Prosecutors Won't Challenge Release on Parole for RFK Killer Sirhan Sirhan

Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of assassinating Robert F Kennedy, could be granted parole at a hearing on Friday after prosecutors confirmed they would not contest his release.

Sirhan, who is now 77, has spent 53 years in prison for the first-degree murder of the late New York senator and Democrat presidential hopeful. The Palestinian has been denied parole 15 times previously.

At his most recent hearing in 2016, commissioners listened to over three hours of testimony, including that of Sirhan himself. He told them that while he felt remorse for the crime, he does not remember the shooting, so could not take responsibility for it.

Sirhan has always maintained that he does not recollect committing the killing, only the events before and after it. He has also said he had fired at Kennedy because he was enraged by his support for Israel.

On that occasion, the parole board ultimately concluded Sirhan had failed to show adequate remorse or understanding of his crime.

However, this time around the decision on whether or not to release Sirhan will rest solely with the California Parole Board.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who was appointed last year, has instituted a policy under which prosecutors play no part in parole decisions.

Gascón, who is a former police officer, told The Associated Press earlier this year that while he acknowledges the tragic nature of Kennedy's assassination, it is important to stick to the policy.

"I can get very emotionally wrapped around my personal feelings [about] someone that killed someone that I thought could have been an incredible president for this country," he said.

"But that has no place in this process. Just like it doesn't for the person nobody knows about."

Sirhan was convicted of murdering Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. Kennedy was shot three times in the hotel kitchen, just moments after delivering a speech to celebrate his victory in California's Democratic presidential primary. He died a day later.

Sirhan stood trial for the murder in 1969 and was initially sentenced to death. However, that sentence was commuted to life in prison three years late after capital punishment was briefly outlawed by the California Supreme Court.

The decision on whether or not to release Sirhan will ultimately rest with a two-person parole panel. Once it has been announced, the parole board will have 90 days to review the decision. After this, it will be passed on to the governor, who will also have the opportunity to veto.

Newsweek has reached out to Gascón and the California Parole Board for comment.

RFK served as attorney general to his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and had been tipped to follow him into the White House in 1968 before he was killed.

In a previous interview his daughter, Kerry Kennedy, said her father would have been "very distressed" by the presidency of Donald Trump and his divisiveness.

His son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has long maintained that Sirhan did not fire the fatal shots that killed his father and previously called for a fresh investigation into the killing.

Sirhan Sirhan
Sirhan Sirhan is shown in this handout photo taken February 9, 2016. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Handout via Reuters