Robert Kennedy Was My Dad. His Assassin Doesn’t Deserve Parole.

Sep 01, 2021 · 569 comments
Carol (Toronto)
It is time to put your anger aside. All you want now is revenge which is understandable but not productive. The man has been rehabilitated. It is unfair to both him and taxpayers to keep him incarcerated. The brutality of the American justice system has resulted in your country having the highest incarceration rate in the world and yet you are also by far the most violent of all democratic countries. It is time to change the system.
SK (Boston, MA)
@Carol how can you possibly say he's been rehabilitated? What evidence do you see of that? If anything, his lack of responsibility for a crime several witnesses saw him commit indicates a total lack of remorse or rehabilitation. While I agree the American justice system is deeply flawed and can be brutal, this incident does not prove that point.
LinB (Berkeley, CA)
@Carol How do you know he has been rehabilitated? He still has not admitted to the killing.
Patrick (San Francisco)
Ms. Kennedy wishes for justice. This man took her father’s life and his punishment is to not enjoy a free life again. That is not revenge, which would be the death penalty.
Hal Paris (Boulder, colorado)
Agreed. Throw away the key. Life in prison without the chance of parole is my personal solitary if i had my way. This creep destroyed the hopes of our nation. Unforgivable. I witnessed it on TV. It crushed me and everyone i know. No mercy for Sirhan Sirhan.
Peter (CT)
Before I offer an opinion, somebody please tell me how likely it is that if released, he will be murdered by some vengeful patriot.
Glenn (York, Pa)
Robert Kennedy's murder was no more nor less tragic than the premeditated murder of any other human being. I do not support the death sentences, but I do believe if you plan to take a life and do so, then you should have yours taken from you by serving a sentence until you die. No parole.
Bill (Missouri)
Sirhan Sirhan, like so many other convicted cold blooded killers willingly forfeited his obligations to humanity to live peacefully among us. We can not give Sirhan Sirhan what he has refused in the past. His actions spoke, let him abide by them and never live among us again.
Dave (Perth)
Robert Kennedy's loss is up there with the loss of Lincoln. His killer should not be released except by his own natural death.
DavidgG (Key West FL)
We lost a better more humane future. Sirhan Sirhan must admit his guilt to be worthy of parole.
george (australia)
I recall that night ( here in Australia) so well. I was lining up to receive my graduation certificate from university when the word spread like a wildfire. Bobby Kennedy had been murdered. Mr Sirhan should die in prison.
willlegarre (Nahunta, Georgia)
This is a very touching commentary. I think Robert Kennedy would probably have become President. If he had, we can only extrapolate how this country would be different. Maybe I would not have served in Vietnam in '72. Tricky Dick would never have been President. My hero Jimmy would not have been elected President. Maybe that fatuous, false, right-wing icon Reagan would not have been elected. SIrhan should never see the light of day except through a prison window.
Charles Thompson (Frozen Exoplanet)
I'm inclined to grant Mr Sirhan that he is not a common criminal. At the same time, his obvious guilt and the historical mirk he represents should leave him feeling good where he is if he doesn't love life and think it could have been otherwise.
L (U.S.)
What is going on in the US? How could a California parole board approve releasing this murderer? Robert Kennedy was on the way to being the next president when this assassin shot him dead. He's always pretended to be insane, not responsible, but he knew exactly what he was doing and still shows no remorse. No to parole!
actspeakup (boston, ma)
I agree with Rory Kennedy - Sirhan Sirhan does not deserve parole. This was premeditated murder and assasination. And shame on the two who make up the California Parole Board. They ought to be removed!
liceu93 (Bethesda)
RFK's assassin mot only robbed Rory of his father, he robbed our country of a wonderful leader. I can still remember the awful, empty feelings I felt when I woke up to the awful news that he'd been assasinated.
RB (Larkspur)
Sirhan Sirhan deserves to die in prison. He is guilty of a heinous crime, one for which there is no redemption. He received a decent amount of "forgiveness" by not being executed. Oh, he has been in prison for 50 year?. Yes, and Robert Kennedy has been dead for 50 years. If you can bring Robert back by releasing his killer, by all means.
Susannah Allanic (France)
I will not dignify the criminal named Sirhan by the title of common respect usually reserved for men who have accepted their responsibilities to the best of their abilities. Sirhan is a coward who has gunned down a man and wound 5 other people, all of them he never knew. He has been what we call a terrorist his entire life. Terrorists can not be redeemed, indeed not even restored to any status that would gift them with rights rights that ordinary humans have and deserve. I don't care what other Terrorists think about about Sirhan. What I know is that Sirhan has claimed repeatedly that he is the victim of a government set up. In fact, He is responsible for the cohesion of terrorists today. He paved the way for Islamic terrorists to see themselves as impervious to the acts of their crime. I'd go as far to say that his actions have hurt Islam more than any other Muslim. He was the first domino in a line waiting to see if they could rule the world by unlawful and cruel violence. He is an unreformed criminal and should die in prison.
Hannacroix (Cambridge, MA)
I wonder whether or not Robert Kennedy would support, or deny, Sirhan Sirhan's parole ?
Reginald Smythe (Guilford CT)
Who cares if he is sorry now? This is like the old Monty Python skit where they wind up singing “for he’s a jolly good fellow” as they carry the murderer out of the courtroom on their shoulders.
Kofarizona (Tucson)
What if Sirhan Sirhan didn't kill Bobby Kennedy? What if there was a second gunman, and Sirhan Sirhan was a Manchurian Candidate? Bobby Kennedy, Jr. met with Sirhan Sirhan for three hours in 2018, and believes that it was a second gunman who killed his father. More to the point, Bobby Kennedy made known that if he was elected President, he intended to re-open the investigation into the assassination of his brother John F. Kennedy. I'm sure that there were certain parties in power who couldn't have that happen. So they took care of it. "Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn't believe it was Sirhan Sirhan. - The Washington Post"
Marcelo Brito (porto alegre brazil)
Robert Kennedy's assassin's parole is a post mortem insult to all these death sentences expeditiously ordered and enacted for the sole purpose of benefiting Donald Trumps' tough stand on crime. Clearly there are two Justice systems in the USA: the one common mortals must abide by or pay with their life, and another one where the Jack Ruby and the Sirhan Sirhan of this world get treated with kid gloves.
Ms. Kennedy, Sirhan didn't just murder your father, he murdered America's future. I think your father would have been an excellent president; even at worst, he would have been exponentially better than Nixon. I am truly sorry for your lost father; I am sorrier for the potential nation we lost. As you say, "For America, the price of my father’s life and ambitions cut short has been incalculable." What Sirhan did was more than commit murder; he committed treason. He still refuses to take responsibility. To me, that is unpardonable - and uncommutable.
joe (atl)
I assume Sirhan Sirhan will be deported back to Syria when he is released, right? He is not a U.S. citizen and his visa was cancelled when he was convicted.
Clear Thinker (East Coast)
The family of RFK is showing a mostly united front in opposing the release of Sirhan B. Sirhan, the man who murdered Senator Kennedy in cold blood. This should help defeat all the twisting, crazily convoluted, downright ludicrous conspiracy theories that are pushed by pro Sirhan set. These theories exonerate the man who is, right now, in prison and who should stay in prison until he dies. Of course, the conspiratorial mind on this matter is dedicated to freeing the murderer, and that will likely not change, but the rest of us can feel some relief that Bobby's family have no doubt who took away, forever, their husband, father and loved one.
jjjohnson (Connecticut)
Interestingly enough, once Sirhan was in jail, his relatives visited him. He told them he had no recollection of the entire incident or the gun or where it came from. (Deep hypnosis) Even the fellow next to RFK (still alive) who was shot in the leg said the shots came from behind Sirhan. Was Sirhan a convenient patsy? Did J.Edgar set this up? (He hated JFK & RFK)
Richard (Baltimore, Maryland)
Sirhan should remain in prison. The fact that RFK Jr. who is a lunatic conspiracy theorist and anti-vax activist has stated that he thinks Sirhan did not kill Bobby Kennedy should not be taken any more seriously than his absurd anti-vax beliefs. We are not talking about cruelty in keeping Sirhan incarcerated. And we are not talking about "rehabilitation." We are talking about a punishment suitable to fit a horrendous, premeditated murder that traumatized a nation. Let Sirhan read, walk around the yard, make phone calls etc. But he should never be released.
Keith Fenton (GA)
We had already been traumatized by the assassination of Martin King, and then just two months later Sirhan did his evil deed. Like Mark David Chapman, the man who gunned down John Lennon, Sirhan Sirhan must never walk the streets a free man.
MaxStar212 (Murray Hill, New York City)
Some may say I am crazy, but I still think there is something strange about both Kennedy murders. Sirhan Sirhan never really explained to my satisfaction why he killed RFK. I think someone put him up to it and I really want to know who it was. I don't think RFK was that much more Pro-Israel than the other candidates. Never thought this was about Sirhan Sirhan's view of the candidates. I really think someone put him up to it and helped him plan it. I want to know who is behind it before they release him. And, was it really that easy to kill a RFK. He has a lot of security around him. Sorry if I sound like a conspiracy nut, but the two Kennedy brothers assassinated was strange.
Horseshoe Crab (South Orleans, MA)
That horrific year 1968. TET, Dr. King and finally Robert F. Kennedy. Sirhan Sirhan altered the trajectory of history that day and killed a man who gave the country hope in a dark period. Time does not erase all memories and this man should be denied parole. Sorry
Eatoin Shrdlu (Long Island)
First, we have to dismiss the Conspiracy Lovers who claim Sirhan was not only an assassin, but the lone assassin. His act was filmed from at least 10 angles, and the audio tape tells who had the gun. All of us who watched in horror heard “get the gun! Break his thumb if you have to!” Sirhan’s act was a hate crime and a terrorist act: he said, at the time, he killed RFK because of his support for Israel. Sirhan’s murder broke the nation and the body politic, leading to the Chicago Police Riot against people who were denied permits for peaceful demonstrations, delegates to the Democratic National Convention and fully registered reporters on the convention floor. It also led to the greatest (up until recently) criminal president, six more years of a pointless war - our despicable South Viet Namese governments against both Ho Chi Minh’s forces in the North and what appears to have been the majority of the South’s population, 50,000 young Americans killed and hundreds of thousands, if not more Southeast Asian fighters and civilians. Kennedy might not have been the best choice for president - he might not have won. One man made sure he never had the chance. I don’t know what to do with terrorists arrested for acts in the US: Sirhan, McVeigh and his conspirators, all of whom were given a free pass in return for his judicial murder, Trump’s Jan. 6 mob that tried to overthrow Congress and the election. The torture chambers of our prisons are evil. Letting Sirhan free would be worse.
SomeGuy (Ohio)
Political assassinations in a democracy are the worst possible subversion of democracy. There should never be paroles for such assassins. Period. It offers a perverse incentive to the psychopaths and sociopaths who would emulate them.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
While all murders are abhorrent and have terrible consequences, political killings are in a league of their own. Such killings profoundly remake a nation in millions of hurtful ways. The political assassin nullifies an entire system, usurping the power of The People to create the world we live in. Why should those who deliberately caused such massive, indiscriminate damage to an entire society - doing so for their own needs and their own ends - ever be welcomed back into the community they so recklessly shattered?
Jefflz (San Francisco)
What possible rationale based on law and order and human decency would allow this evil murderer to go free?
josie8 (MA)
Mercy: His life has been spared. Justice: He must spend his life incarcerated.
unclejake (fort lauderdale)
The fact that he is alive is enough parole for this animal. He is not only responsible for Senator Robert Kennedy's death but the long extension of the Vietnam war and the concomitant deaths of my brothers and sisters. Sen. Kennedy would have beaten Nixon like a rented mule and we would have had no Watergate either.
hb freddie (Huntington Beach, CA)
I think murderers should rot in jail until they are carried out. But I also believe in consistency. If Sirhan had killed a nameless liquor store clerk in a robbery, he’d have been freed long ago.
Me (Here)
The killer murdered a sitting senator, a father with 9 children in cold blood with the world watching. He premeditated this act and he did it for angry politics. He tortured an entire family that had already lost 3 siblings to violent death. He helped to destroy our nation already in the throes of killings, riots and unrelenting war and robbed us of one of the last best hopes we had in politics, ushering in Nixon. He's claimed for years he can't remember it and therefore can't take responsibility for it. Like Manson, some crimes are too terrible to move past. He must never get out of prison, and has already been spared the death penalty. Sirhan is a blight upon the planet.
Scott O’Pottamus (Right Here, On The Left)
I have love for my fellow human and feel mercy for him. I do not want revenge. I want justice. And that means Mr. Sirhan must stay in prison for the rest of his life. We must recall what he did. He gunned down RFK in front of all of America, on TV, in front of RFK’s pregnant young wife, the mother of his children. He murdered him for political reasons. He assassinated a prime candidate for the United States Presidency. Treat Mr. Sirhan with respect. Be kind. But do not be foolish. Do not disrespect the Kennedy family, or me — I was a child when this horrific assassination occurred— so soon after the equally horrible assassination of JFK. Please be judicious and deny this request for parole. Be respectful of all of us.
Tim (California)
The darkness in Sirhan has not been redeemed. How is society benefitted by his release?
Almighty Dollar (Michigan)
Agree completely. He should never be allowed free. He made his decision, and he can live pondering it, behind bars in prison. He never gave Robert Kennedy a choice. He acted as Judge, Jury and Executioner. What exactly was Kennedy's crime? Then, as now, Sirhan has shown himself to be a coward.
James (US)
Apparently the state and some of your relatives disagree.
Eric S. (Rockville)
Very moving and I hope Sirhan Sirhan is denied parole.
Kurt (Louisville)
Sirhan Sirhan will never see the outside of a jail cell again and no politician is going to release the killer of a future president.
M (NY)
I remember the day RFK was killed by this Palestinian murderer. All the adults in my life cried. The nation cried, remember the turnout of people to say goodbye to the funeral train. Perhaps the parole board members are too young to remember but clearly this decision is a slap in the face to 11 children forced to grow up without a father .
alan brown (manhattan)
I am very sorry for the personal loss of the author. At the same time Robert Kennedy belonged to all of us who supported civil rights, support of Israel and opposed the Viet Nam war. If his murderer goes free it will make a mockery of our justice system. There is not a shred of evidence of remorse and Mr. Sirhan is blatantly lying when he says he does not remember killing Senator Kennedy. When you shoot someone you remember it. That is common sense absent a proven medical diagnosis. He should be denied parole and the current Governor should immediately announce his intention to block it.
Barry Schreibman (Cazenovia, New York)
This eloquent and moving plea to let the execrable Sirhan Sirhan stay in prison is absolutely correct. Sirhan should stay locked up. as Ms. Kennedy says, “for [her] family — and ... for our country, too.” And the reason? Ms. Kennedy is correct about that too: “For America, the price of my father’s life and ambitions cut short has been incalculable.” Incalculable. I believe the great turning point in the history of this country occurred when Sirhan murdered Bobby Kennedy. Instead of eight years of this brilliant, humane, progressive man in the White House we got – Richard Nixon. And it wasn't just Nixon – although God knows that was bad enough. It was also the way he was elected. Nixon's election, you may recall, vindicated his campaign strategy. The polite name for this strategy was “the Southern Strategy.” Its real name was a lot older: racism. Nixon saw an opening created by southern discontent over LBJ's championing of the civil rights laws. He understood that a campaign which fed on this resentment and appealed to racists had a good chance of turning the old Confederacy from its long-time support for Democrats into a Republican stronghold. He was right. It worked. And it's been working ever since. Want to know how we became two countries – bitterly divided into red states and blue? Go back to the Ambassador Hotel, to the night of June 6, 1968, to Sirhan's finger on the trigger. Let him rot. The damage he did – to all of us – was incalculable.
eclectico (7450)
Although I'm not a trained psychiatrist, after reading that Sirhan doesn't admit his guilt, and shows no contrition he appears to be mentally unbalanced, still. I know it's expensive, but I'm willing to pay to keep him off the streets.
rabbit (nyc)
Sorry for her loss. And yet, the Times chooses to publish these views but not those of other family members that disagree. What game is afoot? The issue is whether the killer has paid his debt and if he feels remorse, and if he poses a threat. Unless you believe all Palestinians are a threat to your well being, surely you can see he is not a threat. If you think he must die in prison to pay his debt, this reflects an unfortunate aspect of American culture that emphasizes punishment and keeps the cycle of repressive control and violence in play. Can there be a half way house, with movements monitored? Surely prison is not the answer to everything. Fifty years of prison!
TJ Colatrella (Boiceville NY)
I agree, I worker for your dad when I was just 16 in New Jersey and he won that primary! His assassination was a turning point in American History sending our entire nation down the dark path it has followed for these many years! Sirhan didn't just as terrible as it is kill your father, Sirhan killed America's bright future!
Jack Frederick (CA)
Agreed! There are crimes worthy of capital punishment, Sirhan’s, being one of them. I do not support CP, so, lock him up and throw away the key.
Bossystarr (Nyc)
agreed. it's obscene. so sorry for you and your family.
Josie J (MI)
Anyone who loses a loved one by murder has my sympathy. There are many folks whose murderers have served their time and been released. It's the law. In my opinion Robert Kennedy's murderer has served his time. Release him....and every other sane person who has murdered hi-profile people.
To those who argue that SS should be paroled because he is a "very old man", be reminded that he is younger than our president.
Becca Helen (Gulf of Mexico)
I still cry about it at work times, and choke up whenever I see a picture of him. Rory, than you for writing this. Our hearts are broken still. Bless you.
Bryan (West Chester, Pa.)
It's jaw dropping that Sirhan Sirhan was recommended for release. He doesn't deserve it, no matter how harmless Barton thinks he is.
Douglas Shane (Vermont)
Ms. Kennedy makes perfect sense!
Beth Grant-DeRoos (California Sierras)
As a Californian I remember when Senator Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, sentenced to death, then had his death sentenced commuted, I like many expected he would remain in prison, never freed. The word assassinate means to murder, in a surprise attack for political or religious reasons. This wasn't a duel, this was a planned for action whose intent was to murder in cold blood. And let's not forget FIVE other people were also shot! Paul Schrade of the U A W, William Weisel of ABC TV , Ira Goldstein of Continental News Service, Elizabeth Evans, and Irwin Stroll who was a teenage Kennedy volunteer. And that it took George Plimpton, Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill, Rosey Grier, Rafer Johnson to disarm Sirhan Sirhan of the firearm.
jcantrell (Madrid, Spain)
There is absolutely no reason to release this man.
Natasha (Arizona)
Isn't forgiveness one of the keystones of the Catholic faith?
Joseph Amato Sept. 1, 2021 (NYC)
The murderer Oswald remains a historic debate, and Rfk's murderer by trail is guilty and rightly this debate is kept alive as long as he is in prison. The best solution is as such articles and always the truth shall set us free.
my heart bleeds with sorrow beyond words for your dad your family and you... author of the man with the jagged red scar
BTO (Somerset, MA)
I remember when Kennedy was shot. The court gave Sirhan the death penalty, then California outlawed that penalty. Sirhan was then suppose to spend the rest of his life in prison. If they let him out, they set the example that it's okay to take a human life. He should have been put to death back in 1969, he should never see freedom.
Jerry (CT)
I agree profusely with Rory, the assassin arguably changed the course of our country's history. He should have been strung up a long time ago.
Philippe Egalité (New Haven)
I’m still sorry about your dad after all these years. Our country would be a better place if he’d lived and no doubt your childhood a better and easier one - but what we really need to talk about today is your brother and the harm he’s doing to our nation with his misguided ideas on vaccines. Please talk to him.
GRW (Melbourne, Australia)
Am I allowed to say that a couple of Rory's siblings believe Sirhan Sirhan is not guilty of their father's murder? I'm not sure he is myself. Was there another shooter? Was he a loaded weapon as well as having one in his hand? Loaded by whom? I'm not sure - but I'm pretty sure they haven't been in prison since 1968.
Bos (Boston)
Sirhan Sirhan is a sociopath. There is no known cure for sociopath or psychopath. Persona non grata is the best remedy. If society chooses to parole him, he should be forbidden to profit from his notoriety. Government has fed and sheltered him for 53 years already, it should stop as well. If he has to work or his family doesn't mind to support him, fine. But taxpayer dollars should not be used for the purpose.
CA VOTER Including 9/14 (CA)
If Gavin allows this terrorist murderer to get out of jail, this Dem voter might just consider voting in favor of a recall or in favor of his rival in the next general election. The Governor ought to think very carefully about consequences from his political base should he side with an international terrorist.
Doug R (Michigan)
Totally agree. Sirhan Sirhan should never be released.
Barbara Staley (Rome Italy)
yes, Ms Kennedy you are correct.
JMan (UK)
Hmmm… this guy was a misguided young man when he shot a politician who’d worked for Joe McCarthy and having served as Attorney General advising his brother probably had the deaths of many thousands of people on his conscience. This didn’t justify Kennedy’s assassination. It was a crime of course, but there have been much worse cases where the criminal has ended up walking free after serving a few decades in prison. In my country we parole child sex killers!
Chris Drozier (Albuquerque)
But Sirhan never killed Robert! IF you investigate a little you will find that bullets shot from THE BACK killed him. Just a patsy like Ostwald was... WHY are the family members not aware of that? There is plenty of evidence! For John, I spoke once to one of his body guards: he said the street was littered with shells... many shooters and poor Ostwald was not a good one and his angle was very poor.
Outside Looking In (United States)
Ah, almost too bad that one can be too blind to see... the moral issue of punishment versus remediation is totally irrelevant in this one... If released, within a day Sirhan Sirhan becomes a "patron saint" of the Taliban and Isis as a "victory"
Diane (L.A.)
@Outside Looking Sirhan Sirhan is a Christian Palestinian.
David Weintraub (Edison NJ)
@Outside Looking In Sirhan Sirhan is Christian. Why would the Taliban care about him?
@Outside Looking In Uhm, Sirhan Sirhan assassinated RFK as part of his devotion to the "Palestinian Cause". The Taliban did not exist exist then.
M Martínez (Miami)
Robert Kennedy was killed when he was not showing any aggressive behavior. He was absolutely defenseless. There is no reason for parole.
The Way Forward (Atlanta, GA)
Agree completely with Rory Kennedy, “How can you express remorse while refusing to accept responsibility?” You can forgive or forget but not required to do both.
