Imperial Valley Press

RFK killer Sirhan Sirhan denied parole by California board


— A California panel on Wednesday denied parole for Robert F. Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan, saying the 78-year-old prisoner still lacks insight into what caused him to shoot the senator and presidenti­al candidate in 1968.

The ruling was a reversal of the ruling two years ago by a different California parole board that voted to release Sirhan. But Gov. Gavin Newson rejected the decision in 2022.

Sirhan’s lawyer Angela Berry disputed he lacks insight, and his psychiatri­sts have said for decades that he is unlikely to reoffend or be a danger to society.

Berry said she believes the new board members on Wednesday were influenced by Newsom and by the lawyers representi­ng Kennedy’s widow and some of his children — several relatives of the slain politician are opposed to Sirhan’s release, though not all are.

In rejecting Sirhan’s freedom last year, the governor said the prisoner remains a threat to the public and hasn’t taken responsibi­lity for a crime that changed American history.

“I do feel the board bent to the political whim of the governor,” Berry said after the hearing at a state prison in San Diego County.

Berry said the aging prisoner also “wasn’t as articulate” when he spoke to the board this time. The board recommende­d Sirhan do more work to better understand what makes a person a political assassin, she said.

The parole board hearing comes nearly six months after Berry asked a Los Angeles County judge to reverse Newsom’s denial. The case is ongoing, and Berry said it was unclear how Wednesday’s denial by the board will affect it.

“They found him suitable for release last time and nothing has changed,” Berry said. “He’s continued to show great behavior.”

In a 3 1/2-minute message played during a news conference held by Berry in September, Sirhan said he feels remorse every day for his actions. It was the first time Sirhan’s voice had been heard publicly since a televised parole hearing in 2011, before California barred audio or visual recordings of such proceeding­s.

“To transform this weight into something positive, I have dedicated my life to self- improvemen­t, the mentoring of others in prison on how to live a peaceful life that revolves around nonviolenc­e,” he said. “By doing this, I ensure that no other person is victimized by my actions again and hopefully make an impact on others to follow.”

Sirhan shot Kennedy moments after the U. S. senator from New York claimed victory in California’s pivotal Democratic presidenti­al primary in 1968. He wounded five others during the shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

A Christian Palestinia­n from Jordan who suffered childhood trauma from the bombings in the Middle East, Sirhan has acknowledg­ed he was angry at Kennedy for his support of Israel, but he has insisted he doesn’t remember the shooting and had been drinking alcohol just beforehand.

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