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

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California Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday he had denied parole to Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian refugee serving a life sentence for the assassination of US presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.

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Newsom made the announcement after a California review board in August recommended that Sirhan be released from prison, subject to review by the board’s legal staff and the governor himself. Sirhan had already been denied parole 15 times.

Describing his decision in an opinion piece in The Los Angeles Times, Newsom said he disagreed with the Parole Hearings Board’s finding that Sirhan, 77, was fit to parole.

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

Sirhan’s lawyer Angela Berry suggested in a written statement released in response that Newsom had bowed to political considerations by denying his client parole.

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“While I appreciate that Mr. Sirhan’s release presents Governor Newsom with a difficult political calculation, the legal decision to release him is clear and straightforward. We are confident that judicial review of the governor’s decision will show that the governor was wrong, ”said Berry.

Sirhan was convicted of shooting Kennedy, 42, in the 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 gave his victory speech after winning the Democratic presidential primary in California. Kennedy died the next day. Kennedy’s older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.

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Sirhan said he had no recollection of Robert Kennedy’s murder, although he also said he shot Kennedy because he was enraged by his support for Israel.

Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, 93, and six of her children with whom she opposed Sirhan’s parole said Thursday in a joint statement they were “deeply relieved” by Newsom’s decision .

Sirhan “continues to blame for his crime through 16 parole hearings,” insisted at his last hearing that his role in the assassination was unresolved and “remains a danger to public safety,” said they wrote.

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The statement was released on behalf of former U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, five of his siblings – Courtney, Kerry, Christopher, Maxwell and Rory Kennedy – and their mother.

Two more of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s nine surviving children – Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Douglas Kennedy – have been reported by the Los Angeles Times to have supported Sirhan’s parole.

Newsom pointed to what he called Sirhan’s “changing narrative” of the murder and his refusal to take responsibility for it as proof that he was not eligible for release.

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

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