At a a parole hearing in San Diego on Wednesday, a parole board denied the parole of Sirhan Sirhan, for the 1968 murder of New York Senator Robert Kennedy. The now 78-year-old Sirhan has been in prison for 54 years. This parole denial marks the 16th time that Sirhan has been denied release.
On June 5, 1968, Sirhan, then a 24-year-old Palestinian refugee, shot and killed New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles as Kennedy was being escorted out following his victory in the California Presidential Democratic Primary. Before being subdued, an additional 5 people were hit by gunfire but survived.
Since being incarcerated, Sirhan has gone through 16 parole board hearings in the past several decades. In recent years, support for Sirhan’s parole has grown as two of RFK’s children, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Douglas Kennedy, approve of his release, with Kennedy Jr. even recently stating that he thinks Sirhan is innocent and that a second gunman was involved.
In August 2021, Sirhan was recommended for for release by a California parole board, citing the support of Kennedy’s sons, Sirhan’s advanced age, Sirhan being considered a youth offender at 24-years-old, his troubled childhood, and the panel’s belief that he would not offend again. However, in January of 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom denied parole, writing in a Los Angeles Times op-ed article that “California’s Board of Parole Hearings recently found that Sirhan is suitable for parole. I disagree. 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. I must reverse Sirhan’s parole grant.
“Kennedy’s assassination not only changed the course of this nation and robbed the world of a promising young leader, it also left his 11 children without a father and his wife without a husband. Kennedy’s family bears his loss every day. Millions of Americans lost a unifier in a time of national turmoil and grief, just nine weeks after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and four-and-a-half years after the murder of Kennedy’s brother, President John F. Kennedy.
“Yet, after decades in prison, Sirhan still lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the kind of dangerous and destructive decisions he made in the past. The most glaring proof of Sirhan’s deficient insight is his shifting narrative about his assassination of Kennedy, and his current refusal to accept responsibility for it.”
Despite the denial, Sirhan and his lawyers tried again later in 2022, with Sirhan even speaking publicly for the first time since 2011, trying to convince the parole board that he is now a changed man.
“To transform this weight into something positive, I have dedicated my life to self-improvement, the mentoring of others in prison on how to live a peaceful life that revolves around nonviolence,” said Sirhan in September. “By doing this, I ensure that no other person is victimized by my actions again and hopefully make an impact on others to follow.”
Sirhan denied parole for 16th time
Despite the pleas from Sirhan and his lawyers, they ultimately failed to convince the board on Wednesday. The California’s Board of Parole Hearings did not give the reasons for the decision on Wednesday, but noting that the hearing’s transcript will be publicly available in a few weeks. They also noted that their denial for parole will last for three years, meaning that Sirhan will not be eligible again until 2026 when he will be 81 years old.
Sirhan’s straight denial of parole before even reaching the Governor did not come as a surprise to many, as Sirhan’s notoriety and outrage over his actions 50 years ago have persisted to this day.
“What Sirhan did all those years ago is still fresh in the minds of people who remember it, and horrify those who were born after it. Even millennials and Gen Zers are shook by it,” said April Morgan, who coordinates assistance for the families of murder victims, to the Globe on Wednesday. “Whenever there is a high-profile prisoner trying to get parole, victims and the families of victims always come out, because it destroys a lot of arguments for them to be released early, as it still clearly affects a lot of people, even if some family members support the murderer, like in the Sirhan case.”
“The parole denial really isn’t a surprise. It was granted once, but was quickly brought down by the Governor. Too many people are still affected by this.”
Sirhan will next be up for parole in 2026.
- WGA, AMPTP Reach Tentative Agreement To End 146 Day Long Strike - September 25, 2023
- Elon Musk Calls For The Firing Of SF Supervisor Dean Preston - September 23, 2023
- Ins. Commissioner Lara, Gov. Newsom Announce Sweeping New State Insurance Plan - September 22, 2023