Does RFK’s alleged killer need to be released on parole?

Published 5:17 pm Friday, October 29, 2021

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To the Editor:

On August 27, 2021, a California parole board recommended Sirhan Sirhan for parole. Members of the Robert F. Kennedy family differ on whether to support releasing Sirhan on parole after his involvement with RFK’s assassination in June 1968.

Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Douglas Kennedy do not believe that Sirhan fired the fatal shot that felled their father shortly after he had won the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries in South Dakota and California. Contrariwise, Rory Kennedy, born six months after her father’s assassination in Los Angeles, recently posted a social media statement opposing the parole recommendation.

The aforesaid statement was signed by Rory Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy, and Maxwell T. Kennedy. The statement posits, “As children of Robert F. Kennedy, we are devastated that the man who murdered our father has been recommended for parole. Our father’s death is a very difficult matter for us to discuss publicly and for the past many decades we have declined to engage directly in the parole process. “Given today’s unexpected recommendation by the California parole board after 15 previous decisions to deny release, we feel compelled to make our position clear. We adamantly oppose the parole and release of Sirhan Sirhan and are shocked by a ruling that we believe ignores the standards for parole of a confessed, first-degree murderer in the state of California.”

The parole board was satisfied that Sirhan has shown remorse. Interestingly, Sirhan claimed he does not remember firing at RFK. It may be wise to leave him behind bars until the facts of June 5 are brought back to his remembrance. Sirhan, according to Rory, cannot show remorse until he accepts responsibility for his role in the assassination. This is a valid argument. Why does Sirhan have a selective memory in this matter?

Per an autopsy report, RFK was shot from behind at point-blank range. This fueled speculation about a second gunman. Witnesses claimed Sirhan approached Senator Kennedy from the front. The fatal shot entered Kennedy’s head from behind the right ear. Additionally, Sirhan’s .22 caliber revolver carried a maximum of eight bullets. Yet, an audiotape of the shooting indicated that up to thirteen shots were fired, according to electrical engineer Philip Van Praag.

RFK, Jr. articulated, “You can’t fire thirteen shots out of an eight-shot gun.”

Thane Eugene Cesar, who worked for Ace Guard Service and stood behind RFK on that fateful day, asserted that he drew a Rohm .38 gun, not a .22, the caliber of bullets found in RFK’s body. However, Cesar later admitted he had owned a .22 caliber Harrington & Richardson pistol. Interestingly, the LAPD never asked to see Thane’s pistol. Moreover, Cesar reportedly said he sold his .22 caliber pistol to a Jim Yoder three months prior to the 1968 assassination.

Yoder was interviewed by a William Turner in 1972. Yoder still had the purchase receipt bearing Cesar’s name from 1968. The receipt showed a purchase date of September 1968, which contradicted Cesar’s claim.

Keith W. Cooper