In the spring of 1969, Sirhan B. Sirhan, having been convicted of the first degree murder of Robert F. Kennedy, awaited imposition of the sentence of death.
Having been asked by the court if the victim's family wished to make its feelings and wishes known relative to the penalty, Edward M. Kennedy submitted, on behalf of his family, a written plea for mercy to District Attorney Evelle J. Younger with the request that it be passed to its addressee, Superior Court Judge Herbert V. Walker, who had the authority to reduce the jury's sentence.
"My brother was a man of love and sentiment and compassion," EMK wrote. "He would not have wanted his death to be a cause for the taking of another life." He went on to describe RFK as " ... a young man, totally committed to life and living. He stood against injustice, poverty and discrimination, for those evils lessened life. He grew to despise war, for war denies the sacredness of life."
EMK reminded the court of his late brother's " ... pleas when he learned of the death of Martin Luther King. He said, 'What we need in the United States is not division: what we need in the Unite States is not hatred: what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but love and wisdom and compassion towards one another.'"
It is my faith that Robert, Edward, and John Kennedy continue not only in spirit, but as spirit -- and that they second my admonition:
Until the life of the assassin is held to be as sacred as the life of the assassinated, the assassinations will continue.
If, as I and others have good reason to believe but cannot yet know, EMK and the senior members of his family knew who killed RFK and, more to the point, knew that Sirhan was neither a conspirator nor the conspiracy's unwitting spearpoint, then EMK's plea for mercy, in all its eloquence and moral authority, must be appreciated as a cynically self-serving obstruction of justice -- one that in essence knowingly condemned an innocent man to life (short or long) imprisonment.
Would that RFK's surviving children step forward to echo their late Uncle Ted's plea and petition the court to grant Sirhan's parole petition.