Sirhan Sirhan denied parole in Robert F. Kennedy assassination

Sirhan Sirhan, the gunman who killed Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, will not be released from prison, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.

The governor said after an extensive review of Sirhan's case he determined that he still poses a great threat to society. 

"Mr. Sirhan’s assassination of Senator Kennedy is among the most notorious crimes in American history," wrote Newsom in his decision. "After decades in prison, he has failed to address the deficiencies that led him to assassinate Senator Kennedy. Mr. Sirhan lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the same types of dangerous decisions he made in the past."

Before Newsom announced his decision he told KTVU Thursday that he had reached a decision and would first speak with the Kennedy family before making it public.

The Kennedy family said it was "deeply relieved" with the governor's decision to block Sirhan's parole release, saying the convicted killer has shown no remorse. 

A statement released on behalf of the family reads in part, "the political passions that motivated this inmate's act still simmer today, and his refusal to admit the truth makes it impossible to conclude that he has overcome the evil that boiled over 53 years ago.

A California parole board had recommended parole for Sirhan in July, but the final decision was in Newsom's hands. His deadline was winding down for approving, rejecting, or modifying the panel's decision.

"I would never put myself in jeopardy again," Sirhan said previously to the parole panel. "You have my pledge. I will always look to safety and peace and non-violence."

Sirhan shot Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968. Kennedy, a senator from New York at the time and the younger brother of former president John F. Kennedy, had just won California's Democratic presidential primary. Five others were wounded in the violence. 

Sirhan, now 77, has been imprisoned for more than half a century.

Sirhan, a Christian Palestinian, has claimed not to remember the shooting but admitted that he was upset with Kennedy's position on Israel. 

Parole panels had previously rejected Sirhan's appeals for release 15 times before ultimately deeming that he no longer poses a threat to the public.

Deciding Sirhan's fate had appeared to divide Kennedy's children. 

Douglas Kennedy, his youngest son, spoke in support of Sirhan at the parole board review last summer. But six of RFK's surviving nine children said they were shocked and urged Newsom to keep Sirhan locked up.

Sirhan was convicted in 1969 of first-degree murder and sentenced to death but was commuted to life in prison when California outlawed capital punishment in 1972.

In 2019, he survived being stabbed by a fellow inmate at a San Diego prison.