Robert Kennedy assassin denied parole

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 22, 2011 10:03 AM
Robert Kennedy assassin denied parole

By Maddie Shannon

COALINGA, California (Reuters) - Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Senator Robert Kennedy serving a life sentence for the 1968 murder, faced a parole board hearing on Wednesday and was again denied release, prison officials said.

The Palestinian-born Sirhan, 66, is imprisoned at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California, where the hearing occurred.

He will be considered for another parole review in five years, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said. A statement from the department did not specify why Sirhan was denied Parole.

Sirhan was wrestled to the ground with a gun in his hand after Kennedy was shot on June 4, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, the night Kennedy won the California Democratic presidential primary.

Sirhan, who immigrated with his family to the United States as a child, was initially sentenced to death for the assassination of the senator, brother to slain President John F. Kennedy.

But Sirhan's death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972, after the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional.

At a 2003 hearing where he was also denied parole, a state Board of Prison Terms panel found Sirhan's anger and ability to cope had worsened, and that he would pose a risk to society if released. He was again denied parole in 2006.

William F. Pepper is an attorney for Sirhan. Pepper previously represented James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Pepper has suggested Sirhan was brainwashed to target Kennedy. "There is no question he was hypno-programed," Pepper told this week.

But at his trial, Sirhan declared that he killed Kennedy "with 20 years of malice aforethought." His motive is said to have been anger about U.S. policy in the Middle East.

In 2009, the Ambassador Hotel where Kennedy was shot was turned into a school named after the senator from New York.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Peter Bohan)