Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of shooting Robert F. Kennedy, faces parole after 53 years in prison. On Friday, a California justice commission announced that 77-year-old Sirhan could be given his freedom for the time being.
Neither the commission nor the California State Attorney’s Office objected to Sirhan’s sixteenth request for release. The gunman’s fate now rests in the hands of Democratic Governor of California, Gavin Newsom.
He decides whether Sirhan can actually leave the prison in San Diego. A spokesman for Newsom was unable to comment on the governor’s decision to The New York Times on Friday. According to insiders, Newsom’s decision may take several months.
“More than half a century has passed, and I am no longer the young, impulsive child I used to be,” Sirhan told the Justice Commission. “Kennedy was the hope of the world, and I hurt everyone with this terrible act.”
Some of Kennedy’s relatives attended the hearing via video link, including his son Douglas H. Kennedy, who said he was in favor of Sirhan’s release. “I truly believe that any prisoner who poses no threat to themselves or the world should be released,” Kennedy said, adding that he was “deeply moved” by the shooter’s apology and brought tears to his eyes.
“I am completely stunned to find myself face to face with Mr. Sirhan. I think I’ve been afraid of him and his name all my life. I am grateful to now see him as a person deserving of compassion and love,” Douglas said.
Palestinian immigrant Sirhan shot Robert F. Kennedy, brother of the previously assassinated John F. Kennedy, and himself running for president, on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles. Kennedy died a day later in hospital at the age of 42. The gunman said he shot Kennedy for his support of Israel.
Sirhan was sentenced to death in 1969, which was commuted to life in prison a few years later. He is serving a sentence in a San Diego prison. In 2019, he was stabbed by a fellow inmate, forcing him to be hospitalized.