Joseph P. Kennedy II, the oldest son of Robert F. Kennedy, rebuked a two-person California parole counsel on Sunday for finding that Sirhan Sirhan, the man who gunned-down RFK at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1968, no longer poses a threat to others and is fit for release from prison. The former Massachusetts congressman also urged the full parole board to reconsider the decision.
“Two commissioners of the 18-member California Parole Board made a grievous error last Friday in recommending the release of the man who murdered my father,” Kennedy wrote in the emailed statement released Sunday, the Associated Press reports. “I hope the full parole board will reverse the decision over the ongoing review period and that the California governor, if faced with the choice to release him, will keep him in prison to serve out his full life sentence.”
Sirhan was initially sentenced to death for assassinating RFK at the Ambassador Hotel shortly after the presidential candidate won the California primary but, like Charles Manson, Sirhan had his sentence commuted when California briefly abolished capital punishment in 1972.
“My mother, Ethel Kennedy, and my uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, asked that his death sentence be reduced to life imprisonment as a demonstration of mercy,” Kennedy wrote. “He received that mercy. No one should have the right to alter the lesser sentence requested by the person most affected by my father’s death—his wife, whose last child would never know a father’s touch. Nothing written, said or done will ever change that reality.”
Kennedy acknowledged, “I understand that there are differing views about ending the sentence of this killer, including within my own family,” but added that “emotions and opinions do not change facts or history.”
Of the nine surviving siblings, Joe Kennedy was joined in his support for opposing Sirhan’s release Friday by Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy, Maxwell T. Kennedy, and Rory Kennedy.
Robert Kennedy Jr., meanwhile, sent a statement to the board Friday in support of the decision, writing, “While nobody can speak definitively on behalf of my father, I firmly believe that based on his own consuming commitment to fairness and justice, that he would strongly encourage this board to release Mr. Sirhan because of Sirhan’s impressive record of rehabilitation.”
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