(Bloomberg) -- Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of killing Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 in one of the most infamous acts of a turbulent decade, was denied pardon again by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the latest rejection in a long campaign for leniency.
The prospect of Sirhan’s release had divided the Kennedy family, even as a parole panel in August recommended he be released. The decision fell to Newsom, a Democrat with national aspirations who has called Bobby Kennedy one of his heroes. “Mr. Sirhan’s assassination of Senator Kennedy is among the most notorious crimes in American history,” Newsom said in his decision. “After decades in prison, he has failed to address the deficiencies that led him to assassinate Senator Kennedy. Mr. Sirhan lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the same types of dangerous decisions he made in the past.”
It is a mark of the trauma inflicted by the assassination that Sirhan, 77, has now made 16 parole board appearances without being granted freedom. Kennedy, then a U.S. senator running for the presidency, was struck by three bullets in Los Angeles’s Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968, moments after he declared victory in the California’s primary. He had been seen as a likely successor to his brother, the late President John F. Kennedy, struck down by another assassin four years earlier.
Sirhan was born in Jerusalem to an Arab Christian family, emigrating to the United States when he was 12, according to Wikipedia. He confessed to the shooting at his trial, but there have long been theories of a second gunman in the crowd. Kennedy’s son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., met with Sirhan for three hours in 2017 and told the Washington Post afterward that he didn’t believe Sirhan had killed his father. He and brother Douglas Kennedy backed Sirhan’s parole, while six of their siblings released a statement in December urging that he remain in prison.
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