After spending more than five decades in prison, the man convicted of fatally shooting Sen. Robert F. Kennedy could eventually be out from behind bars as California parole commissioners recommended on Friday that the man be released on parole, according to the New York Times.
The outlet noted that the the recommendation from the two commissioners does not guarantee that the 77-year-old will actually be released. The move will be reviewed by the legal division of the Board of Parole Hearings, according to the Times. The matter would then head to the governor, who could take several courses of action, one of which is to reverse the parole recommendation.
The parole hearing marked the man's 16th instance to face parole board commissioners, but was unique in that it marked the first occasion that no prosecutor appeared to push for him to remain incarcerated, according to the Times, which noted that Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón has a policy for prosecutors not to go to parole hearings.
Douglas Kennedy, a son of Robert F. Kennedy, went to the hearing and pushed for the commissioners to release Sirhan if they did not believe he was a threat, according to the Times.
"The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department had submitted a letter to the board that it said was on behalf of the Kennedy family and opposed Mr. Sirhan's release," according to the Times. "Robert F. Kennedy Jr. met with Mr. Sirhan in 2017 and said in a letter to the board that the Sheriff's Department's letter did not speak for him and that he thought Mr. Sirhan should be released," the outlet noted.
The murder victim, a senator running for the White House, was slain in 1968 on the heels of his win in California's Democratic primary, according to the Times. He was a brother of President John F Kennedy, who had been assassinated in 1963. Five other individuals were wounded during the 1968 shooting that left Robert F. Kennedy dead.
"Sirhan, who insists he doesn't remember the shooting and had been drinking alcohol just beforehand, was convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to death after his conviction, but that sentence was commuted to life when the California Supreme Court briefly outlawed capital punishment in 1972," according to the Associated Press.
Sirhan is from Jordan could possibly be deported if he is released.
"At the hearing, which was conducted virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Sirhan said he had little memory of the assassination itself, but he said he 'must have' brought the gun to the scene," according to the New York Times.
Investigations have determined that Sirhan was the sole shooter, and Sirhan has said so as well, but some have pursued the notion that there was a different murderer, according to the Times.
"Two of Robert F. Kennedy's children have said they support another investigation," according to the Times, which noted that among them is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who has said that he believes Sirhan is innocent.