From The New York Times:
California parole commissioners recommended on Friday that Sirhan B. Sirhan should be freed on parole after spending more than 50 years in prison for assassinating Robert F. Kennedy during his campaign for president.
The recommendation from the two commissioners does not necessarily mean Mr. Sirhan, 77, will walk free, but it most likely puts his fate in the hands of Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat facing a recall election that will determine his political future. A spokeswoman for Mr. Newsom declined to say whether he would approve the recommendation, only that he would consider the case after it is reviewed by the parole board’s lawyers.
“I am grateful today to see him as a human being worthy of compassion and love.”
— Douglas Kennedy
The parole hearing was the 16th time Mr. Sirhan had faced parole board commissioners, but it was the first time no prosecutor showed up to argue for his continued imprisonment. George Gascón, the progressive and divisive Los Angeles County district attorney who was elected last year, has made it a policy for prosecutors not to attend parole hearings, saying the parole board has all the facts it needs to make an informed decision.
At the hearing, which was conducted virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Sirhan said he had little memory of the assassination itself, but he said he “must have” brought the gun to the scene.
“I take responsibility for taking it in and I take responsibility for firing the shots,” he said. Mr. Sirhan, much of his short hair turned white, was seated in front of a computer and was wearing a blue uniform with a paper towel in his chest pocket.
Two of Kennedy’s surviving sons, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Douglas Kennedy, supported the release during Sirhan’s 16th appearance before the parole board. Sirhan arrived at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in May 1969 after being convicted of first-degree murder and assault with intent to murder.
“I’m overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face to face,” Douglas Kennedy, who was a toddler when his father was gunned down in 1968, said during the virtual hearing. “I think 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.”
Sirhan, wearing a blue uniform with a paper towel folded like a handkerchief into his pocket, smiled.
“I do have some love for you,” Douglas Kennedy told the inmate, who nodded and lowered his head.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has favored Sirhan’s release in the past, wrote in support of parole. He said he was moved when he first met Sirhan — “who wept, clinching my hands and asked for forgiveness” — and offered to be “a guiding friend for him.”