Sirhan B. Sirhan, the man convicted of the murder of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968, may be at large. On Friday, he‘s in San Diego prison for the sixteenth time in front of the commission to decide whether to get parole. This time, for the first time, none of California’s prosecutors will object to his release. And the Kennedy family also keeps itself aside.
Now 77-year-old Sirhan was arrested in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel where Kennedy was shot. President John F. Kennedy‘s younger brother campaigned to win his Democratic Party nomination for the presidential election and had just won the state of California. After his victory speech, he was shot in his head on his way to the hotel exit. Sirhan was arrested on the spot. Kennedy died 26 hours after the attack. The murder, which followed the deadly attack on Martin Luther King two months earlier, caused an unprecedented and historical cultural shock in the US.
Sirhan was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to death in 1969. When the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972, the sentence was transformed into life with the possibility of early release. Now, 53 years after the murder, Sirhan may benefit from the fact that a new generation of progressive prosecutors in California is striving to give prisoners who have been behind bars for decades.
George Gascon, prosecutor in Los Angeles, announced that 20,000 sentences for long-punished sentences be revised at the end of last year, or at least no longer object to early release. In Sirhan’s case, the prosecutor is‘ neutral ‘.
left nine children apart from his wife Ethel, who is now 93 years old.
The family relates to the upcoming ‘parole hearing’, but in 2018 son Robert F. Kennedy Jr. declared not to believe Sirhan murdered his father. He believes that a second shooter was active at the Ambassador Hotel. His sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend supports him in his attempts to reopen the case.
They are supported by not the least. Paul Schrade, now 96 years old, was in the attack alongside Robert Kennedy and was injured. He too believes in a second shooter. Kennedy was shot four times from behind and very close at the time of the attack. One bullet struck him in the head, two bullets hit him in his back, and a fourth only hit his clothes. Four other attendees were injured during the attack. After the attack, more bullet strikes were found than Sirhan had bullets in the warehouse of his .22 gun.
According to Schrade, he was hit by shots that Sirhan fired, but shot a second shooter Kennedy from behind. He is backed by ballistic evidence, the bullets that hit Kennedy didn‘t all match the bullets investigated after test shots with the murder weapon. Also witnesses say Sirhan never got close enough to Kennedy to have fired the deadly shot. Many accusating fingers point to Thane Eugene Cesar, a private security officer who walked behind Kennedy at the time of the attack. He was never heard as a witness and his weapon has never been tested. Cesar passed away in the Philippines in 2019.
Should Sirhan get at large, chances are he will be deported. As a Palestinian refugee, he did not have a residence permit in 1968. According to his brother Munir, several Arab countries would be willing to take him in.
After Friday’s Parole Board session, the decision whether to release is still over the necessary discs, including the Governor of California, who is still able to intervene. Ultimately, an umbrella central Parole Board of 17 members will decide on the case.