Reading the comments reminded me afresh what a vindictive and unforgiving people we are. And what about those expressing the bizarre notion that political assassins must be hung or jailed without parole? When we bemoan the fact that the US incarcerates our citizens at a far higher rate than really any civilized people… think what causes this. “We” and these casual opinions are the problem.
Louis (Amherst, NY)
Sirhan Sirhan should never have been granted parole for any reason. You can just tell by the look on his face that he is a really angry individual. Both he and his brother were victims of losers who thought they could make their life by killing them. After both Kennedy's and Martin Luther King were killed the age of innocence in American Society was lost forever. All three of these great men were cut down by assassin's bullets, losers who thought they had the right to take another man's life. Robert Kennedy's death marked the beginning of full Secret Service protection for all our modern serious presidential contenders. Fortunately today, anyone who is considered a serious political candidate is granted full Secret Service Protection to protect our political process. Sirhan Sirhan should have been kept in jail until he died of natural causes and never seen the light of day. His parole was not only tragic but a total miscarriage of justice. The future would be assassin's of the world need to see that if you kill one of our political leaders then you will be remanded into custody the rest of your life, without hope of parole of any kind. The Kennedy's were the last political magic that we had in our government. And, now all that has been shattered by these individuals who would seek to destroy them and the American Democratic process.
Frank Monaco (Brooklyn NY)
Murder is final for the victim. First mr. sirhan does Not accept responsibility or remorse. This is a problem for me. We will Never know what would have happened in the 1968 election. Would the outcome been different? This Mr. Sirhan took from the American people when he Shot & killed Senator Kennedy. I’m Not a subscriber of Capital punishment, but Mr. Sirhan should Never be released from Prison.
I have my own thoughts about Sirhan's release. But how does one argue with a child of the slain person? My heart hurts for her.
Erin (Alexandria, VA)
Some have pondered that Sirhan Sirhan didn't just kill one fellow but might be considered responsible for hundreds of thousands if not many millions of deaths. He killed what could have been the candidate who defeated Richard Nixon thus possibly shortening the Vietnam War (assuming RFK was savvy about the folly of that war). For that speculative reason he should not be paroled. Leon Cederlind
Hector (Asheville, NC)
I have worked in max security prison and I know in my heart that people (adults) may believe they change but they cannot change what they have done.They have killed and it is now part of who they are, the option is always there. Our country makes it so easy to get a gun and kill again. Impulsive rage doesn't die with age, Why should a man who without any doubt committed murder be allowed to have the opportunity to kill again? I do not want anyone ever to have the opportunity to kill again and there is no way for the public to be safe from them except prison. The public deserves to be safe from known murderers and our safety is more important than pity for this man just because he is old.
wem (Seattle)
it's very unlikely that Sirhan Sirhan was the one who pulled the trigger and killed RFK. The angle of the bullet entry was wrong. He could not have done it. He does not remember it. Let him out.
No Parole (Carolinas)
Excellent, brilliant and absolutely, under no circumstances does the murderer deserve parole.
LHB (Seattle)
I agree with Mr. Kennedy's op/ed. Sirhan Sirhan doesn't deserve parole.
Lauren Rombach (Littleton, Colorado)
How can Sirhan Sirhan admit to his guilt at the time of Kennedy's assassination and years later say he's not guilty of anything and be considered rehabilitated? If he can't accept responsibility for murder he is not rehabilitated. Period.
parson (CA)
Sirhan believes that he committed a righteous political assassination. He is physically and mentally capable of committing another assassination. He will be celebrated by those who share his cause. He has clearly not been rehabilitated in any significant way. He has no regrets for his actions other than for his own suffering of incarceration. Do we as a society want to in any way encourage political assassination?! Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, not just murdered; the intent was political. Sirhan will never be sorry for what he did.
Allen (Phila)
Your father's assassin should have been executed after being found to be culpable. Most people have thought this. That did not happen, which was/is supposed to be a sign of how evolved a culture we are. Which many people still debate. Ok, so a life sentence. If the law has any meaning beyond political influence, then he should serve his sentence in full. If the killer is repentant, he should realize it is the only right thing he can do. If he is not this repentant, then he should should remain in jail with no possibility of parole.
Linda Sperling (Santa Fe, NM)
Sirhan Sirhan should have died -- because that was his sentence for the premeditated crime that he committed. The fact that he had fifty years of life thereafter was more gift than he ever deserved. Why parole him? He did not earn freedom because he has never owned up to his crime. It's not a matter of revenge -- it's a matter of a vicious criminal being caged until death as anyone who does such a heinous act should be.
M Brooklyn (Brooklyn)
Sirhan lived 50 years longer than Kennedy. He was housed, clothed and fed by our taxes and solely lived 50 years longer and has never admitted this murder. Just because he could never commit this crime again is not justification for allowing him to roam free. If paroled he will be feted by those who will forever admire him for his murderous deed. The course of our country’s history was changed by this one murderous act. He must remain in jail and have the luxury of living out his days still incarcerated but alive. Robert Kennedy did not have such a chance.
MG (Toronto)
He needs to stay in jail. Period. Pretending that he may not be responsible is the giveaway.
Ann (New York)
I loved your father, Kerry, in a way I have never loved another politician, I was devastated when he was killed. I agree with you that Sirhan Sirhan should not be released, since he doesn’t even acknowledge his horrible crime even though we all saw it on T V! I think the future of this country was unalterably changed by the assassination of your father and Martin Luther King, and I am against Mr. Sirhan’s release! He altered our history for the worse and denied you and your siblings from knowing your father, and isn’t even sorry! His release would be a deep stain against justice!
TC (Florida)
Very disappointed Sirhan Sirhan should not be released. There must be consequences for such horrific deeds. The death penalty was the correct punishment unfortunate that California took it off the table.
Mary (Utah)
Justice is not keeping an old man in prison beyond the time he can do harm. The American prison system is an abomination and spending 50 years in that world is punishment beyond most of our comprehension. We all have responsibility for the horror of U.S. prisons, and I cannot abide leaving Sirhan Sirhan to die in that system just because it makes me feel good.
Steve (Pacifica CA)
Imagine the image of Sirhan Sirhan back in Jordan being treated as a hero for killing a pro-Israel presidential candidate (I don't imagine the average Palestinian supports what he did, but I'm sure you could round up a few dozen). The Scottish government didn't think it would happen when they compassionately released the Lockerbie bomber; we shouldn't take the chance that it could happen with RFK's assassin.
Wyoming Observer (Wyoming)
Wordsmith question: Does anyone agree that the word “assassinate” is a milder word than “murdered”? I’ve always used the word murdered for this crime. I’ve noticed some people don’t like it: they prefer “assassinate”. Having read many of these comments, it’s suddenly clear why: because the crime was (is) so enormous on so many levels that we still cannot face it’s true, horrible dimensions. That’s enough to never parole him. Ever.
Jack Kay (Massachusetts)
We humans are marvelously adaptive creatures: coming out of Africa some 150,000 years ago or so, we adapted and thrived in nearly the entire planet. From equatorial forests to frozen tundra, we made lives everywhere, even in prison. I recall watching a video of Richard Speck, who murdered nine student nurses, talk about his prison lover. I have seen a photograph of Charles Manson in prison strumming a guitar. We may not call this “a life” anymore than hunting seal as the Inuit do in Northern Canada. Nevertheless, we adapt. We find moments of joy anywhere. I do not imagine that Mr. Sirhan has been in a 10 feet by 10 feet dark cell, alone, eating bread and water for the last 53 years. Whatever it took to adapt to and carve out as best an existence as possible is what he did. To think of him now as having the ability to take a stroll on the Santa Monica Pier and breathe in the warm air coming off the Pacific Ocean is to give him even more life in exchange for the one he took. I was 22 when he killed Robert Kennedy: I believe Rory Kennedy is correct in asserting American history would have taken a different and better vector had RFK become president. For the father he never knew, for the leader we lost, and for simple justice, Mr. Sirhan must finish his time on Earth where he is today, in prison.
semari (New York City)
If for no other reason than to dissuade others from choosing to commit such a dastardly vicious and evil murderous act upon any similar political figure indispensable to the public good, his family and his times, there should be no parole in this case. Let him live out his life in prison, and let that be a perpetual warning to anyone else who would contemplate assassination.
Jetpete (London)
Thank you Rory. You speak for me too.
Lynn in DC (Here , there, everywhere)
Please convey your thoughts directly to the full parole board and governor. I am guessing there will be a hearing at which you and the rest of your family will be allowed to speak. Don't expect this man to accept responsibility or show remorse, and even if he were to do so, it won't bring your father back or assuage your grief. Take care of yourself.
Mario Herrera (Miami FL)
I’m an old timer (84), I remember well both JFK and RFK. I was profoundly affected by their deaths. Parole for sirhan ? Are you kidding me ?
DRM (Berkeley, CA)
I can't see the wisdom in releasing SS. What he did is unforgivable. He should never be a free man. NEVER! Gavin Newsom, say "no!"
B.Kind (WA)
A political assassination is an attack on democracy itself, a unilateral removal of a disfavored candidate, and as such an especially heinous crime. The release of such a criminal trivializes the enormity of the act.
reid (WI)
Another thing the old bible is wrong on is an eye for an eye. What a terrible position to take on penalties for crimes. Indeed, it was murder. No question. He has gone from expecting to be gassed to death to never being able to see and feel the light of day and freedom, which for this length of time is a cruel punishment. Your laundry list of things you felt cheated from is long and rings true. But at this stage what more can the state extract from Sirhan at this stage in his late life? Nothing. The release into a strict parole situation suits the needs of the citizens, if not you. You are bitter, but not the ones (the parole board) making the decision on behalf of the people, not a 'gift' to Sirhan.
Bruce (Tampa, FL)
Although I agree with Ms. Kennedy here, how many other children of murder victims get access to the New York Times for a lengthy editorial on the matter? I'm guessing not too many. My guess is that most children of murder victims feel exactly the same way about their parents killer.
JL Jarvis (Burlington VT)
Ms. Kennedy's reflection puts a personal patina on what was clearly a national loss. Sirhan should never go free.
David Jacobson (San Francisco)
No way he should ever be released. And I am sure there is no way he ever will be.
Barry Moyer (Washington, DC)
Even those advocating Sirhan Sirhan's release no doubt imagine him living somewhere other than next door. And to clarify...there is no such thing as an EX-murderer. Bobby Kennedy didn't "used to be" dead. He's still dead. He doesn't get released from that. Sirhan Sirhan earned his punishment, it remains owed and should remain so until he is no more.
Didier (Earth)
I believe the death penalty is immoral and unconstitutional. I believe just as firmly that this type of crime deserves a sentence of life without parole. Too many delusional and homicidal people may be undeterred from assassinating political figures with whom they disagree if they have some hope of eventually discharging their sentence. The premeditated killing of any public official or candidate should be punished by life in prison with no parole.
Branagh (NYC)
“I was there, and I supposedly shot a gun.” “It’s a good question. Legally speaking, I’m not guilty of anything.” Yes, Ms Kennedy - for sure that's difficult to deal with. Of course, he could be coddling us but more likely I think it truly represents some form of mental derangement - I wonder the extent of psychiatric evaluation though of course limitations there as well. You are in a better position to make inferences but I might not agree with you that your uncle, Edward Kennedy, would have opposed parole. My opinion is based on the many positions he did take in regard to criminal justice, human rights...I think he might have inherited his mother's beliefs - forgiveness is so central to the belief system of many Catholics in his mother's time if not so much anymore.
Bob Florida, Somewhere the middle (Us)
California says it all. Parole for a killer that does not deserve compassion. The sentiments of the vast majority of US citizens old enough or educated enough, voters, remember the tragedy well. This and other far left policies are dooming the party. Newsom is gone and his other policies of letting the homeless sleep wherever they chose, has doomed him also. Bye, bye.
John Rosendall (New Mexico)
I am in my 70's and remember the deaths of both JFK and RFK. I have read many of the books available on both deaths. In RFK's case, he was actually shot in the head from behind. And since Sirhan was always in front of him, he could not have been the shooter who actually killed him. This was just like the case with JFK too. Sirhan was another patsy. You might ask then, who did kill him? The same people who killed his brother. If Robert did become President, he would have put the whole government on the task of finding his brother's killers. For the assassins it was a case of self defense.
Mark Miller (San Francisco)
Sirhan Sirhan murdered America's future: Robert Kennedy would most likely have been elected president in 1968 instead of Richard Nixon. We can only speculate on how we might have fared under RFK. We'll never know. But Sirhan robbed us of a promising, exciting alternative to Nixon's darkness -- his secret dealings with the North Vietnamese that sabotaged Lyndon Johnson's efforts to make peace, his descent into criminality, Watergate, and his impeachment and resignation. Sirhan altered history, and for that thousands more Americans died in Southeast Asia. His crime is too large to measure. He should be confined for the rest of his life.
Frank J Opolko (World)
My Dear Rory, My heart goes out to you. This murderer is not worth another moment of grief for you. Live your life and do good. I believe that is what your father would say.
Andy (Salt Lake City, Utah)
If I forget I shot someone, do I get paroled? Seems like a dangerous precedent.
Ballymo (US)
I wish Rory Kennedy and her mother and siblings and extended family only peace.
Robert K. (Westchester County, New York)
What so may people don't realize--but I see that others do realize, here in these comments--is that Sirhan B. Sirhan didn't just kill one person when he shot Bobby Kennedy in 1968. He actually killed about 25,000 with one bullet, however indirectly. How is that? Because, had Bobby Kennedy lived, he almost certainly would have won that election in 1968, instead of Richard Nixon. And for those of us old enough to remember, Bobby Kennedy's campaign promise to end that awful war in Vietnam would most probably have been kept. But, because he wasn't elected, Richard Nixon dragged it on for more than four more years. And, during that time, about 25,000 members of the military died in combat, all in vain. That surely wouldn't have happened under Bobby Kennedy. So, Sirhan B. Sirhan, mass murderer that he is, doesn't deserve to be paroled--now, or ever! Robert K., Westchester County, New York
La Rana (NYC)
At the recent parole hearing it is telling Mr. Sirhan " at one point began crying when he spoke about refugees in the Middle East" according to a NYT- Aug.27,2021 article. No tears for Bobby Kennedy. No remorse. He speculates about his actions as if he was referring to someone else: he "must have brought" the gun to the scene and states he has little memory of the assassination itself. It all sounds crazy. Ms. Kennedy makes a compelling case for refusing parole. Not so the two siblings who support it. I lived through it. I cherish a photograph of Bobby Kennedy at an event standing next to my mother, singing. I get to look at it every day. The memory of that tragic June 5, 1968 is still fresh.
Another rational adult (Arlington)
I was 19 in 1967 and I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Sirhan needs to spend the rainier of his days behind bars.
Harlemboy (New York City)
Releasing Sirhan Sirhan would send a terrible message and set a regrettable precedent. I believe it would inspire and embolden other potential assassins, such as those who were hunting for Pence and Pelosi at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Sirhan was shown mercy when his sentence was changed to life without parole. To allow him to go free -- ever -- would be an abomination.
NYWoman (NYC)
This was premeditated, first degree murder. It also had implications of treason, trying to weaken the government. In manslaughter you can get out after 25 years. This doesn’t merit it.
Lizzie Well (Santa Barbara CA.)
I hope Gavin Newsom reads this piece and these comments.
PATRICK (Pennsylvania)
There is a case to be made that several assassinations over decades are linked. Keep Sirhan Sirhan in prison under Guard as a federal and state witness.
Thomas J Pain (Coos Bay)
I agree 100 percent. Political assassins should be locked away for life. Their crimes strike at the heart of our fragile democracy.
JCT (Chicago, IL)
RFK's murder was not an ordinary crime. It demands extraordinary punishment. Retribution and reconciliation is not possible for this man. Sirhan Sirhan killed a living saint of the world, a man who represented the truth and the proper path for all to follow. RFK's murderer should not be paroled for all the reasons that Rory Kennedy and your readers cite. Let him spend the rest of his life in his cell to contemplate forever the unspeakable crime that he committed.
michjas (Phoenix)
A few crimes have an overriding political significance. The murder of Bobby Kennedy is one. It destroyed hope for many of us and it was a crime against the people, not just Mr. Kennedy. This raise the stakes. Mr. Sirhan didn’t just kill RFK. He killed something in all of us. And a crime of this magnitude is different. When Mr. Sirhan took aim at RFK, he took aim at all of us. And those who remember will never forget. Mr. Sirhan does not deserve to be freed. Simple as that.
Gary Pippenger (St Charles, MO)
As others have noted, Sirhan can be trouble yet again, though not likely as an assassin. And clearly he continues his stubborn denial of responsibility. Let him finish his days in prison and may he have years yet to experience his punishment.
Stuart Smith (Utah)
No mulligans for murder. Dozens of witnesses. No doubt in anyone else mind. I was 11 and I remember it vividly. Sirhan Sirhan needs to remain prison for the rest of his life.
Beach dog (NJ)
Agreed. You did that deed. Serve the sentence.
Giovanni Rossi (Boston MA)
I find not tolerable that this killer is still alive and we are even talking of parole, he committed an immense crime against Robert's family and against a better America. Robert was a father, a husband and a leader for millions who saw in him the possibility to have a more just country. The society should have the right to eliminate those worms, period!
gman (florida)
Sirhan committed murder in the 1st degree and still to this day hasnt acknowledge pulling the trigger ? The path to redemption first starts with taking responsibility for your actions Therefore Sirhan should spend the rest of his life in jail Nothing was learned and no forgiveness should be merited
michael sullivan (Massachusetts)
As with the JFK assassination, the killing of Robert Kennedy is not a settled matter with unanimous agreement on who fired the fatal shot(s). Forensic science, sound recordings, eyewitness accounts and the exact location of Kennedy's wounds, including the one to the rear of his skull, indicate the distinct possibility that Sirhan is not the killer. I believe the eldest Kennedy son, Robert Jr., believes Sirhan is innocent. Based on factual evidence, he is on firm ground.
NJM (California)
Beautifully said and written. This heinous crime was not must the murder of a man as awful as that is. It was the murder of a US Senator and a Presidential candidate. It was a murder directed at our democracy. He gets to live. He does not deserve to be paroled.
Matt (SE AZ)
I never thought Sirhan-Sirhan came clean about why he murdered Bobby Kennedy. Somehow, his statement that Kennedy’s assassination was because of Kennedy’s support for Israel, never rang true. It’s not that I’m suspecting a conspiracy, but rather, that Sirhan-Sirhan’s deed went deeper.
A.A. (Philipse Manor, NY)
"If" in front of an apology is a non-apology. "if" in front of an admission of guilt is not an admission of guilt. This tiny word has exploded onto the American consciousness as a way of shirking responsibility, never accepting blame and making accountability contingent on the victim's so called feelings. Ridiculous. Keep this assassin in prison.
Robert (Out West)
I din’t know if he should be released. I know that a parole board said yes.
greg starr (oslo Norway)
Sirhan should stay in jail forever UNLESS his conviction is shown to contradict "not guilty without a reasonable doubt". But The investigation of the assasination may well have been bungled; rather than let Sirhab go free, let's see if there is any evidence that might favor Sirhan. Here is where the details get very murky. There was this young Philippino body guard moving right behind RFK moments before the shooting. After the chaos, the guard's gun was never checked, according to street rumor. That guard moved back to Luzon right afterwards, where he has stayed. This is sufficiently concrete to be investigated. The Jewish traditional toast was "Next year Jerusalem". Let Sirhan's be "Next year,...still here".
MSA (Miami)
Specifically Robert Kennedy's assassins doesn't deserve parole or every assassin doesn't deserve parole. Or, should we quietly agree that there is royalty among us and then the assassin of my neighbor next door deserves parole because I am a nobody but an assassin of a Kennedy doesn't deserve parole because the Kennedys are "better" than us?
TDHawkes (Eugene, Oregon)
What did the murderer steal from US culture? He stole a man who would have continued along a righteous path of equity for all people in this country. We have sunk into the chaos of racial animus that is tearing us apart. We have sunk into the chaos of untrammeled predation by financial giants over the rest of us as well as Earth's ecosystem. The murderer stole more than the father of his own children. He stole our future as an equitable country living up to the best parts of its founding documents.
Kristine (USA)
She needs to talk to her relatives that think.its ok for Sirhan to be released.
littlewolf (Orlando)
Steve_K2 (Texas)
I agree. Let him rot and ruminate on what he did. Remorse? Rehabilitated? Besides the point.
Silvery Moon (Upstate NY)
I think of all that our country lost due to this assassination. I can’t believe he could be paroled! If it happens, it’s a travesty.
Carl (Arlington, Va)
I agree with Ms. Kennedy's position. What has the assassin done to deserve release except get old? Let him die in prison.
Bill (Arlington VA)
Do you really believe that Sirhan acted alone? Really? No more than Oswald acted alone.
EJS (Granite City, Illinois)
Avree 1000%. Sirhan has the audacity to ride the wave of conspiracy theories to claim that he didn’t do it, saying, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your own two eyes?
barbara (santa cruz ca)
feelings of crime victims do not seem to matter
P McGrath (USA)
All of this lawlessness comes from one side of the political spectrum. Look at NYC, look at Chicago, look at Baltimore. So sad for those that live there. It's like the Lord of the Flies when Bobby Kennedy's murderer is paroled.
Miroc (SC)
You reep what you sow.
Gerard GVM (Germany)
"But mercy is above this sceptered sway. It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings; It is an attribute to God Himself; And earthly power doth then show likest God's When mercy seasons justice." The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
Charlie Young (Fairfax, Virginia)
I agree with Rory Kennedy 100%. Sirhan Sirhan doesn't deserve a parole. He should stay in jail all his life. I know the Kennedys and they all tried to build a better America. JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in 1963. Robert Kennedy was also assassinated by a crazy nut in LA. Sad for the family and America. Rory is a girl without a father. She was born in Georgetown University Hospital ! Grew up in Hickory Hill, Mclean, Virginia. A beautiful little girl! Too many tragedies in the Kennedy Family!
Amanda Bonner (New Jersey)
Rory Kennedy said it perfectly. Her father has been dead for 53 years, she was a denied a father for 53 years, Sirhan has been in prison -- alive -- for 53 years -- leave him there for taking the life of Robert Kennedy and for denying her mother a husband, her and her siblings their father.
