in 1969, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison after California banned the death penalty. – Reuters