Six of Robert F. Kennedy’s 11 children expressed outrage and vowed “to challenge every step of the way” the California parole board’s vote to release their father’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, from prison.
“We are devastated that the man who murdered our father has been recommended for parole,” they wrote in a statement issued Friday. “He took our father from our family and he took him from America. … We are in disbelief that this man would be recommended for release.”
The statement was signed by former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, Christopher G. Kennedy (a former Illinois gubernatorial candidate), Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Maxwell T. Kennedy and Rory Kennedy.
Their statement follows news that Douglas Kennedy, a toddler when his father was gunned down in California in 1968, told a two-person board panel that he was moved to tears by Sirhan’s remorse.
“I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face,” he said. “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.”
Another sibling, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-violence advocate, wrote a letter supporting Sirhan’s parole.
RFK's oldest daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and his widow, Ethel Kennedy, are not listed as having spoken publicly about the parole board decision. Two other children are deceased.
The parole board’s larger staff will review the recommendation for Sirhan’s release over the next 90 days before it is sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who then has 30 days to decide on whether to grant it.
Robert F. Kennedy was a U.S. senator from New York running for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination when he was gunned down by Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Five others were wounded. The nation reeled having also seen the assassination of of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963.
Sirhan, who has said he was drunk and couldn’t remember shooting RFK, was convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to life when the California Supreme Court briefly outlawed capital punishment in 1972.
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