Story at a glance
- Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, was granted parole on Friday.
- Six of Kennedy’s nine surviving children are opposing his release, while two support it.
- Sirhan, now 77, has been incarcerated for 53 years.
The children of deceased New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D) are split over the news that the man who assassinated their father has been granted parole.
The late senator and his wife, Ethel, had 11 children together, though only nine are living.
“As children of Robert F. Kennedy, we are devastated that the man who murdered our father has been recommended for parole. 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,” six of Kennedy’s nine surviving children — Kerry Kennedy, Rory Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy and Maxwell T. Kennedy — said in a statement.
“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,” the statement continues. “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.”
However, two of the three other surviving children — Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Douglas Kennedy — have publicly supported Sirhan’s release.
Douglas Kennedy addressed the board, The Associated Press reported, saying, “I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face. 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.”
Kennedy, Jr. wrote a letter to the parole board in support of Sirhan’s release, in part stating, “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.”
On June 5, 1968, Kennedy had just finished delivering a victory speech after winning California’s Democratic primary at the Ambassador Hotel when 24-year-old Sirhan shot Kennedy and five other people. While the other five survived, Kennedy died from his injuries about 26 hours later.
Sirhan, now 77, was granted parole on Friday at his 16th parole hearing during his 53 years of incarceration, after the parole board deemed Sirhan to no longer be a threat to society.
“Over half a century has passed and that young, impulsive kid I was does not exist anymore,” Sirhan told the board, adding, “Senator Kennedy was the hope of the world and ... I harmed all of them, and it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed.”
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