Six of Robert F. Kennedy‘s children are speaking out after the man who murdered their father was granted parole.
The decision was made on Friday, during Sirhan Bushara Sirhan’s 16th parole hearing, after two of Kennedy’s sons — Douglas Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — supported his release, according to the Associated Press.
In a statement shared hours later, siblings Kerry Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy, Maxwell T. Kennedy and Rory Kennedy wrote they are “devastated” by the decision.
“As children of Robert F. Kennedy, we are devastated that the man who murdered our father has been recommended for parole,” the statement from the siblings began. “Our father’s death is a very difficult matter for us to discuss publicly and for the past many decades we have declined to engage directly in the parole process.”
“Given today’s unexpected recommendation by the California parole board after 15 previous decisions to deny release, we feel compelled to make our position clear. We adamantly oppose the parole and release of Sirhan Sirhan and are shocked by a ruling that we believe ignores the standards for parole of a confessed, first-degree murderer in the state of California,” they continued. “Our father’s death impacted our family in ways that can never adequately be articulated and today’s decision by a two-member parole board has inflicted enormous additional pain.”
As the statement continued, the siblings wrote that they are “in disbelief that this man would be recommended for release.”
“We urge the Parole Board staff, the full Board, and ultimately, Governor Newsom, to reverse this initial recommendation. It is a recommendation we intended to challenge every step of the way, and we hope that those who also hold the memory of our father in their hearts will stand with us,” they continued as the statement concluded.
The California Parole Board now has 90 days to review the ruling before it is passed on to the Gov. Gavin Newsom for consideration.
During the parole hearing, Douglas Kennedy, who was a toddler when his father died in 1968, said he was “overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr. Sirhan face-to-face,” the Associated Press reported.
“I think I’ve lived my life both in fear of him and his name in one way or another. And I am grateful today to see him as a human being worthy of compassion and love,” he added.
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“I would never put myself in jeopardy again,” Sirhan said at one point during the parole hearing, according to the AP. “You have my pledge. I will always look to safety and peace and non-violence.”
Prosecutors did not attend the parole hearing or argue against Sirhan’s release under a new policy from Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who implemented criminal justice reforms when he took office in December, The New York Times previously reported.
Robert F. Kennedy, who had served as the 64th attorney general before being elected, was mortally wounded in a shooting while leaving a campaign event for his presidency at the ballroom at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
Sirhan was convicted of first-degree murder in 1969 and was sentenced to death. However, his sentence was commuted to life in prison three years later when the California Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment.