Sacramento, Calif. (AP) — California’s governor on Thursday refused to release Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin Sirhan Sirhan from prison more than half a century after the 1968 assassination, saying the governor called America’s “most notorious one of the crimes”.
Governor Gavin Newsom, who has cited RFK as his political hero, rejected a recommendation from a two-person panel of parole commissioners. Newsom said Sirhan was an unreasonable threat to public safety.
“The Sirhan assassination of Mr. Senator Kennedy is one of the most infamous crimes in American history,” Newsom wrote in his ruling. “After decades in prison, he has failed to address the shortcomings that led him to be a senator. Kennedy had to be assassinated. Mr. Sirhan lacks the insight that prevents him from making the same dangerous decisions he has made in the past. ,
He included factors in his decision, including Sirhan’s refusal to accept responsibility for his crime, his lack of insight and the accountability needed to support his safe release, his refusal to commit violence in his name. failure and their failure to reduce their risk factors.
“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,” Newsom continued with his decision. Said in one opinion.
“Kennedy’s family mourns his loss every day,” Newsom wrote. “Nine weeks after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and four and a half years after the assassination of Kennedy’s brother, President, millions of Americans lost a unification in a time of national upheaval and mourning. John F. Kennedy.”
US Senator Robert Kennedy of New York was shot moments after claiming victory in California’s key Democratic presidential primary. Five others were injured during the murder at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
Even at age 77, Newsom said Sirhan “remains a powerful icon of political violence,” noting that terrorists have killed in his name.
Sirhan will be scheduled for a new parole hearing after February 2023.
His defense attorney, Angela Berry, said Sirhan would ask a judge to overturn Newsom’s denial.
“We sincerely hope that a judicial review of the governor’s decision will show that the governor has done it wrong,” she said.
State law states that prisoners must be placed on parole unless they pose an existing unreasonable public safety risk, he said, to suggest that Mr. Sirhan is still a threat to society. An iota of evidence does not exist.”
She said the parole process had become politicized and Newsom had “decided to eliminate her own experts”. [on the parole board], ignoring the law.”
The parole commissioners found Sirhan suitable for release “because of his impressively extensive record of rehabilitation over the last half-century,” she said. “Since the mid-1980s Mr Sirhan has been consistently found by prison psychologists and psychiatrists to not take an unreasonable risk of danger to the public.”
During the parole hearing, the white-haired Sirhan called Kennedy “the hope of the world.” But he refused to take full responsibility for the shooting, saying he did not remember as he was drunk.
Sirhan said, “It pains me … knowledge for such a terrible deed, if I really did.”
A parole panel’s recommendation in August to release Sirhan left the esteemed Kennedy family divided, with RFK’s two sons – Douglas Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – supporting his release. But six of Kennedy’s nine surviving children and RFK’s wife, Ethel Kennedy, urged Newsom to block his parole.
The panel’s decision was based on several new California laws since he was denied parole in 2016 – the 15th time he has lost his bid for release.
The commissioners were required to consider that Sirhan had committed his crime at a young age of 24; that he is now old; And that Christian Palestinians who immigrated from Jordan had childhood trauma from conflict in the Middle East.
In addition, Los Angeles County prosecutors did not object to his parole, following District Attorney George Gascon’s policy that prosecutors should not be involved in deciding whether prisoners are ready for release.
The decision had a personal element for Newsom, a fellow Democrat, who displays RFK photographs in his official and home offices. One of them is that of Kennedy with Newsom’s late father.
Newsom has previously reflected on the seriousness of taking Sirhan’s fate into her own hands, saying it was an emotional issue that echoed back in the turbulent ’60s and reopened memories that many wish to forget.
Sirhan was originally sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to life when the California Supreme Court briefly stayed the death penalty in 1972.
His lawyer, Angela Berry, said he now has a heart condition and has survived prostate cancer, valley fever, and another inmate cut his throat in 2019.
Munir Sirhan has said that his elder brother could live with him if he was freed and not sent to Jordan. Sirhan Sirhan waived his right to fight exile.