Peter (Boulder, CO)
Releasing this man would be an affront to all Americans.
Frank Roseavelt (New Jersey)
A heinous crime against the Kennedy family and the entire nation. No parole.
J Young (NM)
Ms. Kennedy wonders aloud, "How can you express remorse while refusing to accept responsibility?" In a word, you can't. As a prosecutor fresh out of law school and with a caseload of over 100 felonies, I routinely sat in court waiting my turn to give arguments and listening to defendants equivocate when pressed by the judge to admit what they had done. Among the most upsetting was a man who was there to plead to sexually molesting his single mother girlfriend's infant daughter, while his lover slept unaware in the next room. Like Sirhan, he could not, or would not do it--and, thank goodness, the judge had the wisdom and courage to tell his lawyer not to return to his courtroom and waste the people's time with this or any other sham plea bargain. Sirhan knows full well what he did; he clearly has never had remorse for murdering Bobby Kennedy; and his last moment on earth should be spent reflecting on those facts.
no parole - what were these two parole board members thinking - why should this man be released, especially since he will not even admit he killed Robert Kennedy - this is disgusting and makes me sick to my stomach
fed up (las pulgas)
Equal time please. Where are the letters from the other Kennedy children in support of Sirhan's release and deportation. As with other terrorists or criminals such as Charles Manson's Family, a young, impressionistic and volatile Sirhan could have arguably been Programmed by very biased Media to which he became addicted and inspired towards resolving his issue of Palestinian independence by any Violent means necessary.
Douglas Ritter (Bassano Italy)
A perversion of justice. Let’s let all murderers out of jail. I have no doubt that Sirhan has remorse. Let him feel remorse in jail till he too dies.
lisa (michigan)
Do not let this man out of prison because he will hailed as a hero by GQP. The GQP honor Americans that go after our political representatives with violence. He is a danger and the nation is currently in a very dangerous cross road that crazies like him shouldn't be released to.
Jeffrey Harrison (Gainesville, Florida)
I do not understand your argument. Is it that he slipped through on a legal technicality? Is it purely about retribution — we will all feel better if he suffers? Is it based on your fantasy that but for his death your father would have stopped the war and racial injustice? I cried when your father died partly because I knew he would never write a piece like the one you have written
fed up (las pulgas)
For those who would have called for his Execution, they should understand it's just another kind of Murder
John (Denver)
No remorse = No release.
Doctor Woo (Orange, NJ)
I am truly amazed at many of the comments here. Bobby Kennedy was going to win the primaries & would have went on to become President. Do you really think that would be allowed in this country? He would have ended the war. He would have tried to end poverty by cutting the defense budget & using that money. He would have went after the mafia who were allowed to flourish while J Edgar Hoover looked the other way. Hoover hated Bobby Kennedy by the way.. Bobby Kennedy was the real deal. Why do you think Humphrey was picked? He would have kept the war going. As obviously Nixon would & did. This country will not even allow Bernie Sanders or Howard Dean or Gary Hart become president. And you think the powers that be would allow Bobby Kennedy. The whole trajection of the country would have changed. Martin Luther King was killed basically for the same reason. Butter over Guns. Sirhan was part of an overall plot. He was used. I believe he was either hypnotized or brain washed. His handlers were in the kitchen & ballroom. More bullet holes than he had in his gun were found. He looked hypnotized or spaced out in the photos right after. if anyone would have been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause it would have been Robert Kennedy.
Molly Pickett-Harner (Morgantown WV)
Sirhan can be released to live his life when Robert Kennedy can return to live his life.
M Natalia Clemente Vieira (South Dartmouth, MA)
I stand in solidarity with Rory Kennedy and her family. I too ask California’s governor and the state’s parole board to keep RFK’s murderer in jail. I oppose the death penalty but a murderer loses his freedom for life. This particular murderer stole a father, a husband, a son, a brother and an uncle from his family. I can’t imagine the pain that Rose and Joseph Kennedy suffered when 2 of their children were assassinated in less than 5 years. The murderer also deprived our country of a great leader! As he did every day my father put the radio on when he got up at 6 AM on June 6, 1968. I was 13 but I remember being awakened to the news of RFK’s murder. We hadn’t yet recovered from MLK’s murder and then RFK was killed. My family and friends were devastated! On Saturday, I watched the coverage of the funeral in NYC, the train as it made its way to DC and the graveside service at Arlington. I cried most of the day! I find something to be very wrong with a society that paroles or pardons convicted murderers yet imprisons an innocent man, Kevin Strickland, for 43 years and then a governor refuses to pardon him! We have a lot to answer for!
Mike Edwards (East Bay, RI)
Not just Bobby's killer but... ..those involved in the Tate/LaBianca murders and John Lennon's murderer, Mark Chapman, don't deserve to be set free either. And that's just for starters.
Sheryl (Lynnwood, WA)
I vividly remember the assassination of your father. I remember watching his funeral when I was 13 years old and crying nonstop. It seems a mockery of justice to consider releasing his murderer.
Anne (Queens)
so much for Christian forgiveness from the very Catholic Kennedy family
We need forgiveness and we also now know that RFK would have advocated for the self determination of the Palestinian people. I urge people to read his speech on apartheid in South Africa.
Leon (Atlanta)
My brother lived down the street in the old city of Jerusalem from a house in the Jewish quarter that was occupied by the family of Sirhan Sirhan at the time of the War in 1967. They were squatters and forced out after the war. Sirhan Sirhan was the first Arab terrorist to cause a murder in this country for political reasons associated with the Palestinian cause. Why Bobby? Just read about Kennedy's presence as a journalist in Israel during the War of Independence and his enthusiasm for the Jewish state. See
Craig (Amherst, Massachusetts)
I agree with you and the majority of the Kennedys. What excuse for the deliberate murder of any man, whether he supports progressive ideas or conservative. That Kennedy support the state of Israel against a world of murderous anti-Semites is irrelavent. This assassin, this murderer should not be let out. It was enough that we have let him live, fed him, and probably gave him a more decent life than would have given himself.
fed up (las pulgas)
Almost but not really surprising at all, as the same Flaming Liberals, who are either for a death sentence or against Sirhan's parole, would also support the convenient destruction of human life by Abortion as a form of birth control.
Alan Day (Vermont)
I agree, Sirhan Sirhan should remain locked up.
Sue the Cat (Reynolds County, Missouri)
Like the January 6th Insurrection, the murder of Kennedy was an attack on democracy and thus an attack on our nation. Though Sirhan claims he cannot remember, we must remember.
Helene (NYC)
What. shame that the NYT is always willing to give any remotely famous person a podium. How about highlighting objections to parole to less rich and famous people with less rich and famous family members? What have the Kennedys done for this country (lately or at all)? Why is this particular murder and parole decision so important that it deserves this coverage?
Jeffrey Bank (Baltimore Maryland)
Before you tell us to share your views (which I do), you should tell your big brother, RFK, Jr to also support your views. And while you're at it, please tell him to shut his big mouth about vaccines. He is doing irreparable harm.
Michael Skadden (Houston, Texas)
You're right , Rory, the loss of your father was a tragedy for this country. Imagine how different we would be if Bobby Kennedy had been elected in 1968 instead of Nixon. His murderer deserves no consideration and should rot in prison.
Colin Meyer, DVM, PhD (Madison, Indiana)
TEN brothers and sisters???? Thank God someone finally stopped him.
Zachary Standig (NJ)
Releasing Sirhan is inexcusable
marcus (USA)
If they had lived, then perhaps John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald should have served their time and been set free?
Dk (South Delaware)
I agree Sirhan took a good man away from all of us and he must stay in jail till his end. We have at my apartments a dangerous felon murderer who was let out of prison and our whole community is afraid of him. He is still a bully ,abusive and a daily aggressor. These felons aren’t cured they are only more angry as the years go on and a nightmare for the neighbors they are living next. Keep him Sirhan in prison where he belongs.
nlg (Opie, KS)
Sirhan is an unrepentant terrorist and assassin. Parole is a ridiculous consideration.
Planetary Occupant (Earth)
Sirhan committed a crime against all of us. He is unredeemable and should remain in prison for the rest of his life.
Peter J. Miller (Ithaca, NY)
Hey Rory - Don't you think maybe you're not the most objective person to be weighing in on this?
Tom Isenberg (New Jersey)
You commit intentional murder, you give up your life, whether by death penalty or life imprisonment. Full stop.
Doctor Woo (Orange, NJ)
The reasons Rory Kennedy sights as Robert Kennedy's passion were the reason he was killed. Ending the war. Providing help for the needy instead of arms for the greedy. Going after the mafia, etc. Sirhan was a Manchurian Candidate. Just part of a overall plot .. If anyone would have been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, it would have been Robert Kennedy
David Williams (San Diego county)
No fooling.
Kas (Vermont)
He stole our future with the death of RFK. May he rot in jail forever.
CC (Lake Country)
What is with this style headline? Personal testimony? Sentimentality?
James Rippy (Tennessee)
And yet George Zimmerman is free, and Trayvon Martin is just as dead as Bobby Kennedy. Our country is rife with unfairness, hypocrisy, and injustice.
Judy Johnson (Cambridge, MA)
There is no good reason to give him freedom. His life continues and Kennedy is gone forever. He should remain in jail until death.
P.J. Andros (USA)
While never a Kennedy fan, YES, I agree. No parole for a killer. Sirhan's a lucky duck not to get the gas chamber.
MRR9 (New York)
I have tremendous empathy for Ms. Kennedy and her family. Sirhan Sirhan is a terrorist and there is no rehabilitation for someone who can deliberately murder the father of eleven children.
Mcizzle (Queens)
The elephant in the room is that he’s a Palestinian terrorist who killed in the name of Palestinian liberation someone who he perceived to be pro Israel. Now let’s wonder why the liberal parole board all of a sudden had a “change of heart”. It’s emblematic of the shift from liberals supporting Israel to being afraid to call out the forces that call for its destruction.
bluewombat (Los Angeles, CA)
By murdering Senator Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan changed the course of U.S. and world history. He now claims that he had amnesia caused by drinking -- the worthless coward can't even accept the responsibility for his dreadful action, one that, as Gloria Steinem has said, robbed us of the future. Let him rot in jail and die there. And speaking as a Californian: If Gavin Newsom even thinks about signing off on parole then we can look forward to Governor Elder.
A.L. Hern (Los Angeles, CA)
Via his relentless crusade against vaccines and, especially, the COVID vaccine in the midst of a deadly worldwide pandemic, Rory, the fate of Sirhan pales beside your brother, Robert, jr’s being the REAL assassin here, whose victims number in the millions.
Toni Vitanza (Clemson, SC)
Richard Harrison (Texas)
Me (Miami)
I agree. Your father was a great man, killed by an uncivilized maniac. Let him rot in jail.
maxsub (NH, CA)
Thank you for this. Sirhan Sirhan is, was, and continues to be an unrepentant Palestinian terrorist. He deserves to remain in and die in prison. That politically-connected idiots like Mr. Barton are allowed to decide what criminals get to walk the streets again is frightening and disturbing, Whoever sits in the Governor's chair after the recall election here should dismiss this buffoon and any other commissioner who voted with him. And reject the terrorist Sirhan's parole.
Ellis Saull (King of Prussia, PA)
The properly and quaintly named "Second Amendment" people have their own way of making some sort of case for the shooting gallery that is the USA. Wouldn't want some mixed up strange person like Lee Harvey Oswald not to be able to kill a President for reasons that even he may never have been able to articulate. No, let's let every murder minded hater pick out a gun like a shopper buying a loaf of bread. The irrational excuse for not ridding this country of any weapon that can kill is that owning a gun is some sort of protected freedom. We even tolerate 9 year old children being massacred so some low IQ bigot can act out his dreams. The mass murderer in Vegas enjoyed picking off individuals he didn't know or care about, from the comfort of a luxurious room, high above his targets. The Second Amendment was not meant to give ordinary nonmilitary people a free pass to slaughter everyone within their sight. It's time. Time to get serious about banning guns for everyone who has no need for it. Surely the Fathers of the Country didn't wish for the Pulse Nightclub shooter, or the Newtown killer of innocent children. 1776 was a far different time, and no one dreamed of making the world safe for mass murderers. But that's what we do. And a woman whose father was taken from her before she ever even met him is reminding us of our profound stupidity.
Paul J Costello (Massachusetts)
HL PRINCE (New Zealand)
The headline says it all,how dumb are your laws.
Marc Panaye (Belgium)
Mr. Sirhan replied: “It’s a good question. Legally speaking, I’m not guilty of anything.” OK Mr. Sirhan, go back into your cell and think about you not being guilty of murder while it is proven beyond doubt that you pulled the trigger. I pity weak people like you Mr. Sirhan. The kind of people that do not take responibility for their actions. Think about that in your cell Mr. Sirhan.
Roger (Jacksonville)
Sorry but evil this deep rooted cannot be rehabilitated and his lack of remorse is icing on the cake. Let him continue to rot in prison
Lucie André (Baltimore)
At a time when threats of violence against politicians are way too common and acts of violence plague our nation why would anyone even consider sending such a stupid, stupid message by giving parole to an assassin? It’s heartbreaking and traumatizing for all of us. I honestly can’t understand it.
George Orwell (Toronto)
He should be kept in jail until he dies.
Cathy C (Rancho Santa Fe)
@USNA93 Sirhan should be n jail the rest of his awful life.
Sean (Ft. Lee. N.J.)
Bobby Kennedy’s views regarding Israel inflaming eventual assassin Palestinian Sirhan. Releasing murderer, most likely scenario: deportation, Jordan feting martyr via hero’s welcome, ticker tape parade.
David Berner (Vancouver, B.C., Canada)
Mr. Sirhan did not even have a political belief as an excuse. He was a nobody who realized his desire for attention with a gun. I spent the first 10 years of my working life engaged with the Canadian Penitentiary Service, Parole and Court systems. I can assure you that 99% of all prisoners are relatively harmless goofs who could be turned around if anybody gave a damn. But Sirhan belongs to that one per cent of permanently dangerous lunatics who should never be set free. Assassinating a political leader in a crowded hallway of a major urban hotel is what physicists call a "break boundary." Once a man crosses that river, there is no getting back. He must stay where he is. For the sake of the community. Parole officers and psychiatrists need be reminded regularly of the breadth of their responsibility.
John (Denver)
It is important to society that decisions make sense. The decision to open our Southern border to all fills American citizens and taxpayers with a feeling that there is no sense in playing by the rules. The cowardly decision to leave Americans stranded in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan while lying to the American people and our allies will have long-term affects we can’t even imagine. We crave good order and reason in our lives. We raise the families we love in a structure that is built on reason and faith. It is an adult construct that actions have consequences; it is an immature and dysfunctional hell when society has no sense of proper boundaries. When someone takes a life and shows no remorse in 53 years for having done do, society is better served with knowing that that person is behind bars for the remainder of his natural life. Let it be.
Nancy Lederman (New York City)
"If i did that"- a non-apology if ever there was one. The same as "if anyone's feelings were hurt." Well, yes, the whole damn country was hurt. Brave enough to commit a political murder but too cowardly to admit it. Let's hope Newsom will consider the political landscape of then and now and deny parole to this forgetful assassin.
Unconventional Liberal (San Diego)
He is a human being. He is no longer the same human being he was back then. He served his time. The parole board says let him go. Imagine yourself imprisoned for decades. Our major religions preach forgiveness. If you, a sinner, wish to be forgiven, you should forgive.
Bayou Houma (Houma, Louisiana)
However one feels about Sirhan Sirhan's petition for parole, his political opposition to Israel ought to have no bearing on it. No foreign country ought to have some jurisdiction or influence for or against an American in our justice system. Neither ought a powerful political family, particularly when the family of Robert F. Kennedy is divided over Sirhan's petition. The State of California Parole Board ought to consider only the official recommendation on Sirhan.
Allison (Richmond, VA)
Interesting. All the stories I read before he was given parole was that the Kennedy family did not oppose the decision. Did the press deliberately mislead us? Why wasn’t this column published before the recommendation was announced. I’m sure it would have influenced the decision.
JoOregon (Portland, OR)
I am in agreement that Sirhan's crime warrants life without parole. That the argument is being made by a member of an elite political family, who's very privileged position in this world means they can personally weigh in on the matter in the pages of the NY Times, says more about the rich being, you know, different than the rest of us, than anything else.
Mitchell myrin (Bridgehampton)
As a 68 yo I remember the assassination with sadness well. RFK was probably on his way to be president. After the JFK and MLK killings this was a very sad moment for a teenager. It was also the first jihadist attack in America.Although he is probably no threat to society at his age, there seems to be a lack of remorse and if the family is adamant he should remain in jail for life.
Prof Reader (Georgia)
We devote millions of dollars and risk many lives hunting down and vengefully murdering individual terrorists in foreign territories, celebrating when our efforts are successful. Then, we offer first clemency and then parole to a terrorist who assassinated a prominent leader who could have changed history. Something doesn't add up.
I whole-heartedly agree with Rory Kennedy. Furthermore, given that the murderer’s goal was terrorism, giving him parole or commuting his sentence would send the absolute wrong message to would/be terrorists, not foreign and domestic, and right at a time in history when we can least afford to appear or be soft on terrorists (thinking about Afghanistan, 20th anniversary of 9/11 attacks, the Ian 6, 2021 insurrection, and others).
GFE (New York)
Parole boards. How many times in your life have you read about these people releasing killers only to later read about the parolees killing again? Why do these people presume to know more about justice than the judges and juries who sentenced the criminals at the time? The gravity of Sirhan's original sentence spoke for itself: the intention of the court was to impose the most irrevocably punitive sentence possible. I don't believe in the death penalty. In the last 32 years, 132 people sentenced to death for murder in the US have been exonerated according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The possibility, in fact the probability, of the state killing innocent people is too great for us to choose the death penalty when a sentence of life without parole is a sufficient alternative to assure the safety of the public. But there's no question that Sirhan is guilty. The crime is on film. The only one who dares question his guilt is the killer himself. A murderer who won't admit his guilt despite overwhelming evidence isn't just lacking in the requisite remorse to warrant his release: he's dangerous.
Richard Werwie (Ocala, FL)
The song’s lyrics: … Some day soon, it's gonna be one day Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby? Can you tell me where he's gone? I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill… Where have all the Abraham, Martin and John’s gone?
Jeanne (New York)
I had relocated to New York City in 1968, just barely in my 20s, to start an exciting new job, and had quickly signed up as a volunteer on Senator Bobby Kennedy's presidential campaign. I can still recall the horror, shock and sadness at the news of his assassination. It had only been five years since I had been devastated by President John F. Kennedy's assassination. I cannot imagine RFK's assassin being released from prison. Ever.
duGan (Upstate)
What was done to RFK, his family, this country and the world was monstrous. If he is released and sent to Jordan, martyrdom will be his future and give promise to others that assination of those one does not agree with will be held in high regard. In my opinion the release of this murderer would be an abomination of justice and further the decline of morality, integrity, and common decency, not to mention the continuation of humanities slide into oblivion.
T Smith (Texas)
First, I don’t think this murderer deserves parole. Second, while I sympathize with Mr. Kennedy’s child, I do think this deification of the late Mr. Kennedy is a bit much. He was another politician and what he might have accomplished is sheer speculation. The comments relating to what a better world this would be if he lived are just wishful thinking.
Joseph Amato Sept. 1, 2021 (NYC)
Reading the details of this case this is as much a medical insaniity historical condition as Sirhan's permanent. It is his fate to die in prison of mind and body.
Dave (Denver)
I still have a Bobby Kennedy for President button. I do pull it from a box on occasion and think, what if. I agree that Sirhan should never be released. It would be another terrible day added to what if Bobby won.
June (Charleston)
With the easy access to guns, how can any human not be considered a threat?
Independent (Voter)
Anyone who reads this should read it with the understanding that I am SCREAMING MY WORDS and directing them to the parole board: I am appalled that the violent, cold blooded, killer of Sen. Kennedy is being allowed parole. I am 77-years old and remember that horrible crime like it was yesterday. Have people become so inured to murder and violence that they think that we who were alive at that time share their ambivalence and tolerance of violence and murder? Allow me to inform those misguided parole board members that we have not forgotten that horrible day and we do not share their tolerance for murder and mayhem. I'm disgusted, appalled, and share the outrage of Sen. Kennedy's family over this affront to justice.
Richard Schumacher (The JoeBiden States of America)
He changed the history of the world for the worse. He should never see the light of day.
james (Portland, Maine)
The problem with this editorial is its reliance on ad misericordiam, which while important and tragic for the family should be minimal compared to the reasons for the assassination and the culprit's inability to come to terms with his responsiblities.
Jack (Maine)
Sirhan killed history when he killed Bobby. Like John Hinckley, he should never be freed from his punishment in prison. The world would have been very different if Bobby had lived. We all suffer from his murder, sadly, just another in those years of leadership murders: John and Martin and Bobby and Malcolm and even Fred. I fail to understand the sympathy advocated for Sirhan. He failed to see our hopes in those troubled times; in fact, he killed them when he murdered Bobby.
Been There (Chance Hill CT)
While trite the thought that comes to me is the oft repeated “what would Jesus do”? I was raised Roman Catholic but grew out of the mambo jumbo aspect of that faith. Today I firmly think following the way of Jesus is but one of many good ways to conduct oneself.
Quandry (LI,NY)
I agree totally with your thoughts! I was in high school myself, and I will always remember the day, when your uncle John, was assassinated. It was truly unbelievable! How could that have happened in our country?! To this day, I still cannot believe what happened! Among other things, my schoolmate and friend in Junior High and High school, were friends with your family, and used to baby sit for your family. Respectfully, for your privacy purposes, and that of my friend from those days, I will respectfully decline to discuss this aspect of that matter further. It was absolutely incredible and unreal, that the same thing could happen again to your father. Finally, I concur with your thoughts, about Sirhan Sirhan, and it was, and is absurd that he could not remember his actions. The whole rest of the world saw what he did, including himself! I never thought I would see the day when this matter would come up again. However, I sincerely wish all of you and your family, continued health and happiness that you and all of your family deserves. I know that you will rise to the best that you are, and I wish you all of nothing but the best! There are many good people in this world! We just have to find and cherish them when you meet them!
