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Letters to the Editor: Sirhan Sirhan didn’t just kill Robert Kennedy. He killed the dreams of a nation

Men and one boy, wearing suits, carry a flag-draped coffin.
Pallbearers carry Robert F. Kennedy’s coffin to his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery on June 9, 1968.
(Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

To the editor: Sirhan Sirhan was convicted of killing one man, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968. In reality he killed thousands more. (“Do we just let Sirhan Sirhan go?” editorial, Aug. 27)

Kennedy, an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, won the California presidential primary on June 4, 1968. He was in a good position to win the Democratic Party nomination and likely would have gone on to win the presidency that November.

But Kennedy was assassinated, and the Vietnam War continued. From 1969 until the final drawn-out conclusion in 1975, the Vietnam War cost the lives of more than 21,000 Americans and many, many Vietnamese.

It is impossible to describe in this space how Kennedy’s assassination warped the history of our nation. His death led to the police riot at the Democratic Party’s convention in Chicago and the nomination of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who had not won a single primary. The presidency of Richard Nixon ended in disgrace in 1974.

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None of this likely would have happened if Sirhan had not murdered Kennedy. A life sentence for him is mercy, but it is not justice. He should have been executed. He should never be paroled.

Mary-Lynne Fisher, La Crescenta

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To the editor: As a 16-year-old, I was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when Sirhan killed Kennedy. A friend and I were cheering on the man we believed would change our world.

I have never gotten over my grief at losing Kennedy as a potential leader of our country. Seeing Sirhan released, for any reason, is anathema to me.

Janet Mizrahi, Santa Barbara

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To the editor: I woke up the morning of June 5, 1968, the day after my 13th birthday, to learn that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. I watched the news repeatedly broadcast the shooting, with Kennedy on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel and busboy Juan Romero cradling his head.

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Saddest was the loss of Kennedy’s compassion for the poor, support for civil rights and quest for peace. Sirhan’s act succeeded in changing the course of our government. Because of Kennedy’s death, Nixon was elected, we had Watergate, and 21,000 more American troops died in Vietnam.

Yes, Sirhan committed an unpardonable crime. No one who assassinates a public servant should ever be released. If mercy is to be shown to him, it must be from another power, not the state of California.

Patricia A. Lynch, Santa Ana

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To the editor: Imagine that Lee Harvey Oswald or John Wilkes Booth had made it to trial and been sentenced to life in prison. Would you say they should have been eligible for parole?

Political assassinations that change the course of our nation’s history are crimes of the highest magnitude that demand the highest punishment. Sirhan should never be paroled.

Janet Cerswell, Rancho Cucamonga


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