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Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin Sirhan denied parole by California governor

Robert F. Kennedy's assassin Sirhan denied parole by California governor
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(Reuters) – California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday he has denied the conditional release of Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian refugee serving a life sentence for the 1968 assassination of US presidential candidate Robert Kennedy.

Newsom’s announcement came after a California review board in August recommended Sarhan’s release from prison, subject to review by the board’s legal staff and by the governor himself. Sarhan was denied parole 15 times.

Newsom made his decision clear in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, that he disagreed with the opinion of the parole board that found Sarhan, 77, was fit for parole.

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“After carefully reviewing the case, including records in the California State Archives, I determined that Sarhan had not developed the accountability and insight needed to support his safe release into the community,” Newsom wrote.

Sarhan’s attorney, Angela Berry, noted in a written statement issued in response that Newsom had succumbed to political considerations in denying her client parole.

“While I appreciate that Mr. Sarhan’s release offers Governor Newsom a difficult political reckoning, the legal decision to release him is straightforward. We are confident that a judicial review of the governor’s decision will show that the governor obtained it,” Perry said.

Sirhan was convicted of shooting Kennedy, 42, in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968.

The shooting took place minutes after the US senator and former US attorney general delivered his victory speech after winning the California Democratic presidential primary. Kennedy died the next day. Kennedy’s older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.

Sarhan said he did not remember the killing of Robert Kennedy, although he also said he shot Kennedy because he was angry at his support for Israel.

Ethel Kennedy, Kennedy’s widow, 93, and six of her children who stood with them in opposing Sarhan’s parole, said in a joint statement Thursday that they were “deeply relieved” of Newsom’s decision.

They wrote that Sarhan “continues to blame his crime through 16 parole sessions,” insisting at his last hearing that his role in the assassination was precarious, and “remains a danger to public safety.”

The statement was issued on behalf of former US actor Joseph B. Kennedy II, five of his siblings – Courtney, Keri, Christopher, Maxwell, and Rory Kennedy – and their mother.

The Los Angeles Times reported that two other of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s nine surviving children — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Douglas Kennedy — have supported Sarhan’s parole.

Newsom cited what he called Sarhan’s “changing narrative” about the murder and his refusal to take responsibility as evidence that he was unfit for release.

Sarhan was sentenced to death in 1969, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after California banned the death penalty.

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(Additional reporting by Rami Ayoub, Steve Gorman, and Dan Whitcomb.) Editing by Tim Ahmann and Grant McCall

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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