RFK's Youngest, Born After He Was Assassinated, Says His Killer Is 'Not Deserving of Parole'

Ethel Kennedy was three months pregnant with Rory Kennedy when Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was murdered by Sirhan Sirhan

Rory Kennedy, RFK
Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty; PhotoQuest/Getty

Robert F. Kennedy's daughter Rory Kennedy, who was born after his 1968 assassination, wrote an emotional essay this week pleading with officials to deny Sirhan Sirhan's parole for the murder.

Sirhan, 77, was granted parole last week during his 16th parole hearing, when two of Kennedy's sons — Douglas Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — supported his release.

Officials found that Sirhan, who has been behind bars for 53 years, showed remorse and rehabilitation and was not a threat.

A majority of the late Sen. Kennedy's children, however, opposed the parole decision, which is subject to review before it takes effect.

In her essay for The New York Times on Wednesday, Rory, 52, slammed some of her relatives who believe Sirhan is suitable for freedom.

"I never met my father. When Sirhan Sirhan murdered him in the kitchen hallway of the Ambassador Hotel in front of scores of witnesses, my mother [Ethel Kennedy] was three months pregnant with me," the documentary filmmaker began. "I was born six months after my father's death."

Rory Kennedy
Rory Kennedy. Rob Kim/WireImage

Rory continued, "My mother and the majority of my siblings agree with what I now write, although a couple do not. But I will say, for myself, while that night of terrible loss has not defined my life, it has had impact beyond measure."

Detailing that impact, she wrote, "My father's murder was absolute, irreversible, a painful truth that I have had to live with every day of my life; he was indeed taken forever."

"Because he was killed before I was born, it meant I never had the chance to see my father's face and he never had the chance to see mine," she continued. "He never tossed me in the air, taught me to ride a bicycle, dropped me off at my freshman dorm, walked me down the aisle."

In her view, "Mr. Sirhan is not someone deserving of parole."

"I believe this despite last week's recommendation by the Los Angeles County parole board's two-member panel to consider his release," she wrote.

She cited examples of Sirhan's previous parole board hearings in which he was "not willing to accept responsibility for his act and has shown little remorse" for her dad's death. (He continues to say he doesn't remember the assassination.)

Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy. Santi Visalli/Getty

Sirhan was convicted of first-degree murder in 1969 and was sentenced to death — which became moot when the California Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment in 1972.

In her essay, Rory also cited her uncle Ted Kennedy, a former senator, for his comments during a 1969 hearing for Sirhan in which her uncle sent a "five-page handwritten letter to the district attorney in a last-minute plea to save the condemned assassin's life."

"The letter invoked my father's beliefs: 'My brother was a man of love and sentiment and compassion. He would not have wanted his death to be a cause for the taking of another life.' "

While Rory wrote that those qualities are something she "greatly admires" about her dad, she questioned, "Was Mr. Sirhan not already shown compassion when his death sentence was commuted to life in prison?"

"It is a high-minded notion, after all, the belief that everyone — everyone — deserves a chance for rehabilitation and, after having served enough time in prison, even parole," Rory wrote in her Times essay. "Did Uncle Teddy ever imagine, in asking the court for compassion, that the man who killed his brother might one day walk free? I do not think so."

She continued, "I know that prisons are overcrowded, and I realize that it is expensive to keep an older man behind bars."

But, she wrote, she worried what Sirhan would do out of prison and her heart still ached over the murder he committed.

"It is true that Mr. Sirhan has been incarcerated for a long time. For 53 years, to be exact. That is, after all, an easy number for me to track. It is the same number of years that my father has been dead. It is the age that I turn on my birthday this year," wrote wrote.

California parole officials now have 120 days to review the ruling before it is passed on to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his 30-day consideration.

"I ask them, for my family — and I believe for our country, too — to please reject this recommendation and keep Sirhan Sirhan in prison," Rory wrote in the Times.

Sirhan Sirhan arrives for a parole hearing, in San Diego. Sirhan faces his 16th parole hearing Friday for fatally shooting U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968
Sirhan Sirhan. Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

Rory and five of her siblings — Kerry Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Christopher G. Kennedy and Maxwell T. Kennedy — previously released a joint statement hours after Sirhan was granted parole and said they were "devastated" by the decision.

Maxwell, 56, also wrote an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times, arguing like his sister that Sirhan "should not be released."

Their brothers Robert Jr., 67, and Douglas, 54, have been vocal that they believe Sirhan should be freed.

Sirhan's attorney Angela Berry told PEOPLE, "They spoke for about three hours, and Robert Kennedy has been outspoken about his support for Sirhan over the years."

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"The two sat together. They held hands. I mean, they were face-to-face. Sirhan cried. Robert Jr. accepted his apology. ... At that point, Robert Jr. was convinced that there is way more to the story than what came out at trial and that there could be a second gunman, and he has been on Sirhan's side since," Berry recalled.

She added, "The law says if somebody is no longer a danger to society, they must be released. So if we stick to the law, then the governor should go along with it."

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