Robert F. Kennedy’s widow has said that his killer, Sirhan Sirhan, should not be freed, despite the recommendation of a parole board last month.
“Bobby believed we should work to ‘tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world.’ He wanted to end the war in Vietnam and bring people together to build a better, stronger country. More than anything, he wanted to be a good father and loving husband,” Ethel Kennedy, 93, said in a statement Tuesday.
“Our family and our country suffered an unspeakable loss due to the inhumanity of one man. We believe in the gentleness that spared his life, but in taming his act of violence, he should not have the opportunity to terrorize again.
“He should not be paroled,” Kennedy concluded.
Sirhan assassinated Kennedy in June 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, as the New York senator and Democratic presidential candidate was claiming victory in the California primary.
He was recommended for parole on his 16th attempt on Aug. 27. The decision by a two-person panel does not automatically mean that the 77-year-old Sirhan, who is imprisoned at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa in San Diego County, will be released. The decision entered a 120-day review period, after which it will be forwarded to the governor, who will have 30 days to decide whether to uphold the decision, reject it or modify it.
During the hearing, Kennedy’s youngest son, Douglas, spoke in favor of Sirhan’s release. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. also sent a letter to the board in support of parole.
Six of Kennedy’s other seven living children issued a statement after the decision explaining they were “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 many past decades we have declined to engage in the parole process,” according to the statement from former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Massachusetts), Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy, Maxwell P. Kennedy and Rory Kennedy.
“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. 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.
“Our father’s death impacted our family in ways that can never adequately be articulated and today’s decision by a two-member parole board has inflicted enormous additional pain. But beyond just us, six of Robert Kennedy’s nine surviving children, Sirhan Sirhan committed a crime against our nation and its people. He took our father from our family and he took him from America.”
The hearing was not attended by anyone from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney George Gascon has set a policy against attending parole hearings for defendants who have served lengthy prison sentences beyond the required minimum term. His office took the position that the parole board has all the information it needs to decide if an inmate is suitable for release.
A Palestinian from Jordan, Sirhan was initially sentenced to death, but it was later commuted to life in prison after the state Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional in 1972.