Robert F. Kennedy’s widow and six children are expressing relief after Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated Kennedy in 1968, was denied parole Thursday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The move by Newsom rejected an August recommendation from a two-person panel of parole commissioners that Sirhan, 77, should be freed. Two of Kennedy’s sons — Douglas Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — have said they support Sirhan’s release, but the remainder of their siblings and their mother, Ethel Kennedy, have expressed strong opposition to him being freed.
In a statement on Thursday, Ethel Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher Kennedy, Maxwell Kennedy, and Rory Kennedy said that Sirhan has continued to “deflect blame for his crime.”
“His refusal to admit the truth makes it impossible to conclude that he has overcome the evil that boiled over 53 years ago,” the family members said in the statement. “After decades in prison for a horrific crime, it is difficult to imagine that he ever will.”
Read the full statement below:
We are grateful to California Governor Gavin Newsom, and deeply relieved by his decision today to deny parole to the killer of Robert F. Kennedy.
A little over fifty-three years ago, our family gathered for its first Christmas without our beloved husband and father. Six months prior, a man shot and killed his wife, their friends, colleagues, journalists, as well as photographers. Eleven children lost their fathers, and their mother was left without her husband. This led to a nation without a leader.
A visionary and champion of justice, Robert Kennedy fought for progress and hope. He worked tirelessly to ensure that all Americans could be united and equal. After a segregationist riot that left two people dead and many others injured, he sent troops to integrate University of Mississippi. He fought for voting rights in every corner of the South. He stood up to students with disabilities and those who were marginalized. He went to South Africa to protest apartheid. He became a prominent voice in the fight to end Vietnam’s war. He ran for president on a platform that promoted economic and racial equality in his last chapter. This platform inspired millions of Americans from all walks of life and earned them the support of Americans of every age and region. He tried to repair the divisions that threatened to destroy this country.
All this was cut short by an enraged man with a small gun. The killer was motivated by hatred and maliciousness. His violent act was in direct contradiction to the principles of openness, dialogue and democratic change that Robert Kennedy believed in and that are the foundation of our political system. The killer had written in his diary over a thousand times before the murder that “RFK must be killed,” that “must be disposed off like his brother” and that “must assassinate his brother.” He was also upset by the Arab-Israeli conflict and confessed at trial that he acted in retaliation for Kennedy’s promise to send military assistance to Israel. He also wrote that President Johnson and Ambassador Arthur Goldberg should be assassinated.
Those facts carry weight today and forever. We are proud that we continue Robert Kennedy’s vision for a fair, compassionate criminal justice system with a ultimate goal of rehabilitation. But only those offenders who can achieve it will be allowed to do so. Robert Kennedy learned from his faith that everyone deserves mercy and compassion, even those who have done terrible things. He understood that mercy and compassion could be granted by victims as well as the state, depending on the actions taken by the convicted. The offender must change. Premeditated murder is not an option.
California’s parole system r