COALINGA, Calif. – A California board denied parole Wednesday for Robert F. Kennedy's convicted assassin, Sirhan Sirhan. A panel of two California parole board commissioners concluded after a four hour hearing that Sirhan hadn't shown adequate remorse or understanding of the crime that was mourned by a nation.
Sirhan, now 66, spoke at length and expressed sorrow, but said he doesn't remember shooting Kennedy or five other victims on June 4, 1968, in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, where Kennedy stood moments after claiming victory in the California presidential primary.
"Every day of my life, I have great remorse and deep regret," he said at the hearing at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga.
He pleaded with the panel to give him a date for release, saying he wants to "get lost in the woodwork" and live out his life.
Sirhan said he understood that he might be deported to his native Jordan if released and was willing to accept that. He said no one in his family is involved in politics and suggested he wouldn't be either if he was released.
The panel chairman, Mike Prizmich, and the deputy commissioner, Randy Kevorkian, told Sirhan he must seek further self-help courses, come to terms with the crime and show evidence of his improvement when he gets his next parole hearing, which will be in five years.
Sirhan, his hair graying and missing one tooth in the front of his mouth, appeared cheerful as he entered the hearing room. He bid the commissioners "good afternoon" and was talkative during the hearing, telling commissioners he is a practicing Christian who attends services every Sunday.
Sirhan said he was put in solitary confinement after he became a target of hatred in the prison following the Sept. 11 attacks. Fellow inmates thought he was a Muslim, he said.
Sirhan was originally sentenced to death over objections by Kennedy family members who said they wanted no more killing. The sentence was commuted to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court briefly outlawed the death penalty in 1972.