Richard Werwie (Ocala, FL)
The song’s lyrics are correct: … Some day soon, it's gonna be one day Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby? Can you tell me where he's gone? I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill… Where are all the Abraham, Martin and John’s gone?
Alan Gary (Brooklyn, NY)
Mr. Sirhan not only killed a bright political leader, he killed the hopes and dreams of many Americans. Whether he admits it or not, his is responsible and must pay the price for his actions, even if he was a different person 53 years ago. One can be against the death penalty and still want a person held responsible for his crime, for a political assassination. Mr. Sirhan should remain imprisoned for the remainder of his life.
Chip Steiner (USA)
Sirhan is 77 years old. He committed one murder. The list of multi-murderer parolees is long and, of course, mostly white. These people were cold-blooded killers. And yes, Bobby Kennedy was an important man--I was an ardent supporter and was devastated by his murder. Sirhan crime was a crime of pasion. He was not a cold-blooded killer. And Kennedy, as famous and important as he was, is still just another victim of a horrible crime. It is difficult to justify treating his surviving family differently than the families of all those killed by those cold-blooded murderers who were all paroled. I get where Ms. Kennedy is coming from. But she's not the only person to suffer from such an awful crime. How many children in this country have gone through the same thing? Please, let compassion and foregiveness into your heart.
JL22 (Georgia)
If he can't remember whether he shot someone the first time, how will he know he's shooting someone else? If he won't accept responsibility for the murder, why would we assume he's rehabilitated? Sirhan does not deserve parole. Rehabilitated or not, keep him locked up. A 71 year-old man can absolutely shoot a gun, and in the U.S., he can buy an AK-47 at his local gun show and kill a lot of people in a few seconds.
Armandol (Chicago)
Some people is sent to jail for life for committing non-violent crimes. Mr. Sirhan intentionally killed a human being and his action deserves a punishment that have to exclude any privilege.
DLNYC (New York)
Despite the fact that RFK was a hero of mine, and his assassination helped Watergate criminal Richard Nixon become president, I am inclined to believe that we hold many prisoners for too long, so I was open to this if warranted. However, especially in a case with tens of witnesses, admitting his guilt and acknowledging responsibility for it should be the minimum requirement to receive parole. I'm done being angry or vengeful over your father's death, but Mr. Sirhan has to do his part too. He shot a man and shows no remorse. That stinks. No deal. Further more, by refusing to acknowledge his crime or apologize for it on the cusp of a parole, his obstinance punishes all of us regardless of getting parole or not. We all deserve his contrition. For that act alone, he should stay in jail.
Diane Veltkamp (Gilroy CA)
Another reason to vote against Gov. Newsom’s recall. I can’t imagine that he would ever grant a person who won’t take responsibility for changing the course of US history parole. Even if this murderer is deported, he could be lionized in the Middle East. We cannot risk that, ever.
Linnea Mielcarek (Los Angeles)
one of your brothers showed up at the parol hearing and recommended his being released. you need to send letters or arrive at the final hearing of the commissioners if want to try and prevent what one of your brothers helped happen.
Claudia (USA)
Although I don’t believe the man deserves parole, I wonder what he would say if he was candid, uncoached by attorneys ( guessing here) , willing to admit responsibility. I might be more empathetic.
Sean (Ft. Lee. N.J.)
Sirhan originally facing death sentence, luckily getting sentence commuted: life with the possibility of parole. Those zealously opposing Capital Punishment, many disingenuously hiding behind their personal sentiment regarding also against cold blooded murderer serving full life sentence.
SouthernLiberal (NC)
This country would not be in the shape it is in today if Robert Kennedy had been President. After the murders of Jack Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Kent State, and our brothers' and sisters' lives, drafted out of high school, being used for a war for politicians -all of it was too much to bear, but when Bobby was shot, it took the air out of the room and our lives. To release this killer is insane. To reward him? Please tell me that this is not a political move. Please. Not this, too.
TF (Atlanta)
It is not my place to weigh in on a child’s grief or anger over his father’s killing. But I am outraged by the armchair torturers and executioners in the comments. The belief that a human being, no matter what they have done, deserves to die in prison is profoundly cruel.
Meredith Hoppin (Williamstown, Mass.)
I'm wondering why RFK's life is worth more, in the big picture, than some little guy who was killed in a gang fight, say -- or his gang fight killer. I admired RFK because his imagining extended to a world beyond his own. Will those who lost Robert as a father or near-dearest retrieve Robert by punishing the sad Sirhan Sirhan further, for an act for which this sad person has little or no memory? I would have hoped for more from the Kennedy's. Well, a few are for Sirhan Sirhan's release. Count me with them.
John Weston Parry, (Silver Spring, MD)
The fact that not all of Robert Kennedy's kids agree with Rory suggests they understood their father was committed to rehabilitation in the criminal justice system over mere punishment. This may be an ultimate test of that moral principle, but it is a principle worth fighting for nonetheless. The spurious rants about Sirhan Sirhan being an ally of the Taliban and ISIS as a justification for denying him parole is pathetic.
Sigmond C. Monster (Point Magu)
President Biden held a press conference a few days ago with RFK's sculptural bust beside him in the camera composition for mainstream media. It was the same day Sirhan Sirhan's parole possibility was first in the news. President Biden spoke about the tragedy at Kabul Airport to the press and the loss of our brave military protecting innocent Afghans with Kennedy's sculpture beside him. It made me sick to my stomach to think of how disrespectful it was to the Kennedy family and to our nation's citizens for this lack of awareness and blatant disrespect to such a great man and proponent of Civil Rights in our nation's history by such a failure of a President as he spoke about his inept planning and lack of planning.
Thomas C. Flood (Sherman Oaks, CA)
In many countries Sirhan would have been put to death. Instead he was given room and board for decades. He stole our chance at having a president that I believe could have been the best since Roosevelt. Surely it is a terrible example to give such a person their freedom. If he really is reformed he must be able to accept that the consequences of his crime are that he will leave this earth in prison.
Attila (Calgary)
RFK wasn't a regular man. We have harsher punishments for those who go after judges and elected officials than we do for others. Kennedy was en route to the Presidency. If justice and punishment is about paying your debts to society, making amends for the murder of RFK (or JFK, MLK or Malcolm X) is not actually possible. I was born several years later and on a different continent, and still, I feel Sirhan's bullet injured me... Frankly, even if he had shown remorse, changed as a person, he wouldn't deserve to walk.
Rich D (Tucson, AZ)
The parole board made an absolutely egregious error in granting Sirhan parole. It is stunningly immoral. Not even acknowledging the assassination of your Father means this man is a clear and present danger to society, let alone the insult it must add to the horrible injury you have experienced during your lifetime. Ms. Kennedy, I hope and pray this decision is reversed and Sirhan spends the rest of his days behind bars where he clearly belongs.
Victor Sternberg (Westcher)
The murder changed American history and robbed a family of a father. The death penalty was just and necessary. All crimes are not equal and distinctions are a sign of intelligence and justice.
Richard From Massachusetts (Western Massachusetts)
I'm tired of the Kennedy Clan being a special case and entitled to special privileges. My question is have other people convicted of murder been paroled under similar circumstances? If so then yes Mr. Sirhan should be paroled. If there is not precedent then he should not be paroled. I'm sick of Kennedys in politic and the Kennedy mystique. Most of all I am sick of the Kennedy special privilege to get away with with nearly anything in the way of bad behavior and to be rewarded for it. Would the son or daughter of a murdered man who was not famous be given guest column on the editorial page of the NYTimes? I think not.
Hilary Carpenter (Windsor, CT)
What if he DOESN'T remember? Is he supposed to lie and say he does remember? Would that make him more suitable for parole? We are an incredibly carceral nation, one of the few advanced democracies that cages geriatric inmates indefinitely. Parole is not an okay sign that all is forgiven and forgotten. It's just what a civilized society does.
Dennis Martin (Port St Lucie)
Imagine - we could have had Bobby Kennedy as President instead of Richard Nixon. Imagine. No parole - he stole something from America that cannot be replaced. No atonement is even possible for his crime.
ALM (Brisbane, CA)
Sirhan Sirhan murdered not an ordinary person but one who might have become President for eight years. Robert Kennedy might have changed the course of American history. Nixon might not have become President and would not have to be removed for illegal and unconstitutional activities. The chain of Presidents who followed President Johnson would have been different. The course of world history might have been different. Sirhan Sirhan's murder of Robert Kennedy had far-reaching effects on posterity. The least we can do is to keep Sirhan Sirhan locked in prison for the rest of his life.
Crafty Pilbow (Los Angeles)
This crime altered the course of history. No parole.
Chris (Seattle)
Many other murderers serve much less time, why should the wealthy be able to pressure the system?
waj (Wellesley, MA)
As a college student, I had gotten my dream internship to work with Bobby Kennedy's campaign at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. Alas... I agree with all that Rory Kennedy says about why Sirhan Sirhan should not be granted parole. I also agree with Kimberly Atkins Stohr's op-ed in the Boston Globe (Aug. 31, 2021), "Political assassins like Sirhan should never walk free." I hope the full Parole Board will reject parole for Sirhan. If they don't then I hope Gov. Newsom has the courage to do so.
blackLight (D.C.)
One thing missing from this article and the comments: a man who cannot remember his actions is a man with deep trauma.
Bill (Charlotte, NC)
Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby ? Thanks for speaking up on this Rory. My heart goes out to you.
martin (albany, ny)
Excellent column. Very well reasoned and expressed. Yes, RFK was an important figure in our history, but that really isn't the reason Sirhan needs to stay inside forever. Rory Kennedy's piece explains - in a way that most of the news articles have failed - that Sirhan is benefiting from a temporary legal loophole and his failure to even acknowledge he committed the crime precludes granting him parole. If Newsome fails to react this, it'll be as monstrous an error as Cuomo's 11th hour release of one of the Brinks Robbery murderers. Cuomo had been lobbied by the murderer's son - the current SanFrancisco DA - you can't make this up....
M. S Kaye (Idaho)
I stopped driving my car and cried when RFK died. Sirhan changed the course of history, and not for the better. There is absolutely no reason he should be allowed to forget the gravity and savagery of what he did, and no reason for this country to allow him a moment of freedom.
Winemaker ('Sconsin)
I would refer this difficult parole decision to my Christian faith, based upon the Biblical evidence (of which I will not argue with or condemn someone who questions its authenticity) of Jesus' life and words. In simple terms, what do I believe Jesus would do? My personal judgement (opinion, yes) of the answer to that question is that He would grant parole. This answer does nothing more than clear my own conscience while conforming with my life philosophy. It doesn't mean that parole will be granted, nor do I expect the parole decision to be made in accordance with my or anyone else's religious beliefs. The decision is obviously not mine to make.
C.A. Crofts (Cheyenne, WY)
That we are even considering release of this man is outrageous. He changed history - RFK if he'd been elected might have spared us years of Vietnam. This always happens - after the passage of years people are in charge who barely remember the terrible nature of the crime, and rather than looking at that, look only at more recent but irrelevant factors. So what if Sirhan has not killed anybody else - that's sort of the point of putting him in prison isn't it? California and its bureaucrats and leaders have no moral compass left.
Charles Willson (Southampton Ontario Canada)
I have never been in favour of the death penalty so I am in agreement with Sirhan Sirhan's life sentence. My natural tendency, at this point, would be to release him after such a long period in prison. I don't see him as a danger to society, But Rory Kennedy's point that he has never expressed remorse or taken the slightest responsibilty for murdering a young father is a very telling one and for that reason alone, he does not deserve to be released.
DLS (Melborne FL)
There can be forgiveness in our hearts -but no parole
Bob Gluck (Albany, NY)
For those of us whose hopes that a President RFK could have made a decisive mark on this country (I certainly did, when I became a 14 year-old campaign office volunteer), I stand with Rory and most of the Kennedy family in opposing this move. Sirhan - who continues to not even acknowledge responsibility for a murder that millions watched live on television - was spared the death penalty, and that was quite sufficient. To my mind this was the moment when modern presidential electoral politics began its slide off the cliff, bringing us Nixon… Reagan… Trump… and many not even bothering to vote, and a renewal of armed violence as a political weapon, just as Sirhan modeled it.
Deborah Morrissey (CT)
With all due respect, since when did the justice system decide to be fair? It also struck me that this was a political move, a time bomb set to go off in Newsom’s hands to the benefit of his opponent.
The purpose of prison is not just to punish bad behavior but also rehabilitate those who violate the law including murder so they can re-enter society with a second chance. The laws enacted by legislatures set the parameters that judges must follow when imposing a sentence. If justice is blind then the laws should be applied impartially regardless of fame or station in life. Ever since John Marshall's decision in Marbury v Madison, the court has been the final arbiter of whether a law is constitutional it has never been challenged. Their decisions are the supreme law of the land and states must abide. The metamorphosis of Bobby’s societal awareness and compassion following his brother's death was remarkable. I doubt Bobby Kennedy in the last years of his life would have defended the death penalty or denying to citizens no second chance- even for his own murder. I’ve always been a far left liberal and as Bobby changed so did my support for him.
Phil Redo (Brunswick Maine)
All crimes have impact - but some crimes inflict impact far beyond the most immediate and obvious. Ironically, the often quoted RFK remark about the "pebble in the water" applies here. The man who murdered RFK does not deserve his freedom. This was a different crime.
Gert (marion, ohio)
I worked for 15 years in three of Ohio's prisons, the first one was at Lebanon (the Gladiator School) that still housed inmates from the Lucasville Riot who raped corrections officers killing one of them. These inmates eventually rode out to the Super Max Prison in Youngstown, Ohio for their crimes where they belong. There are always exceptions to any rule about life. Witness the number of inmates released via DNA evidence for their crimes. But I have seen some of the most horrendous acts of men during those 15 years and often laugh at prison advocates who never really have any experience with prison life. Sirhan is where he belongs.
Interested Observer (South Carolina)
I remember coming home from school at age 12 to find my mother and a friend looking distraught as they watched the TV news. Robert Kennedy had been shot, they said. I don't understand the rationale for parole. Why is a man who admits he murdered Kennedy even eligible? I knew prisons have their procedures and inmates have a right to request parole. But in this case it makes no sense to grant this killer freedom.
Anthony Tenor (NYC)
Ms. Kennedy raises an interesting point about accountability and the opportunity it offers for personal growth. She was raised Catholic. In the Catholic Church, you must make confession to a priest before receiving absolution for sins. In other words, in an overt way, you have to take responsibility for your actions. Otherwise, forgiveness is cheap, and there’s little impetus for growth. It’s been over 50 years, yet Mr. Sirhan has still not admitted responsibility for his actions. He has the key to his cage, but he can’t bring himself to use it. I agree with Ms. Kennedy that he should not be paroled.
Rose Beetle (VA)
From the essay and all the comments so far, it appears that we are asked to consider whether we should distinguish politically motivated assassination from the killing of another because of meanness, financial gain, in anger, or other reasons that murderers have. Is there a difference in the value of human lives that would justify longer incarceration for some and shorter for others based on the value of the lives taken? I don’t know the answer to my own question, but I will give it thought. Perhaps this important question is the reason parole boards must have the most upstanding and thoughtful of persons as members, not those who are given political paybacks, as seems to be the case in many states. Whether to parole Sirhan Sirhan deserves serious thought. Must we also consider the value of his life? And for those who use this question as a means to restrict the behavior or choices of others, “what would Jesus say?”
dr. c.c. (planet earth)
I agree with you about everything except Sirhan's remorse and continuing imprisonment. For me and many others, your father's impending presidency was the only hope for our country. But as a psychologist, I understand Mr. Sirhan's post- traumatic amnesia, and think his remorse if he committed the horrible crime that he does not remember, is more honest than most. As a non-Christian, I feel that too much emphasis is placed on conversion to Christianity and redemption thereby, in granting parole.
Tom Hayden (Minneapolis Mn)
…I was 15. Remember hearing the radio on downstairs the next morning, the horror. Our whole family cried our eyes out.
Ray Katz (Philadelphia, PA)
I remember that awful day. And I stand with Rory.
LR (Toronto)
Looking at it dispassionately, as one must, the perpetrator has not yet taken ownership of his act (although his chance of recidivism is presumably low). Reason enough to deny him parole.
Bullhornymous (Holland)
I can fully understand Ms. Kennedy’s pain and where she is coming from. But maybe the country has something else to learn, which may take a very long time and involve several complex issues. How is it that so many EU countries that do not have the death penalty and rarely imprison anybody for more than 10 years still have a murder and crime rate only a fraction of the US? If we ever figure that out, questions of parole will become irrelevant.
John (Western New York State)
I vividly recall where I was when JFK, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were shot. The three assassinations were assaults against our nation and changed the course of history. I was fortunate to see Robert Kennedy at Norte Dame in 1968. My heart goes out to Rory Kennedy and I trust the full parole board and the Governor of California reads her commentary.
Christopher Lyons (New York, NY)
I don't think he should be paroled. I'm not sure I'd support that even if he did admit his guilt. However, I'm more concerned with the actions of Robert Kennedy Jr., the writer's brother, who has stated in past that he doesn't believe Sirhan Sirhan killed his father--buying into conspiracy theories, even though there are multiple witnesses to the crime. Robert Kennedy Jr. is now one of the most prominent anti-vaccine advocates in the world, and has certainly caused exponentially more deaths than Mr. Sirhan ever could. I tend to agree with Teddy Kennedy that his brother (while he was rather famously capable of holding a grudge) wouldn't really consider Mr. Sirhan's fate the most important issue at a time when we're fighting to end a pandemic, make this a more equitable society, and preserve the Democracy he cherished. If you want to honor his memory, fight for what he believed in.
Douglas Weil (Chevy Chase, MD & Nyon, Switzerland)
If an individual won't take responsibility for his / her actions and can't convincingly express remorse, how can anyone conclude that the individual poses no danger to society? Sirhan Sirhan has had 52 years to take responsible and express remorse. He hasn't done either. He does not deserve to be paroled.
Moonstone (TX)
I hesitate to tell this story, because this shouldn't be about me. But to read some responses that deny the impact of what happened needs to be challenged. I was 14 when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. My father supported Bobby Kennedy's candidacy, but had to get up early the next day. He asked me to stay up and watch the California returns. I watched it happen on TV & had to wake my father up to tell him what had happened. For years I couldn't see any image of RFK without unintended crying. Those who contend that his assassination was of no trauma or significance to the people of this country are wrong. Vietnam had already divided & traumatized the entire country, & this divided us more. There were people, presumably "normal" people like the parents of a friend, where MY parents let me go to try & take my mind off of what I'd seen, who were astounded that anyone would mourn him. This was Texas in 1968. Sirhan's action was not random, it was traumatic to his family as well as many others & he does NOT deserve to go free.
Dan Woodard MD (Vero beach)
The justice system can either make us feel good by inflicting pain on those we consider evil, or it can make us safer by maximizing the probability that those prisoners who are released (which is all except those who die in prison) are unlikely to return to violence and crime. The system cannot do both. I work with people who are struggling to recover from opiate dependence or mental illness, often both. Mental illness and addiction account for two thirds of our prisoners. They receive no effective treatment in prison and, no matter how long they are imprisoned, many relapse as soon as they are released. Or before, since illegal drugs are sold in almost every jail and prison. Probation in most states is just a system to keep them in poverty and, if at all possible, return them to prison. They can be treated, and return to productive and meaningful lives, which is what almost all want, but it takes months or years of struggle. Imprisonment destroys lives en mass, but they can only be helped one by one.
I agree with Ms. Kennedy. Recently when I expressed outrage over advocation for parole of Mr. Sirhan, a progressive acquaintance reminded me rather snidely of my faith and weekly church attendance. I have sympathy that this man threw his life away when he was young, but not as much sympathy as I do for Robert Kennedy and his family who to nothing of their own doing lost a father and husband. Forgiveness does not require exoneration. We live by laws. God will then judge not only Mr. Sirhan but how we dealt with him. For the time being we should remain a society of laws, particularly when it comes to intentional homicide. The conversation on the left always favors the murderer, why?
Joan Horton (Marbletown New York)
Your disingenuous statement that the left always favorites murderers must not stand. The left favors human rights. Murderers generally do not serve life sentences unless it is a particularly cruel murder or they have multiple victims. There's a reason that murder sentences have involved to generally include parole, there's a reason we did away with the death penalty. this person has been in prison for over fifty years. the left so called, and Society in general, way the rights of the murders, the family of the murdered, society, but they also weigh the rights of the accused.
RobertF (New York)
California’s parole system is the weakest it’s ever been. That is why Sirhan was granted parol when he never expressed remorse for his crime. Sirhan should have been executed for the premeditated murder of a great man, but the timing was bad - as the death penalty was subsequently reinstated. I agree that many Americans died as a consequence of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. LBJ came to office with a mandate - to escalate the war in Vietnam. When he was unsuccessful in repeatedly trying to get that past Congress, Johnson staged the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Having built political capital with the anti-war members of Congress, by using his influence with Southern Democrats to push through the Civil Rights Act, his later call to escalate the war was not apposed. Thousands of Americans died as a consequence, all to please Johnson’s base of Texas oil and mineral magnates. I refuse to believe that Bobby Kennedy’s assassination was fortuitous. Just as the assassination of his brother was not fortuitous.
FYI LBJ became President, and had fully engulfed the country in the war, nearly 5 years before the election that would have possibly, possibly resulted in Robert Kennedy being elected to that office. He would have been running against Nixon, not LBJ, and could have found it every bit as difficult as Nixon did to withdraw us from that other meaningless quagmire.
Michael Cooke (Bangkok)
Nothing that I have read so far indicates Sirhan Sirhan seeks forgiveness for something he supposes he might have done. How can anyone claim the man is rehabilitated? I completely agree with Ted Kennedy's plea to spare the murderer's life. That action shows both forgiveness and hope for rehabilitation. Unless the parole people are privy to some pretty powerful indications of a changed person, one willing to beg forgiveness, release would only unleash him to the waiting arms of jihadists.
