Aug. 27 (UPI) — Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 as he was running for president, was recommended parole Friday in his 16th hearing before the parole board.
It will be up to California Gov. Gavin Newsom to determine whether to grant parole.
Two of Robert Kennedy’s sons, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Douglas Kennedy, participated in the virtual hearing and voiced support for parole.
“I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face,” Douglas Kennedy said. “I think 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.”
For the first time, no prosecutor was at the parole hearing to oppose Sirhan’s release from prison.
Last year, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon abolished a longstanding policy for prosecutors to appear at parole hearings to argue against releasing inmates.
“The role of a prosecutor and their access to information ends at sentencing,” Alex Bastian, an adviser to Gascon, said in a statement.
“The parole board’s sole purpose is to objectively determine whether someone is suitable for release. If someone is the same person that committed an atrocious crime, that person will correctly not be found suitable for release.”
Most expected that Sirhan would once again be denied parole.
Paul Schrade, who was shot by Sirhan during the assassination, has also voiced support for Sirhan’s release. Schrade believes in a conspiracy theory that alleges a second gunman and argues that Sirhan didn’t shoot Kennedy.
Sirhan was 24 when he shot Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, shortly after Kennedy was announced as the winner of the key California Democratic Primary. He died the following day at the hospital. Had he not been killed, his campaign’s next stop was the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Sirhan, now 77, has repeatedly expressed remorse for killing Kennedy — but still maintains that he doesn’t have any memory of the shooting. After his arrest, authorities found “RFK must die” scrawled over and over in notebooks belonging to Sirhan.
Shihan, who also wounded five other people during the shooting, was initially sentenced to die in California’s gas chamber. The sentence was commuted once California abolished the death penalty, which has allowed him to seek parole at regular intervals.
He was last denied parole five years ago.
“If someone is no longer a threat to public safety after having served more than 50 years in prison, then the parole board may recommend release based on an objective determination,” Bastian added.