(Reuters) – A California review board on Wednesday denied parole to Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian refugee serving a life sentence for assassinating U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.
Sirhan was denied parole for another three years by a panel of California parole board members, who said he was not suitable for release. The decision marks a change from a different panel’s conclusion two years ago that the 78-year-old should be paroled.
That decision was overruled by California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and Sirhan sued, saying the governor’s action was illegal. It was not immediately clear what impact Wednesday’s ruling would have on the lawsuit.
Sirhan was convicted of gunning down Kennedy, 42, in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968.
The shooting occurred minutes after the U.S. senator and former U.S. attorney general gave his victory speech after winning the California Democratic presidential primary. Kennedy died the next day. His older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.
Sirhan has said he had no recollection of the killing of Robert Kennedy, although he has also said he fired at Kennedy because he was enraged by his support for Israel.
Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, 94, and six of her children had opposed parole for Sirhan.
Two other of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s nine surviving children – Robert F. Kennedy, junior and Douglas Kennedy – were reported by the Los Angeles Times to have supported parole for Sirhan last year.
Sirhan was sentenced to death in 1969, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison after California banned the death penalty.
Outlining his decision to veto parole for Sirhan in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Newsom said he disagreed with the Board of Parole Hearings finding that Sirhan was suitable for parole.
“After carefully reviewing the case, including records in the California State Archives, I have determined that Sirhan has not developed the accountability and insight required to support his safe release into the community,” Newsom wrote.
Sirhan is currently incarcerated in California’s Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Editing by Bill Berkrot)