Isolde Doyle (Dublin, Ireland)
I was 7 years of age when President Kennedy was assassinated but I remember the moment when the regular radio programme was interrupted by the news reader to announce that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. He had just been in Ireland a few months before that and everyone was shocked at the news - people started praying. Then a short time later we were told he was dead and there was huge grief. It affected me strongly as he was the first person I knew to have died - not that I actually knew but it felt like I did. I do not remember much of when Bobby was assassinated as I was in boarding school. But I remember the nuns and a lot of the other girls cried and we were allowed to watch the Senator's funeral on TV. Later in life I read a moving account of it by a British journalist whose name I cannot recall at the moment. Anyway I never got over the question of why America wanted to kill its politicians. And when I got older I began to wonder why each of the Kennedy's had so little effective protection. Sirhan has been in prison for 53 years - does that provide any compensation for Bobby's death - of course not. But perhaps we need to really look at the purpose of prison? It does not bring back the dead. Is it to punish, to protect others from the prisoner, to rehabilitate or what? Do we pursue a Christian or pragmatic or revengeful ethos? It is not for me to decide what the Kennedy family should feel, think or do in this situation. I was not there, so to speak.
Vienna Girl (Austria)
Interesting...the poster family of the Democratic Party becomes quite conservative on the issues of civil rights and penalties when personally affected.
@Vienna Girl Did you read the piece? RFK’s brother appealed to the court to not execute his killer, who hasn’t accepted responsibility or expressed remorse for his actions in more than 50 years. On that basis, Ms. Kennedy argues that Sirhan should not be released from prison. A true conservative would still be demanding the death penalty. But you’re right: people often take positions that run counter to their long-held political beliefs when they’re affected personally. Think Republicans and gay rights, for example.
Anthony Tenor (NYC)
Accountability isn’t a conservative value, at least not anymore, as the GOP has amply demonstrated in the wake of the January 6 insurrection.
David In Ohio (Columbus OH)
This comment seems unkind to me.
JTMcC (Houston, TX)
Three thoughts -- (i) The scope of criminal punishment should not depend upon whether the victim was a politician or celebrity ... (ii) The scope of criminal punishment should not depend upon whether the victim had a family that has strong feelings about the victim or the criminal ... (iii) If reaching old age is a good reason for releasing criminals, it should be an across-the-board rule ...
garsar (france)
For the rest of us, he took away our choice and like his brother, we can never know what might have been. I side with no release because this was the murder of more than 1 person. It was the murder of millions who wanted a change and never got to choose the avatar of that change.
JMan (UK)
@garsar I heard the guy had worked for Joe McCarthy! Yuck!
Denis (Brussels)
This is sad to read. The murder was horrific and we cannot begin to understand how the victim's children must feel. We can perfectly understand why no victim's family will ever want a killer paroled. But this is only one part of the equation. Do we want to live in a society where forgiveness is not an option? Where rehabilitation is impossible? What is the reason for putting someone in prison, or, more generally, for punishment? There are several: 1. Punishment / Revenge / Justice. These all focus on the idea of "what the criminal deserves". 2. Keeping Society Safe, preventing further crimes. 3. Rehabilitation: Basically, can we fix what was wrong with the person, so that they can again become a valuable member of society? 4. Deterrence: Show others what will happen them if they commit a similar crime. It is hard to justify keeping Sirhan in prison by any of these four criteria. He is no longer a danger to society. He has been punished - don't dare suggest that spending 2/3 of one's life in prison is not a tough punishment for anyone. It's unlikely that he will be further rehabilitated by more time in prison. So, much as a sympathise with Mr. Kennedy, I cannot agree. The parole committee need to take the family's views into account, but every murder is a tragedy. Every murder on a street corner is a tragedy. Every gang shooting is a tragedy. Every domestic murder is a tragedy. Either it's "an eye for an eye" or we accept that we must ultimately forgive.
Joel Goldberg (Boston, MA)
This was not a murder on a street corner, a gang murder or a crime of passion. All the family considerations aside etc. This is not about rehabilitation or even justice. The murder of RFK was a political assassination that had repercussions that still reverberate today. All the extra lives lost in Vietnam, delayed social justice in America and so on. Sirhan’s act hurt and impacted so many additional lives that no amount of time in prison would ever pay our society back. We need to send the message that murders like this will result in the most extreme punishment short of the death penalty.
The Fish (New York)
@ Denise If he has been rehabilitated and or served enough time, then when he is released would you agree to allow him the chance to purchase a high powered rifle?
Ignatius O’Reilly (Brooklyn)
Completely agree. Just as the killing of a police officer means the murderer is capable of something so heinous. Someone who could murder a national political figure is more dangerous and should be punished accordingly. Not at all comparable but I can’t help but think of John Lennons’ killing and what his murder ended. I don’t really have the words.
Sophia (chicago)
I agree. I had watched RFK speak that night and had the TV on when the horrible news came burying out of the night. No parole for that monstrous act that resonates today.
Den (Palm Beach)
I believe that in an overall nature our penal system is too harsh. However, there are situations that demand significant penalties. Assaults on our leaders and assaults on our democratic system merit the harshest punishment. These assaults not only effect the individual but effects every one of us. So the act that Mr. Sirhan committed and the sentenced imposed must be seen as an example and a warning. The committed act out ways rehabilitation.
Alex (LA)
If Sirhan is sent to Jordan that seems punishment enough. Life in prison in the US is still better than life in Jordan. He gets better medical care in prison here than most Americans out of prison. My fear is that he will be released and then qualified for SSI and that he will pass his days in relative comfort in the US on Medicare and Medical.
Christa (Michigan)
I think you have work at least 6 years to qualify for SSI so I don’t think he will get it
The Weasel (Los Angeles)
If Newsom were to agree with the Parole Board, it would be the end of his political career . . . which is already teetering.
John (Denver)
@ The Weasel Newsom has his finger in the political winds as we speak.
I remember the assassinations of a generation of progressive leaders--Bobby Kennedy among them. Those losses brought the movement to a screeching halt and forever altered the country's course. It was with a pain I haven't known since Bobby Kennedy's assassination that I read the news of Sirhan's parole. Sirhan's parole should not be reviewed as a consequence of murdering a man. The assassination of a leader buries the dreams and hopes of a people. Sirhan did not just take one man's life; he extinguished the nation's destiny.
mattiaw (Floral Park)
It changed the course of US history, as there was a good chance Bobby would have been President. This might have meant no Watergate, and a Bidenesque exit from Vietnam. For that reason alone, he should rot in prison.
RRI (Ocean Beach, CA)
@mattiaw Don't kid yourself. In 1968, it was possible to win the nomination without competing in any primaries. At the time of Kennedy's assassination, Humphrey, who was not competing in primaries, led with 561 delegates to Kennedy's 393 and Eugene McCarthy's 258. McCarthy won New Jersey the same night Kennedy won California. The Democratic party was divided rancorously, even violently against itself, as all the world witnessed at the Chicago convention. Whatever he might or might not have thought in private or disputed about the conduct of the war, particularly the heavy bombing of North Vietnam, Kennedy only decidedly turned publicly against the war itself in his first campaign speech two days after announcing his candidacy, having, as he admitted in the speech, long supported it. McCarthy supporters regarded him as a rank, untrustworthy opportunist, dividing the anti-war vote while trading on his brother's name. A late contender, Kennedy was a long shot at best. Given the divisions in the Democratic party, odds are Nixon would have won regardless the Democratic candidate. Sirhan Sirhan's parole case ought to be judged without further dripping political sainthood on the Kennedy family. Sirhan Sirhan, at 24, committed a heinous crime, but he did not crucify America's happily ever after future.
Paul S (Minneapolis)
Rory, the man who murdered your father no longer exists.
Frankster (France)
@Paul S Ahh... huh?
Me (Here)
@Paul S Wrong. We are the sum total of all the acts we've committed in a long life. Sirhan Sirhan was and remains an unrepentant first degree killer of a world politician. He very much is the same person just with added experience. If he wants to atone, to right the wrong, he should stop seeking parole and live out his life in a deep jail.
PB (Los Altos, CA)
Release Sirhan from prison when Robert Kennedy returns to life. Not before.
abearson (Sacramento)
Clemency for assassinating a progressive giant would be cheered by the Jan 6th crowd. They might even take it as encouragement,
Chazak17 (Rockville,MD)
This Palestinian terrorist killed Bobby Kennedy. He should never be granted parole. He has shown no remorse for what he did and he should never leave prison alive and we should never forget what he did.
Mark (Philadelphia)
Amen. Thanks for publishing
Lori (New York)
Life in prison should mean just that. LIFE. When I see the Manson women defending their right to parole I have to hold back the anger. When your victims re-appear before you then you should be granted parole until then you go out n a pine box. Don't care if you were a model prisoner teaching fellow inmates; for horrible crimes committed by Sirhan an Manson followers and the like you should spend the rest of your natural life in prison.
That’s What She Said (The West)
I Believe in Kennedy. I Believe in Bobby. I Believe in Mercy. I Believe you Father would too.
RobTech (NYC)
‘Nuff Said Rory - throw away the key
Cynical US Fan (Jamaica Plain, MA)
We’ve allowed Saudi Arabia to go on scot-free after 9/11 and Kashoggi’s murder. Why should we let this Jordanian murderer go free after even 50 years of rightful incarceration. Enough!
Patrick (MPLS)
Releasing this cold blooded murderer from prison would be nuts. If anyone ever deserved to spend their entire life in prison it is this dark, evil man.
mbb500 (Gardnerville NV)
Wondering where Jesus forgive you enemies has gone?
Dem (California)
How is it possible that anyone disagrees with this author.
NS (California)
Don’t release this cold blooded Murderer. Listen to the voice of Kennedy’s child.
Alix (New York)
Innocent Black men have been put to death for crimes they didn’t commit, later proven through DNA evidence. Now a man who escaped the death penalty for a murder that was televised for the entire nation to witness may walk free?????? Crazy. Almost as crazy as RFK Jr who thinks sirhan is innocent and spreads misinformation about vaccines. Thank you Rory Kennedy for your heartfelt essay and common sense.
Me (Here)
@Alix RFK Jr and vaccines? The Kennedy's have long shown us that having a few great family members does not make every family member great or even worthwhile. RFK Jr opposes things that should be supported to be oppositional, to stand tall, to make pretend he is fighting insurmountable odds like his father and uncle. He's become a parody of virtue in a tin foil hat. The worst kind of testament to what his father was.
Elizabeth Bennett (Arizona)
The assassination of Robert Kennedy was an earth shattering event, affecting all Americans. That a slimy little man like Sirhan Sirhan was responsible for such a catastrophic loss was hard to process 53 years ago, and like many Americans, I will always remember where I was when the news was broadcast. Is it significant that parole commissioner Robert Barton is a Republican? Probably.
Stuart (MDR, CA.)
The history, future of the USA was incredibly changed by the assassination of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles, (NIXON GOP), more so than Charles Manson a year later also Los Angeles, Manson died in prison so should a drunk Palestinian militant. His act changed the trajectory of everything in the early 1970's
Scottsdale Jack (In exile in CT)
He deserves the death penalty, no different than Richard Ramirez and Ted Bundy. But the leaders in California are too dense to realize the world is a better place with such people pushing up daisies.
Michael Faklis (San Francisco)
Sirhan not only killed Bobby Kennedy, he killed hope for our country. He left us with Nixon, Watergate, Viet Nam, and our illegal secret bombing of adjacent countries. Please keep him locked up.
Interesting how liberals are always looking for ways to help criminals avoid jail, close jails and lower prison rates and force people and businesses to except ex cons into their neighborhoods except when it concerns them another example from the left of do what I say not as I do
flatbush (north carolina)
RFK was our last great hope at the time and we should never let a killer have a chance to kill again.
Jonathan Katz (St. Louis)
She's right. He's an unrepentant premeditated murderer. A terrorist.
Mike (New City)
I agree that Sen. Kennedy's killer does not deserve parole, ever. Let him rot in prison.
I agree. Sirhan should rot in jail.
Arrest Him Now (NYC)
The dark skinned Palestinian “other” named Sirhan Sirhan doesn’t deserve parole after 53 years of imprisonment, but lily white John Hinkley has been completely free to roam the earth since 2016 for an assassination attempt on a sitting president that occurred in 1981. Both crimes are horrific, and I am excusing neither. But all Americans of all political stripes would do well to take a good look at their unexamined bigotry toward non-whites.
Me (Here)
@Arrest Him Now Ah race, again, 24/7. Is it possible Hinkley was just stone cold mentally ill lacking requisite evil intent and now is medicated, remorseful and sane? Is it possible Sirhan planned out his crime in detail to further his savage political agenda, took gun lessons, and acted with sanity and knowing intent? Race has nothing to do with this. In fact, because of (white man) Hinkley's successful insanity defense, that defense was tightened considerably and is now largely unavailable in the US.
Upper Westsider (NYC)
While Jewish people are only 2% of the population, nearly 60 percent of religious-bias hate crimes in America in 2020 targeted Jews, according to data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. What the FBI doesn’t tell us is the motivation for such hate. But we Jews know the answer, and the answer is there doesn’t need to be a reason and besides assaults on visibly identifiable Jews, intimidation of Jewish college students and desecration of synagogues and burial grounds, the world’s oldest hate also targets the Jew among nations - Israel. A Palestinian nationalist, Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Bobby Kennedy because of Kennedy’s support for Israel. What message will his early release send to those who, after the last war between Hamas and Israel, went hunting for Jews to assault in LA, NYC, Toronto, London?
Patrick H (Scottsdale)
Tough call
(((singaritz))) (Singapore)
The assassination of Robert Kennedy may have been something more than murder, as many here are commenting. However, he was tried and convicted of murder under California state law (not some other, greater, crime). To hold him to a higher standard because of the status of his victim is arbitrary and capricious (and thus unconstitutional). Further, to argue that the members of the parole board did not consider justice or rehabilitation in their decision may be Ms. Kennedy's assumption. However, she would ask us to keep Sirhan Sirhan in prison based on emotion (her fear, or the aching loss of a famous American and the hope he offered). I hope that our justice system will strive to avoid decisions based on fear or anger.
Me (Here)
@(((singaritz))) So it was just another random killing that had no impact on America. That he would've won the presidency, was a sitting senator, father of 11, a former Attorney General, all means nothing? How little you value our country and the dead man's exceptionalism.
Carter Nicholas (Charlottesville)
A defensible position, well argued. What we don’t know, is if it is the only one.
Kurt (Seattle)
No surprise a son doesn’t want his father’s murderer to be set free on parole. I would never want someone who killed my father to see the light of day. Fortunately we live in a society where the wronged don’t get to decide the punishment, judges, juries, and laws do.
Ria Lembregts (Belgium)
@Kurt Rory is a woman, not a man. She was born in December 1968, 6 months after her father's assassination.
Upper Westsider (NYC)
@Kurt Rorey Kennedy is JFK’s youngest child and daughter.
Monica Bryant (Santa Rosa CA)
Rory the writer is Robert Kennedy’s daughter.
Woollfy1a (Florida)
Is the penal system designed to segregate felons from a society which is fundamentally law abiding, or to rehabilitate and release them? Murderers are not your average felon. When they murder there are only two rational sentences; death in states where it us lawful, or life imprisonment without parole. The murderer who spends decades incarcerated and serves their time by helping other inmates to read, write, help with legal petitions or in some other way becomes productive, or is simply not a trouble maker, should not be excused from their crime because they’re considered ‘rehabilitated.’ Jean Harris was paroled after murdering Dr. Tarnower because she helped educate other prisoners. Why release her? She deserved to stay in prison continuing to be productive. I have a problem with the death penalty only because innocent people have been put to death. Not because I believe it’s wrong for government to impose that sentence to protect society. My preference would always be life without parole. But heinous crimes deserve severe punishment, Paroling murderers makes a mockery of the penal system. A DA who believes their job is over after the felon is convicted, is failing society.
Ron (Arizona, USA)
The autopsy shows the fatal shot that killed RFK was shot behind the right ear at close range. The bullet went slightly from back to front, and right to left. Sirhan Sirhan was in front of RFK. That's a fact. Download and read the autopsy report. I did.
Evelyn (California)
I’m genuinely surprised by the majority of the comments here against parole. Assuming that most NYT readers hold fairly liberal or progressive views, there are some glaring inconsistencies in them advocating for letting this man “rot in prison.” May I ask whether there should be a legal distinction between political assassinations and other murder cases? I understand the magnitude of RFK’s death and the profound ways it has rocked the nation, but all the “had he lived” arguments are nothing more than wishful thinking rather than reasoned counterfactuals. We don’t know for a fact if RFK would’ve effectively changed the country for the better (think Obama in his ascending years vs his presidency). Even if that’s the case, does that make his life as a human being more valuable than other murder victims? I hope we as a society do not follow this line of thinking. Additionally, RFK was not a political office holder at the time, which makes his assassination categorically different from that of, say, JFK. It doesn’t make the crime any less heinous, but legally speaking, I don’t see why this parole case should be treated differently than other murder cases. Losing a father — or an inspiring political leader, for that matter — is incredibly hard. I don’t pretend to fathom the depth of Ms. Kennedy’s sorrow, but we as a society should evolve toward a less retributivist justice system that serves no one. And we liberals certainly should put our money where our mouth is.
CA VOTER Including 9/14 (CA)
The man is not just a murderer, but an international terrorist. The murder was intended to effect major political change, both domestically and, ultimately, Internationally. Most liberal/progressive Californians and Americans do NOT support terrorism nor leniency with verified terrorists who succeeded in murder. That is who you are hearing from.
M Natalia Clemente Vieira (South Dartmouth, MA)
@Evelyn I believe that at the time of his murder RFK was a sitting US Senator from the state of New York. Wasn't he therefore a political office holder as well as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president? And instead of defending a convicted murderer no matter who he killed, we should be more concerned about the innocent people who have spent far too many years in prison. An example of this is Kevin Strickland. SEE:
2020 (New York)
@Evelyn Its the crime itself. Murder, the taking of another persons life never has a valid reason. He should never be free as he took freedom from someone else who had no chance and no gun himself. Why would you want him out on the street? Especially now. The perpetrator has said he has no memory of the crime. Means, with all that is going on right now, he is likely to kill again for no reason or any reason. Do not want him to live near anyone. Should David Berkowitz go free? Does the passage of time itself simply mean you are no longer a threat to society? I do not get it at all. People are who they are at heart. I never held a gun.
JT (Tel Aviv)
As someone who vividly remembers the incident and the era, i oppose the release of Sirhan Sirhan. My opposition is not only in deference to the feelings of the majority of Kennedy family members, but because of the impact of the crime on the nation. While far from being a perfect individual, Robert Kennedy, had he received the nomination and won the election, would certainly have taken the country down a different path than Nixon. The upheavals caused by three political assassinations, the Vietnam War, the cynical Nixon regime and Watergate, while giving rise to a generation's activism, also created scars as well as the added lives lost. In principle, I am all for prison rehabilitation and reform of the prison system. But in this case, I certainly could not condone releasing this man who caused so much pain and damage to a family and the nation.
Jane (SF Bay Area)
Perhaps you could take on the cost of imprisoning a senior citizen then?
Me (Here)
@Jane For this particular killer, raise my taxes, I'll pay gladly.
Gilbert N Garcia (Harpers Ferry, WV)
Clearly a Parole Board should have a broad representation, including citizens and clearly more than two myopic guys. Otherwise, it’s easy to convince the Board even while technically, claiming innocence and amnesia. That’s special. Clearly, this blind Board could care less about what Mr Kennedy states. Shame!
Edward Allen (Spokane Valley)
The only thing worse than murder is revenge.
Ria Lembregts (Belgium)
@Edward Allen Really? She is not advocating for him to be murdered, but wants him to stay behind bars. Those 'feelings of revenge' are perfectly understandable. They are human.
Robert (Out West)
Something I read in an old Sinclair Lewis novel: “The essence of the law is that the sweets of private vengeance shall be denied.”
Washington Reader (Washington, DC)
The memory of the collective grief of the nation in early June 1968 comes roaring back to me. I weep once more. For the sake of Rory Kennedy, I pray Sirhan Sirhan is not paroled.
Rosalind (Knoxville, Tennessee)
We can perhaps imagine how different our world might have been if Bobby Kennedy had not been killed by this man. Thousands - including my husband's baby brother - not killed in Viet Nam because the war ended years earlier? A bolder policy of voting rights with laws that would make impossible the anti-democratic horrors that republican state officials and governors are visiting on us now? Stronger laws to combat institutional racism and poverty? Bobby's loss is incalculable. Leave his white haired murderer where he belongs - in prison.
fed up (las pulgas)
And if pigs had wings maybe they could fly.
jim-stacey (Olympia, WA)
Sirhan didn't just assassinate a great man. He killed a dream and a great source of hope for millions then and millions more to come. He should draw his last breath in the custody of the State of California where he was sentenced to death for murder in the first degree. He is unrepentant even though he has had 53 years to recall the murder and repent of its evil. No parole for this killer.
fed up (las pulgas)
How about a posthumous sentence for the principals who leveraged Civil Rights to conscript More than 600,000 American minorities to die or be scarred in Vietnam.
Tom (Washington, DC)
Yes. Rory. I didn’t know you, but I played at Hickory Hill with your brothers, Michael and David. Your mom, Ethel was nice too. We kids went to elementary school together. I knew your uncle Ted later. But just before he was killed. Your dad gave a campaign speech at little Potomac School, and I got to talk briefly with Robert Kennedy, your dad. He was a good man. Then, Sirhan Sirhan shot him.. I was truly baffled about the world and all you Kennedys. Years later, I agree, Sirhan Sirhan should not be freed. Peace to you, Tom
fed up (las pulgas)
Just because he would be paroled and subsequently deported does not mean he would ever be free.
Jiro SF (San Francisco)
53 years is long enough.
2020 (New York)
@Jiro SF Robert Kennedy and his family will serve a longer sentence than 53 years. What is a long enough sentence for them than to live with this knowledge every day and then free the man who killed their husband, father, brother, son, uncle, brother in law, a do gooder, a friend plus all the other roles like substitute father for his Dead brothers two children and took the next President away from the America we love. The ripple effects of this one great mans death reach far wide and deep. No reason at all to free his killer.
Flint Cadet (Illinois)
Never. Let. Him. Out. In June of 1968, he discarded his humanity.
Robert (Out West)
To paraphrase Augustine, there is nothing people do that is alien to us. Sorry to break the news. But if you’re all fired up about denying people their humanity and locking them up forever, lemme suggest oerusal of this here little list: 1. Werner von Braun. 2. Ollie North. 3. Sir Arthur Harris. 4. Rusty Calley. 5. George Armstrong Custer. For funsies, guess who a) killed the most innocent people, b) did the most jail time.
