Sirhan Sirhan killed Robert F. Kennedy 53 years ago after the young America’s Camelot member won the California Democratic primary in the 1968 presidential race.
It was the second time in a decade that a Kennedy had been assassinated after defending the civil rights of blacks, minorities and the poor. For black America, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy added more pain just two months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Both men were against the war of Vietnam and shared a common vision of advancing the black agenda against a torrent of hatred and resistance during the turbulent civil rights movement.
King’s killer, James Earl Ray, never saw freedom until he died in 1998. At 77, Sirhan is still alive and wants out of prison after spending more than five decades behind bars. The Palestinian, who was only 24 when he became a murderer, took the first step towards his freedom last month when he managed to persuade the California parole board to grant him parole after 15 unsuccessful attempts. He appeared to express genuine remorse for killing Robert F. Kennedy after shooting him three times at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. With the recommendation of the board of directors, Governor Gavin Newsom has 90 days to decide if he wants to free Sirhan.
Two of Robert F. Kennedy’s children, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Douglas are in favor of his release. But Kennedy’s widow, matriarch Ethel Kennedy and six children are against Sirhan’s parole.
In a statement, Ethel Kennedy said: “We believe in the gentleness that saved his life, but in taming his act of violence he shouldn’t have the opportunity to terrorize again. “
Congressman Danny K. Davis and WVON radio personality Cliff Kelley agree, as do editor and publisher of the Cross Newspaper Group, Dorothy R. Leavell. We hope Governor Newsom decides to keep Sirhan behind bars where he belongs for good.
The Cross believes Sirhan’s remorse for killing Robert F. Kennedy is only an act. This week the online magazine Interception published a story alleging that Sirhan was coached by a team of fellow inmates at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.
Death Row Records founder Suge Knight, who is serving 28 years in prison for the death of a man in a hit-and-run in 2015, is said to have been among several inmates who coached Sirhan through an organization penitentiary called Redemption Row. Interception reported that for weeks they held mock parole board hearings and asked Sirhan tough questions to prepare him for the real thing. Their plan apparently worked and today Sirhan presents himself as a “changed” man, but his transformation is artificial.
In reality, Sirhan’s parole board approval was only for rehearsals and training sessions to help him appear remorseful. This superficial and false attempt to win freedom is an insult to the Kennedy family and to those who defended the values Robert F. Kennedy spent his life defending. His political program included racial and economic justice. Blacks embraced Robert F. Kennedy as he made urban poverty a major concern of his campaign.
Sirhan took the innocent but promising life of this great man. He’s not sorry as his facade suggests. Governor Newsom shouldn’t buy it.
Nothing has changed about Sirhan. He is still the same man whose hatred killed a rising political star because of his support for Israel. Interception The article suggests that Sirhan is more concerned with getting out of prison than seeking true redemption through true forms of rehabilitation. Still after all these years in prison, Sirhan remains a dangerous figure for society who has not understood the gravity of his crime.