LOS ANGELES: The man convicted of shooting dead Robert Kennedy in 1968 was denied parole in California on Wednesday, thwarting his latest effort to leave prison.
Sirhan Sirhan, now 78, has been behind bars for more than five decades — despite doubts that he fired the shots that likely changed the course of US politics.
Kennedy, the younger brother of slain president John F. Kennedy, was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination himself when he was gunned down in a Los Angeles hotel.
Sirhan’s latest request for parole — he became eligible in 1972 — was denied by a California board on Wednesday.
A different board had greenlit his release in August 2021, but California governor Gavin Newsom reversed that decision in January of the following year.
Newsom, who is also a Democrat, said at the time that Sirhan “poses an unreasonable threat to public safety.”
He said the decision was based on several factors “including Mr. Sirhan’s refusal to accept responsibility for his crime.”
Sirhan was convicted and sentenced to death in 1969 after pleading guilty, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment several years later.
Doubts around Sirhan’s culpability have swirled since his trial, when it was revealed that Kennedy was shot at point-blank range from behind, but witnesses said Sirhan was standing in front of him.
Later, evidence emerged that as many as 13 shots were fired, yet Sirhan’s gun could only hold eight bullets.
Suspicion over the verdict led Kennedy’s son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, to visit Sirhan in prison.
“I went there because I was curious and disturbed by what I had seen in the evidence,” he told the Washington Post in 2018.
“I was disturbed that the wrong person might have been convicted of killing my father.”
He and his youngest brother, Douglas, supported Sirhan’s 2021 attempt at release.
A Palestinian immigrant, Sirhan said at the time of the assassination that his actions were motivated by Kennedy’s support for military sales to Israel.
During a 2016 parole hearing, he said he had drunk too much the night of the shooting, and that his prior confession was the result of bad legal advice from his lawyer.