SAN DIEGO — Sirhan Sirhan faces his sixteenth parole listening to Friday for fatally capturing U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, and for the primary time no prosecutor can be there to argue he must be saved behind bars.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, a former police officer who took workplace final 12 months after operating on a reform platform, says he idolized the Kennedys and mourned RFK’s assassination however is sticking to his coverage that prosecutors don’t have any function in deciding whether or not prisoners must be launched.
That determination is finest left to California Parole Board members who can consider whether or not Sirhan has been rehabilitated and could be launched safely, Gascón advised The Associated Press earlier this 12 months. Relitigating a case a long time after a criminal offense shouldn’t be the job of prosecutors, even in infamous instances, he mentioned.
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“The function of a prosecutor and their entry to info ends at sentencing,” Alex Bastian, particular advisor to Gascón, mentioned in an announcement Thursday.
The 77-year-old Sirhan has served 53 years for the first-degree homicide of the New York senator and brother of President John F. Kennedy. RFK was a Democratic presidential candidate when he was gunned down on the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after delivering a victory speech within the pivotal California main.
Gascón mentioned he admired Kennedy whereas Sirhan is “the form of person that all of us wish to hate.”
“I can get very emotionally wrapped round my private emotions (about) somebody that killed somebody that I believed might have been an unbelievable president for this nation,” Gascón mentioned. “But that has no place on this course of. Just prefer it doesn’t for the particular person no one is aware of about.”
Sirhan’s new protection lawyer, Angela Berry, mentioned she could not agree extra.
She plans to argue that the board’s determination must be based mostly on who Sirhan is at present and never about previous occasions, which is what the board has based mostly its parole denials on earlier than. She mentioned she plans to deal with his exemplary report in jail and present that he poses no hazard.
“We can’t change the previous, however he was not sentenced to life with out the potential for parole,” Berry advised the AP on Thursday. “To justify denying it based mostly on the gravity of the crime and the truth that it disenfranchised thousands and thousands of Americans is ignoring the rehabilitation that has occurred and that rehabilitation is a extra related indicator of whether or not or not an individual continues to be a threat to society.”
Sirhan’s listening to can be presided over by a two-person panel that often broadcasts its determination the identical day. After that, the Parole Board employees has 90 days to overview the choice, after which it’s handed over to the governor for consideration.
The Parole Board wouldn’t say if the Kennedy household or anybody else submitted statements opposing Sirhan’s launch. Attempts to achieve the Kennedy household for remark have been unsuccessful.
Sirhan was sentenced to demise after his conviction, however that sentence was commuted to life when the California Supreme Court briefly outlawed capital punishment in 1972. At his final parole listening to in 2016, commissioners concluded after greater than three hours of intense testimony that Sirhan didn’t present sufficient regret or perceive the enormity of his crime.
Berry mentioned California legal guidelines authorized since 2018 assist her case. One she plans to level out to the board favors releasing sure older prisoners who dedicated crimes at a younger age when the mind is susceptible to impulsivity. Sirhan was 24 on the time of the assassination.
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Sirhan has previously caught to his account that he does not bear in mind the killing. However, he has recalled occasions earlier than the crime intimately — going to a capturing vary that day, visiting the lodge seeking a celebration and returning after realizing he was too drunk to drive after downing Tom Collins cocktails.
Just earlier than the assassination, he drank espresso in a lodge pantry with a lady to whom he was attracted. The subsequent factor he has mentioned he remembered was being choked and unable to breathe as he was taken into custody. At his 2016 listening to, he mentioned he felt regret for any crime sufferer however couldn’t take duty for the capturing.
Sirhan advised the panel then that if launched, he hoped he could be deported to Jordan or reside together with his brother in Pasadena, California.
After 15 denials for his launch, Berry mentioned it is troublesome to foretell how a lot of an influence the prosecution’s absence may have on the result.
“I wish to assume it’ll make a distinction. But I believe all people just isn’t impervious to the truth that that is political,” she mentioned.
Melley reported from Los Angeles.