California Governor Gavin Newsom said the convicted killer did not develop the “accountability and insight” needed to get him released.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has denied the conditional release of Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian refugee serving a life sentence for the 1968 assassination of US presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.
Newsom announced Thursday after a California review board in August recommended Sarhan’s release from prison, subject to review by the board’s legal staff and by the governor himself. He had previously been denied parole 15 times.
Explaining his decision in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Newsom disagreed with the parole board that found the 77-year-old was fit for parole.
“After carefully reviewing the case, including records in the California State Archives, I determined that Sarhan had not developed the accountability and insight needed to support his safe release into the community,” Newsom wrote.
Sarhan’s lawyer, Angela Berry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She previously said that Sarhan was never charged with a serious prison violation and that prison officials considered him low-risk.
Sirhan was convicted of shooting Kennedy, 42, in the kitchen 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 delivered his victory speech after winning the California Democratic primary. Kennedy died the next day. Kennedy’s older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.
Sarhan said he did not remember the killing of Robert Kennedy, although he also said he shot Kennedy because he was angry at his support for Israel.
After the Parole Board issued its recommendation, Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, 93, voiced opposition to Sarhan’s release, saying “our family and our country have suffered unspeakable loss because of one man’s brutality.”
Newsom cited what he called Sarhan’s “changing narrative” about the murder and his refusal to take responsibility as evidence that he was unfit for release.
Newsom added that the assassination was “one of the most horrific crimes in American history.”
Sarhan was sentenced to death in 1969, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after California banned the death penalty.