Children of RFK divided over ruling on assassin's parole
© Keystone/Getty Images

The children of former presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy are divided over a two-person panel's ruling on Friday that voted in favor of granting their father’s assassin parole.

Six of Kennedy's children have condemned the panels decision, while two others expressed a more positive reaction to the announcement. 

Sirhan Sirhan, who fatally shot Kennedy after he made a speech following an important Democratic presidential primary win in California in 1968, has been behind bars for 53 years and has made numerous attempts at trying to gain parole.

ADVERTISEMENT

The ruling on Friday does not guarantee yet that Sirhan will be released from prison, but it has already received opposition from several of Kennedy’s children.

In a statement issued late Friday night, the Kennedy children — Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy, Maxwell T. Kennedy and Rory Kennedy — denounced the decision, saying they were surprised by the ruling and vowed to fight against it.

“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,” the children wrote in a statement.

“We urge the Parole Board staff, the full Board, and ultimately, Governor Newsom, to reverse this initial recommendation. It is a recommendation we intend 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,” they added.

The statement comes as two other Kennedy children, Douglas Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have signaled that they are in favor of Sirhan receiving parole.

“I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face,” Douglas Kennedy said to the two-person panel ahead of the ruling, according to The Associated Press. “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.”

In a letter to the board, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said, had his father been alive today, he would have also wanted Sirhan to have received parole, too.

“While nobody can speak definitively on behalf of my father, I firmly believe that based on his own consuming commitment to fairness and justice, that he would strongly encourage this board to release Mr. Sirhan because of Sirhan’s impressive record of rehabilitation,” the son wrote, according to the wire service.

Commissioner Robert Barton said on Friday that Sirhan had made steps toward improving himself and had shown that he was a different person from the last time he tried to seek parole in 2016, the AP reported.

However, the ruling still includes a few procedural steps before Sirhan can be granted parole. Over the next 120 days, the entire parole board must review the ruling before it next heads to Newsom where he can either decide to grant the ruling, change it or amend it, according to The Washington Post.