Greg (Ft Pierce)
Agreed, turn down parole.
Peter Z (Los Angeles)
Sirhan is a political assassin. I’m inclined to think he should remain in prison, but is there no case where someone can redeem themselves and given a second chance? None?
2020 (New York)
@Peter Z No redemption in Murder. There is simply no way to redeem the act.
Lynne Shapiro (California)
She, Ms. Rory Kennedy, is right. I was in shock to think that Sirhan Sirhan could be considered for parole for one second. Just another absurdity I have to read in the news these days.
James Tracey (Virginia)
To forgive is divine.
Me (Here)
@James Tracey So logically you would forgive and parole Adolf Hitler, because after all....
2020 (New York)
@James Tracey Yes, absolutely. And to let him out of Prison where he looks very well taken care of is nuts. You can forgive him but not set him free.
KM (Maryland)
Without reading! I agree!!
Julian (Close)
I agree 100%. The idea of releasing an assassin, a man who's actions scarred America forever, a man who has never even given a straight story as to why killed RFK, seems utterly ludicrous to me.
Diane (CT)
Dear Miss Kennedy, I could not agree with you more and I'm so very sorry you have to endure this heartache. The man should die in prison while giving thanks each day that he has a life of any kind to live. Be well.
Ehillesum (Michigan)
Millions of us agree with you. Sirhan killed more than a man. He killed hope and destroyed where the future of millions of Americans may have headed. His life should remain forfeit and he should pay his debt—his life, to Kennedy’s family and all Americans.
AndyW (Chicago)
When you purposefully kill someone with pre-planned intent, you have sacrificed your life to prison. You should only be able to argue for release if compelling new evidence surrounding the original crime is uncovered. The possibility of new evidence, plus moral considerations are why most states justifiably don’t have the death penalty. There is currently no known way to reform a murderous mind with even the slightest degree of certainty. Any psychologist claiming otherwise is either supremely arrogant or a liar. Maybe someday we will unravel the mind’s mysteries enough to know, but it is certain that day is not yet anywhere in sight.
Theresa (Fl)
How has he been rehabilitated? He does not take responsibility for his actions. His are the words of a sociopath.
jack (north carolina)
This person changed the course of American history for the much worse. That is reason enough to keep him in jail.
fed up (las pulgas)
Clueless. By escalating the War in Vietnam to where there over 800,000 Americans In-country with a Long and Expensive Logistical Tail via having leverage Civil Rights to conscript minorities, so did LBJ.
bnyc (NYC)
He not only killed someone; he changed the course of history for the worse. How fitting that kennedy's son, who is anti-vaccine is also pro-release.
Cathy C (Rancho Santa Fe)
Yes well there are nut cakes in every family.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Does a murderer who cannot accept responsibility be trusted not to do the same again? No. He had no motive for killing Kennedy that made Kennedy a logical target. He never knew Kennedy nor had been affected directly by anything which Kennedy had done. As best as can be guessed, he shot Kennedy because Kennedy was a famous American political figure. That kind of motivation is entirely internal to Sirhan Sirhan and he never has been able to understand it himself. He might just kill some other stranger when this kind of frame of mind emerges, again.
Miguel de luccerro (St Louis)
Mr. Sirhan should not be paroled and should remain in prison to die. Sirhan took the the life of an American jewel, stuffed out the brilliance and stole the unimaginable opportunities Mr. Kennedy could have given us, the US and the world. No release please.
David (Memphis)
I watched the news reports on his death as a six year old with my mother. I wholeheartedly agree with the author. I am stunned that California could be so barbaric as to even consider granting parole to this monster.
David G (Monroe NY)
I was only 12 at the time of RFK’s assassination. My parents weren’t really supporters — they thought he was too liberal — but would have voted for him nonetheless to avoid….oh, what was his name again? Nixon. Kennedy’s murder seemed like the last straw in American society — the assassinations of JFK, MLK, the Vietnam war, campus unrest. The worst period in modern history. Until Trump, that is. Sirhan should spend the rest of his miserable life in jail. The world has already suffered repercussions from his hatred.
Sanjay (New York)
This man killed Bobby Kennedy. He destroyed the lives of Bobby's family members. He crushed the dreams of those who believed in the vision for this country that Bobby Kennedy was working to realize. Freeing this man, who appears never to have offered a full apology, would literally be the commission of another crime.
CA VOTER Including 9/14 (CA)
The man is an international terrorist! Does Gavin Newsome really want the release and, essentially, forgiving an International terrorist murderer as part of his legacy? A legacy that may soon be limited by a recall vote just 13 days away? In releasing the murdering terrorist, Gavin would be killing the hopes of all his supporters and their dreams of the future under his leadership, just as the murderer in question killed the dreams and future of Robert Kennedy’s supporters, not to mention the obvious impacts on Rory and the rest of the Kennedy family, generations of them, and of us.
Marylee (MA)
Sirhan is lucky that his death penalty was abolished, and he does NOT deserve parole. Besides the loss to the Kennedy family, our Nation was robbed of many possibilities - sooner end to the Vietnam War, civil rights advanced, education valued, no Iraq War, no Reagan trickle down, ...
Energy Guy (San Francisco)
The stature of his victim doesn't matter. The only pertinent fact is that he refuses to take any accountability for his act, much less show remorse for it. According to Sirhan Sirhan: - He does not remember shooting Kennedy. - He does not remember how he got to the hotel. - He does not remember casing the hotel two nights before the murder. - He does not remember his full and consistent confession to the police after his arrest. - He does not remember writing in his diary, 18 days before the murder, "My determination to eliminate R.F.K. is becoming the more and more [sic] of an unshakable obsession...Kennedy must die." Why is this hard? No parole.
Me (Here)
@Energy Guy The victim very much does matter. Killing a great leader has not the same societal impact as killing a common man. Both have worthy lives of course, but one man can change the very direction of the planet. If we can charge extra for a hate crime of specifically targeting a racial minority, we can punish extra for destroying a great man.
USNA73 (CV 67)
Full disclosure. My request for consideration for nomination to Annapolis was on RFK's desk in NY the day he was murdered in California. In business, I have had the pleasure to meet Chris Kennedy, RFK' s son. I do not support the death penalty. An individual who murders as a threat to the fabric of society is essentially a terrorist. Your right to live within that society should be forever forfeited. A life sentence without parole is the appropriate sentence. My conscience does not allow me to see the State take a life, even though Sirhan is not a U.S. citizen. He was on our soil and subject to our laws. Sirhan does not deserve our freedoms. Ever.
brian begley (stanford,ca)
I agree. His act was irrevocable. So should the punishment. Life without parole is the best answer to an unspeakably horrible act.
osavus (Browerville)
Murderers such as sirhan sirhan (I will never capitalize his name) deserve life in prison with no possibility of parole. It was one of the first terrorist's attacks on the U.S. No parole for sirhan.
Will (Nueva York)
I am sorry for the author's loss but it might be noted that both JFK and RFK had no problem with the idea of assassination Let's be honest with ourselves
TF (Atlanta)
It is not my place to say anything about the grief and anger of a child over her father’s killing. But I am disgusted by the armchair torturers and executioners in the comments. The confidence with which people assert that another human deserves to die in prison strikes me as bizarrely, unspeakably cruel.
John H (Oregon)
So very unfortunate that Rory Kennedy even had to write this letter. But had she not done so we might not have known the current phase of this tragedy - the loss of her father, the loss of a wonderful American possibility. I can't fathom why a two member parole board panel as well as parole commissioner Robert Barton could make such an insanely wrong choice to recommend parole. Let's hope that the publishing of Rory Kennedy's opinion by the NYTimes will ramp up the pressure to California voters to support their current Governor Gavin Newsom during the bizarre and dangerous recall election on Sept 14. Does anyone think Larry Elder would not approve a pardon for the unremorseful person who murdered Robert Kennedy?
That’s What She Said (The West)
I’m terribly sorry for you losing your Father. We loved Bobby Kennedy. My brothers skipped school to shake his hand during his California Campaign. Horrific that day in June. Your Father believed in forgiveness and I'm surely not telling you to forgive. But I believe there was more than one assassin as does your brother. I’d like to read his side. PS. You have an incredible Mother
Dem in Florida (Gainesville, Fl)
Robert Kennedy was a special politician, not cut from the ordinary cloth. He was a crusader for the common man; not perfect certainly, but a much better alternative than the one that was elected in 1968. Let Sirhan stay in prison until the end, or perhaps nearer to the end of his life.
Richard (Lunenburg, MA, USA)
Keep him in jail. No parole. Refuses to accept responsibility for RFK death. I agree with Kathryn Kennedy and majority of her family to keep Sirhan in prison.
Bruce Kirschenbaum (Raleigh 27615)
Did everyone read the Kennedy column? He takes no responsibility. Period. That is not changed, reformed, or anything else. She is right! (I named my first son after Bobby.)
Joe (Poconos)
No parole. IMHO Sirhan Sirhan should have been executed, along with the entire Manson family. The impact of RFK's assasination changed history IMHO. As did JFK and MLK. The impact of their deaths are still felt today. At least none of the Manson family has left prison unless they died of natural causes. The same should be for Sirhan Sirhan. He should be grateful that the last thing he didn't hear was the cyanide pellets being dropped in the acid.
BFH (The Cape)
Rory, move on to forgiveness. Sirhan is taking your life as well, without you knowing it - this would sadden your father tremendously.
Robert (Out West)
“The essence of the law is that the sweets of private vengeance shall be denied.”
SRS (Stamford, CT)
California is beyond redemption if they have no second thoughts about releasing a killer who expresses no remorse or evinces a sense of responsibility for his crimes. It does not matter that his victim was a revered figure or a relative nobody. A murderer who does not feel responsibility for his actions needs to stay in prison or die. Maybe we need a new kind of penalty for this kind of criminal: First, incarcerate for 40 years. After that, if the criminal is not parole-worthy, execute him/her. The Soviet mode of execution as shown in “The Americans” would work - read out sentence, say it will be carried out “shortly”, put gun to the back of his/her head and pull trigger even before the criminal has registered what was said. Keep mop and bucket in corner of room to clean up blood.
E (California)
In a system truly committed to impartial justice, the punishment (including the question of parole) would not be dependent on the identity or fame of the victim, or on the victim's or their survivors' personal feelings. I'm frankly surprised that the Times felt it was not highly unethical to give Ms. Kennedy space in the pages of the paper of record to express her personal feelings like this!
Me (Here)
@E So you also agree if I target and kill only gay people, specifically for that reason alone, that I should not be charged with a hate crime and murder, just with murder? Can't you see two crimes were committed? RFK was murdered. And his beliefs and those of millions who supported him were wiped out and our political system was shattered by his "interference" in our election. Call it multiple crimes.
Roger C (Portland Oregon)
I don't care if he's become Mother Theresa incarnate, it's a really bad societal precedent to let the murderer of a presidential candidate go free, even if it's the last minute of his life.
Riggs (Asheville, NC)
When my Mother was murdered in 1989 by Dexter Daniels, I was 42 years old. Now I am 73, and not for a moment, it seems, have I been able to put aside my grief and anger at him for his senseless act of terror, for my Mom and our family. He was sentenced to 50 years, no parole, he was in his mid 20's if I remember correctly. My point is for all the commenters who write that S S should be paroled, he is an old man, we as a people should be compassionate towards those that "make errors in judgement, forgive those who do evil acts. Well, how many of you have had a parent murdered in cold blood? I wonder if had that happened to you and your family could you forgive the murderer? I Wonder What your reaction would be! I imagine that many of you would write a letter very similar to Ms Kennedys, and mine to the NYT's Editor! Be honest with yourselves now and decide what your reaction would result in your doing, in your beliefs, in your forgiveness. I can assure all of you that had I a say about DD's future, well he would never be released from prison.
Richard (Arizona)
Based upon the record that Ms. Kennedy reveals, no reasonable argument can be made for granting Sirhan parole. Robert Kennedy was one of my first political heroes. I will never forget hearing the news of his murder. I was 20 years old and serving aboard a Navy destroyer. We had been searching for the submarine Scorpion. It was reported lost at sea near the Azores in late May 1968. On June 6, on or about 10 a. m., I was working on the 03 level (just above the bridge) when the Commanding Officer activated the ship's loudspeaker system. He then stated, "I just received news that Senator Robert Kennedy was shot an killed early this morning in Los Angeles." That was it.
fed up (las pulgas)
Another Biased argument from One of the Kennedy Family
Mary Jane (NJ)
I agree with Rory Kennedy.
Chicago (US)
Regarding violent crime- The first purpose of arrest is to stop the threat. To restrain the offender, and to remove the offender from the situation. The first purpose of incarceration, be that short term pre-trial jail, or long term prison, is to remove the threat from the community. To prevent the violent offenders or felons from injuring or murdering more citizens. The threat is real. Releasing offenders right back to the streets endangers the lawful and emboldens the lawless. Electronic monitoring is a joke. Officer Ella French was shot and killed August 7. Her partner, Carlos Yanez Jr, a young father, is alive, has a bullet lodged in his brain, while another bullet took his eye. The offender was a felon illegally possessing a firearm. Yanez ‘s father is retired police. He said that the week prior to the shooting, his son was talking about taking illegal guns off the streets. “Guess what Dad, I locked up the same guy 3 times in a week with a gun. Same kid.” In 2020, Chicago police seized well over 10,000 illegal guns. But hey. Go ahead and release violent offenders and felons. Many of them have no remorse. No remorse. Go ahead and release Sirhan. But please keep watch over the Kennedy’s, careful watch. After all, this is what the voters want. The voters elect prosecutors who value anti incarceration over public safety.
Mark McIntyre (Los Angeles)
This puts Ca. Governor Gavin Newsom in a pickle as he's fending off a vindictive recall election in less than 2 weeks. It shouldn't be a political decision but if he frees Sirhan, say hello to Republican Gov. Larry Elder.
Richard Skelly (Victoria, B.C.)
The recall will be long over by the time Governor Newsom or his replacement will deal with it. Government lawyers within the Board of Parole Hearings have until almost the end of the year to review transcripts of the two-member Board decision. If they find one or more errors, the file will be referred back for a full board of Parole commissioners for reconsideration. If government lawyers find no errors, the Governor will then have 30 days to approve the two-member Board decision, reject and thereby reverse it or send it back for a full-board reconsideration
fed up (las pulgas)
The beloved Governor is regarded as yet another Elitist, who is well above the fray of such pedestrian media related matters.
Jon (Katonah NY)
It just amazes me that anyone thinks this violent, premeditating assassin should EVER be a free man. To read the comments (especially from the self-righteous Canadian) that this unrepentant murder is somehow "rehabilitated" is truly nauseating. I'm of the opinion that under the right circumstances (i.e. where a wanton, violent criminal has taken an innocent life -- and the proof is beyond ANY doubt so there is no miss-ID)-- executing the guilty felon is not only justified, but appropriate retribution. Sorry, keeping a murderer in prison for life is not enough in my opinion. Sirhan caught a break. Every waking day should at least be a living nightmare for him in prison with not a glimmer of hope for parole.
BrewDoc (Rural Wisconsin)
Anyone who commits premeditated murder, especially without any possible justifiable reason (not sure there is one) does not deserve parole especially when they don’t acknowledge their act. What would the world be like if Robert Kennedy had been elected President? Unfortunately, because of Sirhan we will never know
Edward Allen (Spokane Valley)
I don't think your father would agree with your essay.
AH (Philadelphia)
A life sentence ends with the convict's death. Full stop. This should certainly apply to the murderer of one of America's most promising young leaders. Justice is on Ms. Kennedy's side, without the slightest doubt.
NeilG (Berkeley)
If long sentences had a deterrent effect, our prisons would be empty. So let's drop the deterrent argument; it's been proven false. Keeping Sirhan in prison will not deter the next terrorist or assasin, either domestic or foreign. However, I can see the reasoning behind exceptionally long sentences for causing great harm to society, such as killing a political leader. Nevertheless, most Western European countries do not even have life sentences as an option. They don't have life sentences because they understand the impact of such sentences on society. Whatever a convict has done, we all need to know that there will be an end to the punishment, or there will be people who cannot move on. The end can be a long time from sentencing, like fifty years. But it only hurts us to keep our feelings at the intensity necessary to oppose parole after fifty years. To become a less violent society, one necessary step is for the state to find real ways to help victims, rather than just impose endless punishments on perpetrators.
PKoo (Austin)
No, just no.
michaelf (new york)
It is a wonderful letter which supports the fact that Sirhan should NOT have been incarcerated for more than half a century, rather he should have been executed as per his sentence in 1970 sparing us all the expense of keeping this criminal caged.
Rory, You certainly don't speak for your brother Robert Kennedy, Jr., who according to The Washington Post (8/27), approves of the decision to release Mr. Sirhan. Furthermore, he is convinced that your father was not in fact killed by Mr. Sirhan's gun because ballistic evidence presented at the trial demonstrated that your father was shot from behind, multiple times, one shot being immediately fatal from a distance of approximately 3 inches behind his ear. All of Mr. Sirhan's shots were from the front, after which he was immediately tackled. Your brother was convinced of this fact by a close friend of your father, who was also shot that night while accompanying your father, and he was actually shot by Mr. Sirhan. The ballistic evidence clearly indicated that the bullets that pierced your father were not from Mr. Sirhan's gun. This close friend of your father researched this matter for years, and in 2016 appealed to the parole board for Mr. Sirhan's release. Now you can make an argument for the fact that Mr. Sirhan intended to kill your father because he certainly did, and for that reason he should remain in prison for the rest of his life. But for you not to mention the overwhelming evidence that Mr. Sirhan was not technically responsible for your father's death is completely reprehensible. It is a disgrace to your father's legacy and to best that the Kennedy name stands for. Washington Post
Tom Barrett (Edmonton)
As a former journalist in Edmonton specializing in criminal justice I attended the parole board hearings of many convicted murderers at our city's maximum security prison. Happily, Canada does not have the death penalty but it is difficult to determine whether these killers are genuinely remorseful. I sense no remorse at all from Sirhan's comments or any admission that he actually committed this heinous crime. As a result he strikes me as a very, very poor candidate for parole.
fed up (las pulgas)
After more than 50 years imprisoned behind bars with other criminals, living toxic air, eating horrible food, having absolutely no privacy, it's obvious to nearly any intelligent human being, that he has become very numb to much of life as we know it and far too often, take for granted.
John Brown (MI)
Justice is the fundamental right, with philosophers discussing it some millennia ago; they've long known that justice and government's punishment system differ. Rory Kennedy, like most people, was taught a lie that the punishment system is the justice system. Now, she is learning that they're not identical. As persons mature, they can sometimes overcome their childhood political "education" when reality violates their beliefs.
mlb4ever (New York)
I always felt fortunate being born in the 50’s, simpler time a simpler nation. That changed in the fall of ‘63. I can remember exactly where I was when the news of John Kennedy’s assassination broke, a loss if innocence for me and the country. As the years went by the hippie movement scared this young boy as the country became more rebellious, not satisfied with the status quo. I can’t remember where I was in June of ‘68 when the murder of Robert Kennedy made the news, the nation still reeling from the death of Martin Luther King two months prior. I knew this just turned 11 year old was no longer a little boy.
Eli (RI)
I agree with Rory. This "I do not remember sounds disingenuous". There is no remorse. It would be bad for the country to show that you can get away with first degree murder. Sirhan lack of memory does not sound possible. Where did he get the gun or given the gun? Who else knew of his plan to commit murder? A few more years in prison may strengthen his memory. On another note I am thrilled to read a strong well reasoned thoughtful statement by the younger brother of the notorious antivaxer older brother. The New York Times sullied its reputation giving him space to write a ridiculous anti-wind power article. I cringed with embarrassed reading the childish lack of science knowledge. The only justification for publishing the article was if the New York Times editors wanted to embarrass the older brother with his own words. So Rory's article in addition to making a powerful argument for justice, also removed some of the tarnish that some of his relatives had inflicted on the brilliant Kennedy name.
Eli (RI)
@Eli My apologies I goofed. Rory Kennedy is she-her-hers. I see some others also failed to notice the note: "Ms. Kennedy is a documentary filmmaker. She is the youngest child of Robert Kennedy, the New York senator and presidential candidate assassinated in June 1968." At any rate regardless of gender, Rory Kennedy's essay rocks. To paraphrase Shakespeare's "That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet." This article written by any other gender would be as brilliant and brought honor to the family name and the newspaper that published it.
Nick (Miami)
I have already used this link to ask Governor Newsom to not allow Sirhan Sirhan to go free -- Others who share that view may want to do likewise. I was 15 years old when RFK was assassinated and, like many in my generation, can not help but to think what could have been had he not been taken away from us as he was.
Fletcher (NYC)
Randy (ca)
I really hope this man dies in prison. He's lucky tp be alive. That is more than enough of compassion considering the damage he's done.
Mike Patlin (Thousand Oaks , CA)
I agree Sirhan avoided the executioner which is more than he could have expected. Keep him behind bars where he most certainly belongs until his last dying breath.
HipOath (Berkeley, CA)
He should die in prison. He destroyed my hope for a better America. We ended up with Nixon and 30K more dead U.S. soldiers fighting a useless war and several million more death in Vietnam and Cambodia because of that war. I can't understand why he would be let out.
richard weiner (las vegas)
he needs to ROT in Jail until death ,, I was 23 when RFK was murdered , NO question he would have won election in 1968 instead Sirhan gave us Nixon.
John Jabo (Georgia)
You were cruelly robbed of a father. The nation was robbed of a man who would have been an amazing president and would have changed history. The murderer -- I refused to say his name -- committed a crime not just against your family, but a nation. This cold-blooded killer should die in prison.
Lapsed Republican (Hoosier State)
As Ms. Kennedy so eloquently wrote, he was already shown mercy when his death sentence was commuted. He doesn't deserve freedom. Let him ROT!
adam smith (California)
Thank you Kory.
Leigh (Qc)
What a shame Rory Kennedy has been forced to state the obvious in making the case Sirhan Sirhan isn't just another old man in prison but evil personified who killed not only her father but the hopes of an entire generation. He must never be released from prison until safely in his coffin.
