Op-Ed: In assassinating my father, Sirhan committed a crime against America. He must not be released

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy stands on the rear platform of the funeral train bearing the body of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy stands on the rear platform of the funeral train bearing the body of his slain brother, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, as it passed through North Philadelphia Station, June 8, 1968.
(Associated Press )

My father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was murdered in June 1968 by Sirhan Sirhan in full view of many witnesses, including my mother, some of my father’s closest friends and a number of journalists and photographers. There is no question that Sirhan killed my father.

On Friday, a two-person panel of the California Board of Parole Hearings determined that Sirhan’s request for parole should be approved. I was shocked by this decision. On behalf of my mother and all Americans whose lives were altered by this appalling crime, I condemn this unwarranted recommendation and urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to do the right thing and publicly reject the panel’s decision.

Justice is not served by releasing a confessed political assassin, a first-degree murderer, who is serving a life sentence for his role in a crime against America. To begin with, the process was flawed. No prosecutor appeared at the hearing, for the first time ever. Because of L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s policies, no one from his office was allowed to be present at the parole hearing to give voice to the views of the families affected by this crime. Nor did Gascón have the courage to show up to restate the severity of the crime and the reasons so many Americans feel that Sirhan should remain behind bars.


With no one representing the D.A., it was inevitable that the hearing would be incomplete. I appreciate very much the expressions of solidarity and sympathy from the L.A. police and so many Americans who hold my father in their hearts.

At the last parole hearing, in 2016, the board rejected parole, stating that Sirhan did not show remorse, or perhaps even understand the enormity of his crime. If the former, he is unrepentant, and should not be released. If the latter, he remains a danger to society. In either case, he should not be released.

Sirhan Sirhan, who shot and killed Robert F. Kennedy at a Los Angeles hotel in 1968, was deemed suitable for release by a two-person parole panel.

Aug. 28, 2021

Police, immigrants, truck drivers, farmworkers, factory workers, the young and the elderly all came together in June 1968 to stand along the tracks of my father’s funeral train. Even then, our country showed signs of fragmenting along political lines, in the way that has become so familiar in 2021. But I have always believed that my father could have bridged that divide and helped us heal our wounds. Much of that was destroyed by the violent acts of a single deranged anti-Israeli terrorist.

Because of Sirhan we never got to live out that better history. He killed my father for supporting Israel and the mere thought of Sirhan returning to Palestine, where he may be cheered for his crime, is sickening. I commit myself to doing everything within my power to stop his release.

Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, a son of Robert F. Kennedy, is a writer in Los Angeles and a former prosecutor in Philadelphia.