Peter Zenger (NYC)
Rory Kennedy said: "Free to live, perhaps, in Pasadena, Calif., with his brother, less than an hour’s drive from my home. Or, as is more likely, to go to Jordan, where he has citizenship." I wouldn't be surprised if King Abdullah II refused to allow Sirhan entrance into Jordan. The Jordanian government has long been wary of terrorists. See:
Lifelong New Yorker (NYC)
The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy caused incalculable damage to America. Sirhan must not be released on parole.
Talbot (New York)
America had still not recovered completely from JFK's death in 1963 when it had its guts torn out by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy in 1968. This country went insane with grief. RFK's killer should never, ever get beyond the prison gate.
Steve (New York)
As far as we know, Sirhan had never committed a crime before his shooting of RFK. From reports he did it because of his hatred for him for supporting Israel. Has Sirhan's views about Israel changed? If not, how do we know that he won't find another public figure whose views on it he disagrees with and decides once again the world would be better off without that person and that he has to do something about it.
John Doe (Johnstown)
Honestly, I weary of these moral dramas we stage for ourselves meant to somehow imbue us with some kind of divine nature. Sirhan Sirhan willfully and selfishly took in cold blood the life of who he knew was a great man. He’s lucky he wasn’t put to death years ago for what he did to Bobby If not for Teddy’s trying to walk his Catholic walk. Enough honor has been wasted on him already so let him rot in jail for all his life like the sentence says.
A. Stanton (Dallas, TX)
Mr. Kennedy has been forced to deal with the fact of his father's cold-blooded murder every day for the whole of his life. Why shouldn't Mr. Sirhan be doing the same thing?
A. Stanton (Dallas, TX)
Make that: Mr. Kennedy has been forced to deal with the fact and consequences of his father's cold-blooded murder every day for the whole of his life.
Mel (Dallas)
Senator Kennedy was running for President of the United States. He was murdered moments after announcing he'd won the California primary. I walked by his casket at St. Patrick's Cathedral in N.Y. in uniform while in transit between bases. Sirhan was a first wave Jihadist. He murdered Senator Kennedy because Kennedy supported Israel on the floor of the Senate after the Six Day War a year earlier. He said he murdered Kennedy with "20 years of malice aforethought," ever since the founding of the State of Israel (TV interview with David Frost, 1989). Release on parole would condone the murderous global Jihad that has consumed the world since then. What an insult to even think of releasing him on the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
fed up (las pulgas)
Yasir Arafat and his Ego destroyed Palestinian chances for Statehood in the late 1940s.
Michael Tobin (Tacoma)
These are heavy buckets.
Sean (Ft. Lee. N.J.)
Overturning Capital Punishment not happening if next option, Cold Blooded First Degree Murderer receiving anything less than natural life behind bars.
Aaron (Orange County, CA)
THE KENNEDY'S are worried about the outcome Sirhan's parole hearing in California? California, the State governed by Gavin Newsom who is barely ahead in his recall election.. and the Kennedy's are worried? This family has endured many decades of tragedies and bad luck- But rest assure Rory, things will work out the way you are hoping. Now just do something about your anti-vaxer older brother.
John (Palo Alto)
No Acknowlegement of the crime No Parole
Reader (Knoxville, TN)
I find it hard to understand why anyone cares a lick what happens to Mr. Sirhan. He turned in his membership card to the human race in 1969. He's where he belongs. Let him stay there.
robin (aspen)
no parole
Ellen (Nj)
I recall my Father crying. He was in the kitchen with my Mom and all the kids serving breakfast. There was a Radio on top of the Fridge and when the news announced it my Dad broke into tears. I will never forget that and I knew that a very important and kind person had been lost.
Bayou Houma (Houma, Louisiana)
Suppose Robert Kennedy had been killed by a zoo elephant or another caged animal there? Would Kennedy have wanted to execute the caged animal who killed him? Would Rory Kennedy? Would justice by any common sense definition be served by condemning to death a hypothetical elephant or tiger which killed a hypothetical Kennedy? Frankly, I do not know the philosophical answer to the questions. I only know that homicide victims will never be made whole by the death of their condemned killer, whose execution will only free the killer from any affliction that we can impose. Rory: justice is a balanced retribution to fit a measure of the cost of a crime to society. But capital punishment leads to paradoxes and contradictions in the premise of just means, as much so as does a life imprisonment lead to the same circular reasoning to a just end in infinite measures without end until nature ends the condemned’s life. Life imprisonment only makes sense if we do not change our state of mind about our past life. Whether a prisoner absolutely proves that he has changed is impossible to guarantee, like the idea of justice itself. But without the possibility of parole, we cannot even claim that our laws are consistent with the idea of justice either. Let’s see whether Sirhan has rehabilitated Sirhan or deserves to be forever a caged animal.
Scott (Seattle)
Time in prison is immaterial if a convicted killer does not regret most deeply and consciously his actions, or de minimus exhibit extraordinary remorse. That a convicted killer who does not accept responsibility for taking a life, and is being considered for parole, is wrong.
Ben (Silver Spring MD)
There are still questions as to whether he was the actual killer
Hardbull (Los Angeles)
RFK's death was cold-blooded murder and a political assassination designed to change the course of history. Sirhan doesn't remember his role? He should remain in prison until it starts coming back to him. By taking no responsibility, Sirhan demonstrates he's unfit for release.
Astrid De Clercq (Leuven, Belgium)
If it were the EU instead of the USA, he would have been set free long ago, and wouldn’t have had such easy access to a firearm in the first place. Your justice and penal systems are Dickensian.
Rev. E. M. Camarena, PhD (Hell's Kitchen)
@Astrid De Clercq Contrary to your holier-than-thou attitude, history clearly shows that Europe virtually invented political assassination. Dickensian? Dickens himself was a Brit, as I recall.
Skip Nichols (Walla Walla)
I cried like a baby as I sat in a Marine Corps barracks at Treasure Island, just back from Vietnam, when I heard of RFK's death. I cannot forgive Sirhan for his unspeakable act and the American political system -- indeed our entire nation -- suffered an equally devastating assault with Mr. Kennedy's assassination. Sirhan deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Harry (Miami)
He should never get our. Aside from the pain to RK's family, the hurt to our country and the loss of what would probably have been a great leader, does simply not justify SS ("pun" intended) ever getting out.
Paco (Santa Barbara)
The murder of Robert Kennedy was not just a murder. It was an assassination. And it was not just an assassination. It was an intentional assault on democracy. For that reason, if no other, this crime cannot be treated as an ordinary murder and its perpetrator must be retained in his rightful place in history, not treated with sympathy.
Shelly (New York)
I am sorry for the loss of Rory's father for her and for our country, but it baffles me that some of the Kennedy children declined to be involved in the parole board's process and are now complaining. The time to make your feelings known was when this recommendation was being formulated, not after it is was done.
Daniel (San Diego)
Seems so basic - premeditated deliberate murder of another human being without some sort of mitigating circumstances from biblical times on has a reciprocal consequence - taking the life of the killer. Is that so hard to accept?
Mark Siegel (Atlanta)
He should not be paroled. Yes, everyone deserves fairness and compassion, but those who commit heinous acts should also be punished for what they have done. Sirhan should never, ever leave prison.
Zipster (Milwaukee)
I am not a conspiracy nut, but I always believed there was a lot more to this. Has the killer disclosed everything, I might feel differently.
fed up (las pulgas)
The assassin is one who would Never know everyone, as with most such operations, it would be compartmentalized.
Orange County (California)
I agree Rory. He has shown no remorse, nor has he accepted responsibility and he should never be released. A life sentence should mean just that, a life sentence. I wish you could explain Bobby Jr.’s and Douglas’ thinking that he is not guilty. By the way, I saw you at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2014 when you showed “Last Days in Vietnam.” I was one of the ticket volunteers.
Michael (Portland)
I'm sorry, Ms. Kennedy.. there was never any chance your opinion would be taken as anything but subjective opinion. That's not how we should be running our criminal justice system, and we should trust that the parole board made the right decision. I'm sure this guy served a lot longer sentence already, just because of what he did. At some point, you need to let it go. He's not the same guy. Nobody is ever the same person 53 years later. Nobody.
Katrina (Massachusetts)
@Michael -unconvincing argument and rude of you to discount the input of the people most affected by this heinous act. Let it go...
WRB (New Hampshire)
The assassination of Robert Kennedy is probably the most consequential moment in American history post-WWII. Had Bobby Kennedy not been murdered, he probably would have become president. Which means Nixon does not become president. If we don't have Nixon as president, then we likely don't have Reagan as president. We likely don't have Newt Gingrich or Bush/Cheney either. We definitely would not have had Donald Trump. Whether Sirhan is paroled makes no difference. The damage is done.
MJG (Valley Stream)
Fantasy. The primary system was meaningless in 1968 and Johnson still owned the X Democratic party, regardless of whether or not he was running. Johnson hated RFK and viewed Humphrey as his heir apparent. RFK was never going to be the nominee, let alone President.
Laurie (San Diego)
I remember so clearly my mother running upstairs shouting to my father - oh my god they killed another Kennedy. I was 8 - but even at that age understood that our world had been forever changed. I'm all for forgiveness under normal circumstances. But the political assasination of Robert Kennedy changed the trajectory of this country. And, especially as we look at where our country is today - at the insurrection. I think that people who are trying to change our country through violence must pay a heavy price. Mr Sirhan is one of those people - he desired to change our country through a political assasination and seems to have no remorse. In this case I hope he spends the rest of his life in prison.
Bill Edsall (Fort Montgomery, Ny)
He brought a gun to an event with an intent to kill. He has admitted guilt to a murder twice. He robbed us of a compassionate individual and left us with Nixon and thousands dead as a result. Society has other priorities.
Frank Gaik (Long Beach, CA)
I saw the headline that morning when I arrived at the pro-shop. I had been a caddy for a while and began to enjoy the conversations of the golfers I helped, learning about how to make wise decisions to climb up in corporate America. RFK represented a hope for a 12-year-old; now it was possible for a Catholic kid to make common cause with farm workers in California, black people in Indians, to end war in Vietnam, to recuperate after the loss of JFK. That morning, I walked away from the job, and never returned, and I remember my thought, “In this country, anyone who tries to make things better, more peaceful, more fair, will be murdered. Why even try?” Sirhan Sirhan remains a terror to me, and though I don’t want the death penalty, I want him safely kept incarcerated. Pragmatically, I worry what will be made of Newsom’s choice—if he chooses to support the parole—from opponents. Soft on…you name it. I recognize our justice system is not meant to sentence based on the relative quality of the victim or perpetrator, but I can’t agree with parole in this case. The blow to our aspirations deserves consideration.
fed up (las pulgas)
And in lieu of being at all Objective, let's all get nostalgic and get in touch with our feelings to be further manipulated by television and media Programming.
common sense (Seattle)
@Frank Gaik The blow to our aspirations and feeling of national | personal | leadership safety cannot be understated.
Bob (Portland)
I don't think there is any onje event in my life that shocked & saddened me more than Bobby's death. In June 1968, as a senior in high school, ready to graduate, facing the draft, the war, the recent death of Martin Luther King, My junker car was covered with Kennedy stickers & I couldn't vote! Bobby's assasination turned me into a cynical anti-American. He seemed the only real hope this country had to climb out of an abyss of our own making. Looking back at the Nixon years I was right in thinking that. So the question is, does Sirhan deserve parole after 43 years in prison? He is eligable but how do you judge rehabilitation? I can't really answer these questions.
Light Blues (New York)
I completely agree, the original sentence of being the death penalty should only have been changed to "life in prison without parole". There is no acceptable reason to do otherwise. Sirhan Sirhan came to this great country, enjoyed his life here and then assassinated, shot down, killed one of the great leaders of America. A family man, a man who was working to do only great things for America. Sirhan needs to stay in prison until his death. A life for a life.
CAS (Ct)
I am too young to have felt RFKs loss, but I am old enough to feel that a murderer should not be paroled. Why? He extinguished a life. It doesn't matter to me that a generation loss their hero- what matters to me is RFK had no choice but to die at the hand of someone who murdered him. No parole. He lost his chance at living within society when he committed the highest crime.
larry bennett (cooperstown ny)
There is no "if" involved. There should be no parole.
Blanche White (South Carolina)
I'm not sure I would feel confident that he is not a threat. It is my understanding that he was upset over what he felt was unfair treatment of Palestinians and that is why, as a young man, he walked into that hotel and mowed down another of Rose Kennedy's sons and dramatically impacted the course of the country. If that was his problem, then, just how might he be affected by the nature of the politics on this issue, today? No one can say he is not still a threat and he should absolutely never be released. A lifetime in jail ought to be the punishment since he was given a reprieve from execution. I doubt the nation wants to have Robert Kennedy's killer walking free and Rory Kennedy is right for his family and right for our Country.
Karl (Charleston SC)
I agree with you Rory, now convince a few of your siblings!!
SgS (South of NC)
Ms Kennedy you capture many of my own sentiments in regard to Sirhan’s parole. My grief at your Father’s assassination included you as a Fatherless child. I was a tween at the time with budding political awareness. Robert Kennedy represented our future as a bright horizon, reachable and rational. Ms Kennedy, you lost the entire experience of a Father in your life. I am sorry for your lifelong loss. There is no reparation for that loss. Nor is parole a form of rescripting the past to reduce Sirhan’s sentence to time served. In the case of the public murder of Senator Kennedy, Sirhan’s death sentence made clear the intent of the court’s meaning. The Court’s order was death by gas in order that he never mix among our citizens and never have opportunity to do harm. No parole.
Hopepol (Tennessee and North Carolina)
As people, our leaders and politicians are the same as all of us, but assassinations of leaders need to be held to a different standard. Attacks on our leadership has to potential to threaten our way of life. The attack on Robert Kennedy, on Reagan, on the Michigan statehouse, on Congress, on police, on judges - all of these are threats to our democracy. I'm sorry if Mr. Sirhan if he doesn't remember the attack. I'm sorry for Hinckley if he was mentally ill. Let's treat them humanely, but let's not forget.
Denis (Brussels)
@Hopepol I just posted a comment supporting the parole, but your argument is very powerful, and I'm almost convinced you are right and I was wrong. I would support any law which would say this explicitly, that would create a different crime of "politically motivated murder" (for example, I'm sure there are better names) with stronger punishment.
fed up (las pulgas)
How about holding those who Escalated the War in Vietnam for profit to the same standard.
M. Wallace (Oak Park, IL)
Convicted assassins of U.S. presidents and presidential candidates should not be given parole—ever. Maybe transferred to a lower security prison. Maybe given house arrest, required to wear an ankle bracelet. But never parole, and the freedom to live where and how he or she likes. The presidential assassin commits a lethal crime against a person, but also a crime against the state, against democracy. Parole for an assassin of a presidential candidate? Never.
Greg Hodges (Truro, N.S./ Canada)
As a Canadian; I have revered and mourned the memory of Robert Kennedy since that terrible night in 1968 when as a 12 year old I heard that another Kennedy had been shot and probably would not live. I prayed a fervent prayer as a very young boy; not that Bobby would live but rather God would not let him long suffer. I have never gotten over that news even as a child. R.F.K. will forever represent the very best America had to offer the world; and I can only imagine the great things he would have done; not only for the U.S. but rather the entire world. It has haunted me for all those years ever since. Whether or not Sirhan Sirhan deserves parole is not something I feel is impossible for me to contemplate. But that aside; he robbed the world of a very great man; and deprived millions of the vision and hope Bobby engendered; that NO ONE has done since 1968. Rest in Peace Robert; people like me will never forget. Forgive...???
Private (California)
As a Californian, I wrote to our governor when I first heard of this decision. Compassion was given when the family suggested life vs death. He deserves no more. I watched this happen on live tv. If a premeditated assassin doesn’t deserve life in prison, who does? This man should never get out.
Joseph (New Jersey)
Very good essay, I am convinced. The issue is not simple, you describe it well. Mr Sirhan should remain in jail, not because I hate him, but he committed 2 crimes. He committed murder and he committed thief. He took Bobby Kennedy away from us and the world, to see Mr. Sirhan free is unjust for all of humanity. That should not stand.
Blue Heron (Philadelphia)
Wouldn't it be a great world, if the cases of many more men and women now behind bars who served their time and were eligible for parole received this kind of attention in the NYT? The murder of Robert Kennedy was a tragedy by any measure, to be sure. And, yes, the Kenndey's have suffered losses like many other less famous families. But Sirhan Sirhan has served his time, whether he expresses contrition or not. The fact that he was spared the death penalty is beside the point. If he were any other prisoner, the kin of the man he'd been charged with slaying would never have gotten this kind of soap box and his parole a done deal.
wvb (Greenbank, WA)
There is a certain irony that we are having this discussion about the merits of parole for Sirhan Sirhan on the same day that the Sackler family is rewarded immunity from lawsuits for their part in the opioid crisis without admitting any responsibility or guilt, only paying a part of their immense fortune. Many of the comments stress that Sirhan has not admitted quilt nor accepted responsibility and thus does not deserve parole. Maybe we should apply the same standard to the Sacklers, but then we all know that money talks.
Kevin (New York)
I understand Ms. Kennedy's deep hurt and have no comparable experience from which to say I "relate." I ask her, and all who have written here to support denying parole to Sirhan to do one simple thing; look at images of Pope John Paul visiting Mehmet Ali Agca -- the man who attempted to assinate him and very nearly succeeded -- in Agca's jail cell. To me, these images are among the most important of the 20th Century, a century filled with hatred , bloodshed, enmity and dispair. These are images of the living act of forgiveness. Certainly terrible acts should never be forgotten. But if we cannot sometimes find the capacity within ourselves to forgive, even the most heinous of crimes, then we erode our capacity to love, and then we cease to be human.
jc (ny)
@Kevin You're overlooking Ms. Kennedy's comments about Sirhan's unwillingness to accept blame/responsibility for what he did. That goes to remorse, and that's a crucial component here.
@Kevin - forgiveness of an action does not remove the consequences of that action. The State of California spared the life of RFK’s assassin. Let him spend it behind bars. It would be indecent in the purest sense of the word to permit an unrepentant murderer enjoy a life and privileges that he so callously denied his victim. If it is said that 53 years in prison is ‘enough’ , how does one make the calculation of the cost of RFK death and what might have been had RFK been elected President and the more personal and immediate impact on his family?There is forgiveness but there is also justice: what was taken on that June night can never be replaced.
jill (ca)
@Kevin I feel very sad by your response to a very sensitive, thoughtful and from the heart plea from a daughter who never knew her father,
Jody Nunez
I understand how Rory feels but this man has been in prison for over 50 years, what happen to forgiveness? His continued incarceration will not bring her father back, nothing will. We are a prison state--having been a public defender for 32 years-I saw many human tragedies for the families who suffered because of the actions of my clients and the suffering by the clients and their families due to possibly one horribly bad decision by my clients. We have too many guns in the hands of many young folks whose brains have not fully developed -- they spend untold number of years in prison, well beyond anything that could ever resemble appropriate punishment. This parole decision is not improper, it is entirely appropriate and Governor Newsom should not succumb to outside pressure and block it. This decision was sound and should be upheld.
Lou Good (Page, AZ)
Interesting that she never mentions what her father would want. I doubt it would be continued revenge, which is what she's advocating. At 76 years old he poses a threat to no-one.
Jennifer (Riverside)
I was working as a single teacher in high school and campaigning for Bobby Kennedy. In the middle of the night on June 6, my phone began to ring & ring. Sleepily I answered it and a friend told me about the assassination. I was stunned and saddened. For many of us it was a tragedy beyond words. His assassin should Never be released!!
Shehzad (Norwalk)
You make no argument why he shouldn’t be released.
Mark T (Washington)
This assassin changed the course of history profoundly. I was only seven at the time, but I remember my father cried. I often wonder the possibility if Bobby had lived. I grieve with the family. I grieve with the world. Sirhan Sirhan not only killed a man, but he killed good. And he doesn’t get any of it.
Elizabeth (Chicago)
Rory, My heart breaks for you and the loss you continue to endure. I was ten years old and two weeks from my confirmation. Our family in Chicago woke early to the shattering news of Sirhan Sirhan’s heinous act. We prayed fervently that your father would survive. I cut out every newspaper article about your father in the ensuing days and took Roberta for my confirmation name because I canonized your father in my heart. The event is seared on my soul and the soul of our nation. We had barely endured the murder of your uncle. How can there be justice in releasing a man who robbed our country of the hope your father embodied, let alone the loss you and your siblings and mother suffered?
Ropo (NY)
Dear Ms. Kennedy, Thank you for your sharing your thoughts and your fury on the travesty of the request for parole by your father’s murderer. I agree: there is no reason he should be freed. Your Uncle Ted’s plea was remarkable in light of the loss to your family and the American people. I was in sixth grade at the time and felt the pain and sense of loss, even then. It’s hard for people who have not had a beloved family member murdered in cold blood to stand in the shoes of those of us who have. My youngest cousin was murdered at 17, his first week as a student at Temple University. He was standing outside a movie theater, waiting for his friends, when a teenaged boy came up to him and put a knife in his heart. No reason. My cousin didn’t know him, or anyone else, in Philadelphia. It was random. I lost my cousin a couple of hours later. He was a golden child, with a great future, snatched from us in a split second by virtue of standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. It changed me forever: every stabbing and every murder I read about is deeply personal; I know how unspeakably surreal it feels to lose someone I love to an act of barbarism. I wonder if people in favor of paroling SS have a real understanding of what it’s like to lose someone forever. Forever is the key word here and forever is how long SS should stay in jail. My uncle and remaining son have gone to parole hearings for 40 years and the forever murderer, now 57 remains in jail, as should SS.
ARonHenry (Gettysburg)
Dear Rory, I wouldn't presume to compare my loss to yours. But in a very real way I, and countless millions of other Americans, were, and continue to be victims of the crime involved your father's death. Robert Kennedy was the largest hero of my life. I followed his career obsessively. I read everything I could find about him. Looking back I think he became an idealized father figure to me. When he announced his candidacy for president in 1968 I was elated, and his campaign became the focus of my life. I attended 2 of his rallys, including his visit to Orange County on June 2nd. I succeeded in shaking his hand, and got to shake hands with your Mother, John Glenn and Rafer Johnson. After his speech I found myself face to face again with him as he made his way through the swirling crowd. He smiled at me, and I was able to grasp him on his shoulders as he went by and joyously held on to him as he headed toward his car to leave. I was 16, and at the time felt it was the greatest day of my life. I was sure if he won California he would be elected president. The joy of that night was indescribable. Then the shots were fired and a part of me died along with him. The pain was as deep as if he had been a member of my own family. Even now I still have a difficult time dealing with his loss. I was stunned when I read Sirhan was granted parole. The old wound awoke and hurt a little again. My hope is Gov. Newsome will rescind this action. Love to you and your family.
Harry Davis (Rochester)
June, 1968, I was in the 11th grade Brighton, New York State. The previous winter, I skied a few feet away from RFK at Bristol Mountain. I was coming of age, following events closely, especially Viet Nam. Mr Larry Cox's English class was my favorite. My term paper that Spring was Bobby Kennedy and the Viet Nam War. Mr. Cox gave me an A. Mr Cox lived in Dansville, NY and commuted every day to work. The next day, Mr. Cox did not show up for work. He drove his car off the road and it fell down the cliff, killing him. We were all devastated. That day at Bristol Mountain, Bobby Kennedy was skiing very hard and fast, just like me, as few yards away from me when he wiped out. It hit me hard, like everyone. I remember hearing the news the next day that he died. Seeing the now famous picture of his body all spread out on that kitchen floor, it looked exactly what I saw when he wiped out skiing next to me a few weeks earlier. I clearly remember the unborn Rory Kennedy at this time. I was disappointed that in her essay about her Father she did not discuss the fact that there were 13 bullets fired, but Sirhan's gun only held 8 shots. They say his diary contained the words, "KILL RFK. " I wonder why Ms. Kennedy did not question that perhaps these written words maybe had been planted? I am haunted by the picture frozen in my mind of RFK splattered all over the snow when he wiped out skiing and how that picture is exactly what he looked like on the floor in that kitchen.
Fred V (Las Vegas)
It doesn't make sense to keep him in prison any longer. Let the parole board do its job. Obviously, they know the facts of his case more than the wise readers here. Is there one single person commenting here who has even been to prison?
TF (Atlanta)
So many people are denied parole over and over and over again—people who have done everything they were supposed to do while incarcerated, who have spent every moment in prison bettering themselves and helping others, and who have suffered enormous, pointless trauma decades after whatever harm they committed. They are not usually given a meaningful reason, since parole boards don’t have to do so. But the actual reason is often the same: because our society offers nothing to heal the people harmed. All we have is the promise of more vengeance, more torture, more prison. And if you have never healed from having your loved one killed you might reasonably think that must be the reason why—because the person who harmed you hasn’t suffered enough yet. No one deserves to die in prison. And as long as you can make an exception for the one person you think is bad enough to deserve it, plenty of other people—and their families and communities—will suffer miserably at the hands of this godforsaken system.
blairga (Buffalo, NY)
As everyone who has lost a parent (or both and/or many), we share your grief. At the same time, please understand that your father's plan for Vietnam can be explained in a letter he wrote That is, the war will continue until the Geneva Accords were negated. That is, until others take over the fighting (paid by whom?). And didn't Nixon propose Vietnamization? That America would withdraw and other would fight on America's checkbook. And, so did your father propose Nixon's plan or did Nixon's plan usurp Kennedy's? As tragic as your father's death was --- and it was -- he was a Cold Warrior dedicated to the pursuit of the Cold Warrior no matter how many working class lives it cost. His insistence to preserve South Vietnam was another way of saying America should be still fighting an still re-writing international law.
Daniel Kauffman (All politics are global, locally.)
Finally. Yes. Unless there’s some reason to think the conviction is in error, I agree, there cannot be a released murderer. At least not the way the American systems of governance operate. Thanks to the author for stating a view. I “vote” in agreement. Now, America, figure out how to become a constitutional democracy. The time for a few privileged people to collect vast wealth at the expense of others, and another few to unnecessarily sacrifice with their lives to create a valid and viable social contract — these times are over. They don’t work.
heyomania (pa)
Politically motivated assassinations deserve the most draconian consequences permitted by law. The victim was a probable presidential candidate and likely president. Even if it were otherwise, and victim was less prominent and less likely to succeed, the nature of the offense strikes at our democracy, fir which the recompense should be an unmarked grave within the walls of a Federal prison.
Tom (Tar Beach)
Your dad & your uncles Teddy & John were great people. Thank you for your essay. All the best & you are never alone. I don't know what else to say. Peace.
M Ford (USA)
There is no right answer. Based upon my limited knowledge of the facts, I would be initially inclined to let him go but would spend hours self educating myself before I took an actual side. Even the family is split but I would defer to this lady, Rory Kennedy. My mother's father died two months before I was born. It was an unexpected massive heart attack, natural causes. The rip in my family could not be healed. Time had to move on under a shadow that exists today as I am Rory's age and wonder if the same genetic fate awaits me. Any feeling that Rory has is superior to mine. I have a very limited idea to no idea of what it is like to be her. A snapshot in the family album is no substitute for a father or a grandfather. Her decision is not without thought. I give in to it and side with her because I believe she has the greatest wisdom.
Susanna (United States)
Bobby Kennedy was an inspiration and much beloved figure in our household. We’ll never know what more he might have done for his country, but he had so much to offer. His death was a devastating turning point...for his family and for the citizenry. The news of his assassin’s release is utterly appalling, the decision unconscionable.
St. Paulite (St. Paul MN)
Robert Kennedy was the best chance we had for defeating Nixon and stopping the disastrous buildup in Vietnam. It was a tragedy for our nation when he was killed. I agree fully with the son who wrote this article, particularly since Sirhan Sirhan shows no remorse.
theresa (ny)
I am totally against capital punishment, but anyone who cold-bloodedly takes another's life forfeits their right to ever live as a free person again unless that person has at the very least shown remorse and a willingness to dedicate their life to atonement through charitable acts, etc. I see no indication of this from Sirhan, so no release.
Pamela (Virginia)
Thank you Ms Kennedy. You are right. If in 53 incarcerated years there has been no remorse shown and no responsibility taken from the man who took your father’s promising life then there is no justice and there should be no parole.
fionatimes (Mojave)
Let us not forget, he also shot blindly around a crowded room full of innocent people, reporters and supporters and perhaps facility staff. and wounded, IIRC, five people, not just RFK. And killing a major presidential candidate in support of your homeland is an act of war. It is not that RFK was inherently more important than other victims, he was a US leader as Attorney General and potentially a future president.
MG (Midwest)
The combination of arguments in the piece as well as those brought up in the comments have made me (who abhors the existence of the death penalty), favor the denial of parole. This one argument especially: Mr. Sirhan himself claimed he hated RFK for supporting Israel. Releasing him - ever - would be seen as a victory for others who feel the same. Regardless of the actions and positions any of us would wish the nation of Israel to take, the fact remains that the world needs such a singular place where any Jew is welcomed and steps are taken to make them as safe as possible. Heaven knows there is no other such place on earth at this time, as any reader of this newspaper should know. Not the U.S., not France, etc. And since when is it wrong for the law to take into account the broader effects that a crime or other injury has had? That is actually a theme in the law.
L J Phillips (Lawrence, Kansas)
I grew up believing that RFK could have been our nation's hero. He could have saved our nation from so much trauma, but of course we never got to see what his enlightened leadership would do for our country and the world. But I think RFK would agree that Sirhan has served enough time. Just because the man murdered was our hero, doesn't make his murderer less deserving of forgiveness. Sirhan should be released.
Bookpuppy (NoCal)
All I can say is he's not as generous of spirit as his Uncle Teddy was . There's also something to be said about to concept of grace in forgiving others. We could use more of that these cloudy days. Obviously Mr Kennedy still harbors a lot of pain for the father he never met.
Brian (Baltimore)
For those of you that think Robert Kennedy was just another individual or think Rory Kennedy is looking at this only through her eyes, I have this to say. I am old enough to know the shock the nation experienced when JFK, MLK, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Add to that the attempted assassination of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. The nation was in shock. The world was in shock. Each of these families devastated. Parole should never be granted to any of the individuals that pulled the trigger.
dre (NYC)
How can someone who doesn't accept responsibility or even admit he committed this heinous crime be considered "rehabilitated". Makes no sense. He should stay in prison till his time on earth is up. Wish Rory the best, what she's lost can never be made up.
NDGryphon (Washington DC)
RFK's death was tragic, and it surprises no one that his daughter should be incapable of forgiveness. And yet, half a century later, that cornerstone of Catholic faith, remains the only path forward. I pray for the Kennedy family's wisdom and grace.
BLB (Princeton, NJ)
The man Sirhan murdered was no ordinary citizen, nor was it a random or accidental act of violence. No. It was premeditated and planned. He chose to kill such a revered candidate who was poised to save our nation of many senseless deaths and war and destruction. Therefore, the blood of more than one man is on his unrepentant hands. He has bled the nation of many good young men and a path to common sense and integrity. How can anyone say such a murderer has earned his freedom? It is only by luck of changing laws that he is in a position for parole, certainly not by anything he has said or done to earn it. He still does not admit it much less regret doing it. Such a man deserves no special consideration. Therefore, with honor to the brave good man he took from the waiting arms of his family and our nation in turmoil, I must agree with the sensible, well thought out words of his bereaved daughter, Rory Kennedy. No parole for such a terrible act by an unrepentant murderer.
Ben Ross (Western, MA)
Rory you have stated your case well. Sirhan no doubt was a hero to many in Jordan especially its significant Palestinian population. There is a fanaticism which ran deep and still courses through the thoughts of many within the Muslim world. There is a bookstore near where I live in Western, MA where I often bought books. Recently while purchasing a card at the store I noticed their main display shelf filled with book after book, with a vile litany of condemnations of Israel and the US. What really struck me however was that there was not a single book offering a different perspective to the claims made by the authors; which laid a case that would lead most to call for the death of israelis and Americans. I made inquiries and learned that the owner of the store was Palestinian. how strange it seemed that a man offered American citizenship, prospering and yet is still so consumed only with destroying Israel. It seems hate no matter what is offered in appeasement is only seen as weakness. Releasing Sirhan will only make him into a bigger martyr. Your father was not the first and will not be the last victims of this kind of thought. Sirhan will only acknowledge his actions when and if he is released. Your fathers murder was a personal loss to you and your family and a political loss to the world. One has to wonder if granting a parole is not part of the general movement of teaching hate against America and Americans.
Ruth (Berlin)
Beautifully written. He should NOT be allowed out.
John (San Rafael CA)
I was asked to weigh in on this decision by a pollster last night. Did I agree with the death penalty? Did I believe Sirhan should be released? and most telling, would his release signal to other potential politically motivated assassins that such acts simply require patience for absolution? This man admitted his guilt and there was no ambiguity as to who murdered Mr. Kennedy. He forfeited his right to freedom and should remain incarcerated.
Twainiac (Hartford)
Where is the evidence that he is a changed man? If he is so changed, he can spend the rest of his life in prison, helping others.
Daniel (New York)
If RFK's assassin is deported after parole -- as some commentators have suggested -- or even if he departs voluntarily, he will almost certainly be hailed as a hero in Jordan or the West Bank (his most likely destinations). We need to think back to August 2009 and recall how the Lockerbie bomber was released on humanitarian medical grounds (he supposedly had 3 months to live and thrived for 3 more years). Upon arriving in Tripoli -- on Gaddafi's personal airplane, no less! -- the bomber was cheered by crowds at the airport; he was subsequently given a pension and comfortable housing and all the accolades that Libya felt he had wonderfully earned. How monstrous it would be to witness a similar scenario play out because of this horribly misguided parole of RFK's killer.
Pamela Fitzsimmons (Portland, Ore.)
Sirhan Shrine’s guilt has never been in doubt. It’s too bad he wasn’t humanely executed decades ago. We would not be having this conversation now. Our criminal justice system needs healing. Sirhan Sirhan doesn’t. Capital punishment is not about revenge. Today the only people in America guaranteed a humane death are those on Death Row. The rest of us can only hope for the best.
Michael Whitlockk (Houston, TX)
I agree with Ms. Kennedy. My thoughts are this man's continued incarceration reflects his continued threat, and the threat other like him represent. My reasoning includes his continuing threat, and the future threat those who think like him present to society.
John Perney (KCMO)
I've seen similar undeserved parole leniency happen here in Missouri. I hate it when not enough kin of the victim show up at the parole hearing to make passionate pleas for not setting a heinous murderer free.
Michael Kittle (Vaison la Romaine, France)
I don’t support the death penalty for murder due to the mistakes made in many cases where an innocent individual is executed. I do support life in prison without parole for murder convictions since The Innocence Project is available to ferret out mistakes in prosecuting an innocent inmate. The harsh sentence for Sirhan is appropriate since his murder of Robert Kennedy was done without remorse at the moment of firing the bullets into Kennedy’s body.
Mark (New York, NY)
This man was, in a clear sense, a terrorist. He murdered a political figure for political reasons. Even at his age, could he not resume being a terrorist? Consider that at this point he does not acknowledge that he committed the crime or accept responsibility for it. What does that say about his state of mind? When somebody commits a crime of passion, years later, we say he is no longer a danger to society because the precipitating cause is no longer there. We don't think that the person is a danger because the circumstances were narrow to begin with, and they no longer exist. But is there any such argument in Sirhan's case?
Upstater (NYS)
I would like to find compassion for Sirhan on general principles but having lived through the assassination years (and many other events which exemplify the edge of madness and deterioration of this, my beloved country) I cannot but side with those who say that no encouragement of the political murderers should take place as would be the case if he was released. The unknown principles of the two who reviewed his case and the supposed sincerity of his professed redemption are too flimsy a basis for forgetting the heart breaking murder to which he subjected all of us. And what is to be gained for the risk? How many years and what kind of life does he have to live even if released (and deported)? Do we yet have to coddle the insane one more time when they are so close to storming the halls of government and wide spreading disease on the basis of obstinate irrational rebellion? Enough! Make America Great Again -- lock the cell doors on insanity!
AndreaW (Florida)
A painful and beautiful essay from Ms. Kennedy that clearly and convincingly conveys the reasons why Sirhan Sirhan should never walk free in the light of day. I was shocked to hear that members of California's parole board would recommend that this unrepentant assassin be released. He murdered a remarkable man and killed our hopes for a more righteous nation. I will never forget that day, the days that followed, or the innumerable instances when I have known that but for Sirhan's inhuman act, countless other lives would have been saved. Sirhan belongs behind bars until he has taken his very last breath.
Pat In Nv (Reno)
“For America, the price of my father’s life and ambitions cut short has been incalculable…” It was a political assignation. Nixon in 68, the Vietnam War, the Southern Strategy that put us on the path we’re on now. Some might have been avoided, others delayed, but they were all effected that night.
David (Maine)
Ms. Kennedy is still suffering from a terrible tragedy, and all of us certainly did suffer. But please hold the "RFK would have saved the world" sentiments, which are of course ridiculous. We have no way of knowing what RFK would have done, or - perhaps more important - what challenges he would have faced. As for 53 years in jail? That's enough. There is no indication Sirhan is a danger to anyone and no purpose is served by keeping him in confined. Believing you were impaired when you committed a crime is not the same as denying responsibility, so "he doesn't admit it" is also a poor excuse. Should he lie? I don't think that would work.
Down In Dallas (Texas)
As Ms. Kennedy points out, Mr. Sirhan has already received a break when his death sentence was overridden to that of “life with a possibility of parole”. And as she further points out, her father is still dead.
Val Challah (Massachusetts)
So many good points. "Who knows what his death has cost?" That and Sirhan's statement “I was there, and I supposedly shot a gun.” I'm for grace as a (raised) Catholic, as Ted, Douglas, and Bobby Jr. are. But then I think about all the people who might actually be innocent who are denied parole all the time because they cannot admit guilt and remorse, because it's probably true that they did not do what they were accused of. To let Sirhan out on less isn't fair to these people. Do I believe he's been severely punished and won't kill anyone else? Yeah. But his dodging guilt and getting off seems like a special reward to him given how other parole-hopefuls are treated and the magnitude of the effects of what he did. And there's no question of innocence here, just *possibly* a question of more unknown actors. Thank you Rory. Millions of us strangers have thought of you and wished you well throughout your life.
Down62 (Iowa City, Iowa)
I worked in the the LA McCarthy campaign in June, 1968. Bobby Kennedy won that night, and was shot. Along with a small group of McCarthy volunteers, I helped clean up Kennedy's campaign headquarters the next day. I will never forget the devastation I saw among his staff that day. I agree with Rory Kennedy's piece. Sirhan Sirhan killed a father, a brother, an uncle, a friend, and a possible president of The United States. In that sense, he killed a possible future for America that day. He should serve out his term. Life in prison. No parole.
Mark Kessinger (New York, NY)
Part of what I find disturbing about this is that Ms. Kennedy, by virtue of her family name, has access to publish an essay in the opinion pages of the nation's premier daily. But how many family members of other murder victims would have smilar access? In a sense, the very fact that this letter was published in so prominent an outlet is yet another indicator of how unequal our justice system is.
Evelyn Sonnenschein (New Jersey)
Parole would indicate to certain individuals that the assassination of a presidential candidate is on par with much lesser crimes, thereby incentivizing an act which the world should know is completely unacceptable to our government and citizens.
SA (01066)
Robert Kennedy was assassinated just two months after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, nearly burying the hope and determination that these great human beings inspired in so many of us. Now that so many lies and so much hatred seem to dominate American politics, it is particularly painful to contemplate the parole of Sirhan. There is nothing in law, politics, or basic humanity that justifies releasing him from jail. This especially true at a time when so many seek justification for destructive acts aimed at the democratic institutions and moral values that RFK and MLK exemplified and fought to preserve.
common sense (Seattle)
Rory ... it wasn't that you never got to see your father's face, nor he see yours. More importantly, each of you never got to make eye contact ... which truly is a look into each others souls. I am deeply sorry for the loss of your father in your life.
Jim Howaniec (Lewiston, Maine)
I have been a criminal defense lawyer for 36 years. I am against the death penalty, I am generally against incarceration and lengthy sentences. I believe our criminal court system grossly discriminates against the poor, minorities, and those with mental health and substance abuse issues. It does not, however, systemically discriminate against political assassins, who commit crimes against leaders mainly because of their ideas and beliefs. I was nine years old in June 1968 when I walked to the school bus stop, that next morning, and a classmate told me that Bobby had been shot. One of my earliest memories was five years earlier, in a kindergarten classroom, when John was murdered. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King have been my heroes since childhood. They have inspired me to pursue endeavors in politics, the law, and a career of helping those in need. They were savagely cut down by pure hate. This is not the case of a poor person going without legal counsel, or a minority being convicted by an all-white jury, or a mentally ill person going to jail rather than a hospital. Sirhan Sirhan received more than enough due process to last several lifetimes. His devastating act changed the world in devastating ways. His release would be arbitrary and cruel to his family and the many millions, from around the world, who loved him. I would have opposed the death penalty for Sirhan Sirhan. That's as far as my mercy extends.
Delia (Ireland)
@Jim Howaniec I remember those significant days in history too. I was in 1st grade when JFK was shot; I remember the days when Bobby and KLK were brutally murdered. They did not get to live and enjoy celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, weddings, grandchildren with their families. SS enjoyed life - even though incarcerated - still he had a roof over his head, medical care and three meals a day. More than the assassinated. Leave him where he is.
Rajashekhar Patre (Bangalore, India)
@Jim Howaniec I understand Mrs.Kennedy's point of view in the matter of parole to her father's killer. Death penalty is the norm for most killers in most societies in the world. However, Sirhan is lucky that he got life imprisonment for his horrible crime in assassinating a beloved political leader. In spite of his long incarceration, Sirhan has refused to accept his responsibility for the murder of Robert Kennedy. Under these circumstance it is very much unwise to let him off on parole. This will give a wrong signal to the society.
Mike (NJ)
@Jim Howaniec Oh, Lord
Jim (Pennsylvania)
Hid claims he does not remember fly in the face of his reasoning at the time. He is not to be trusted. Thank you, Rory, for your heartfelt letter.
Northern D (Canada)
I was born in 1962 in Victoria, British Columbia far away from the Kennedy family but even as a young man I felt the pain of the lost of two great men. They both had the passion and the intelligence to change the world. As a citizen of a different country I can not forgive the injustice brought on by the actions of Sirhan Sirhan and can't imagine the pain family feels. No Parole ever !!
Moehoward (The Final Prophet)
@Northern D "They" were well-funded, through the filthy lucre and ill-gotten gains of their father and grandfather. Don't feel sorry for them. They made the mistake that running a modern nation was similar to running a neighborhood mafia. It's so much more complex than that.
Foster Furcolo (Massachusetts)
With his compassion, his goodness, and his words, RFK was able to prevent Indianapolis from erupting in riot upon the assassination of Martin Luther King. Had he not been assassinated, and had he won the presidency, I suspect we would have a different world today, a more peaceful world, one where Reagan, George W Bush, and 45 never would have been president. We would also have had a country with more financial equality, with an intact social safety net that would not have fallen prey to the depredations of the Reagan revolution. Maybe I'm dreaming, but I don't think so. And much as I favor a more Norwegian style of justice, I think Rory Kennedy has a point: unless Sirhan is demented, he shouldn't go free if he claims he didn't kill RFK, and with him, the hopes and dreams of so many of us.
Debby Waldman (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
What a compelling, moving argument you have made, Rory. I thought of you when i heard this story on the news. I remember being at a horse show with you in southeast Mass in the summer of 1980. I think most of us older girls from Race Lane Stables felt kind of protective of you; you didn't like drawing attention to yourself but someone asked our little group where we were from and when they found our were from the Cape the name Kennedy was mentioned and someone pointed at you and identified you as a member of the family. It was clear you were uncomfortable with the attention. You had such dignity, even as a little kid. It comes through in this essay. I hope the parole board honors your wishes.
Connie (San Francisco)
Rory, Thank you so much for sharing - so articulately, thoughtfully and courageously - from the heart. ... And yes, I agree, for the good of our country the parole board & our governor should reject the recommendation of two.
Marvant Duhon (Bloomington Indiana)
There are different reasons in play when punishment for a crime is decided on. This murder was a pre-meditated assassination. The murderer tries to sew doubt that he did the deed, and claims that "Legally speaking, I'm not guilty of anything." Let him show real remorse for a year before his parole again comes up for consideration.
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