Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Paroling Sirhan Sirhan

RFK assass

Newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón issued a directive that his office’s “default policy” would be not to attend parole hearings and to submit letters supporting the release of some inmates who had served their mandatory minimums. Now Sirhan B. Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, will be a beneficiary of the policy as he faces a California parole board for the 16th time tomorrow. in a prison outside San Diego. Unlike the first 15 times, no prosecutor will oppose his release.

Sirhan is now 77. He escaped execution when California, being California, abolished the death penalty and his sentence was reduced to life with the possibility of parole. Instead of death, then, his punishment for murdering a possibly transformational U.S. political leader might be only 53 years behind bars. It could have been fewer: under the California law in effect when the assassin struck in 1968, a life sentence with parole would have made Sirhan eligible for release after only seven years. Now the parole board will evaluate him as an inmate who has had no disciplinary violations since 1972, and has expressed remorse, sort of: at one, “I have feelings of shame and inward guilt … I honestly feel the pain that [the Kennedys] may have gone through.” On the other hand, he has never expressly admitted his guilt and now claims not to remember shooting Bobby.

Funny, you’d think he would recall something like that.

Sirhan’s lawyer Angela Berry, argues that parole is appropriate because of the factors noted above, Sirhan’s age at the time of his crime (24), and the fact that he is no longer a threat to society. Denying parole on an opinion that Mr. Sirhan’s actions ‘changed the course of history’ or ‘disenfranchised millions of Americans’ violates due process,” she says. She cites the California Supreme Court’s guidance on parole consideration, holding that an analysis “cannot be undertaken simply by examining the circumstances of the crime in isolation, without consideration of the passage of time or the attendant changes in the inmate’s psychological or mental attitude.”

To be clear: there really is a chance that the man who assassinated Bobby Kennedy right after he had won a crucial Presidential primary that could have put him on a path to get the Democratic Party’s nomination to run against Richard Nixon will be released.

Legally, this can be justified. Ethically, it is outrageous. Political assassination is one of those extreme varieties of murder, like mass murder, serial murder, child murder and murder with torture, that has to occupy the top tier of punishment if human life is going to given appropriate weight in our society. The top tier of punishment is the death penalty. Sirhan Sirhan should have received it,but at very least, his crime mandates never being allowed into civil society again. Letting him go free now after only 53 years in prison—yes, only—creates a dangerous precedent and a perilous slippery slope. 53 years and out for murdering the father of nine children, a political leaders and public servant, and a man on a course to alter U.S. society with the support of millions of Americans? If that’s “justice,” how much time should the killer of drug dealer in a transaction gone sour get? An hour and 45 minutes?

[Disclaimer: In the interests of full disclosure, I have to state that I believed in 1968 as I do now that Bobby was, like his two brothers and his father, a cynical, manipulative sociopath, and unfit for public office.]

5 thoughts on “Tales Of The Slippery Slope: Paroling Sirhan Sirhan

  1. The California Supreme Court found the death penalty laws there unconstitutional. Twice. The second time in 1972 was the relevant one here. The legislature there never abolished it. I find it ironic that prosecutors used to make history by who they convicted, like Andrew McCarthy (led the prosecution against the first WTC bombers), or how many people they got the ultimate penalty against, like Joe Freeman Britt (38 death sentences, still holds the record as America’s deadliest prosecutor). Now this prosecutor is going to make history by stepping out of the way and letting a Palestinian fanatic who deliberately killed the man who had a pretty good shot at becoming the 37th President go free.

    Just to put this in historical perspective, if RFK had won in 1968, Vietnam would have taken a very different path, the latter part of the civil rights movement would have been handled very differently, and there would have been no Watergate. In all probability RFK would have presided over a VERY different bicentennial of this country in his final year as president, that had NOT been shaken to its core and lost its trust in its government. Possibly Teddy could have followed him into the White House as well, depending on whether Chappaquiddick happened or not, but who’s to say RFK might not have put him in the Cabinet and kept him otherwise occupied? In all probability Jimmy Carter would never have been more than governor of Georgia, and Reagan might not have made it to the White House until 1984, if then. This was a political assassination with historic consequences unimaginable. Yet this guy still wants to just look the other way and let the assassin walk out of prison to no doubt be feted and applauded by the Palestinian cause.

    It wasn’t too long ago that NY County DA Robert Morgenthau was Grand Marshal of the Veterans’ Day Parade for years and years of service as a prosecutor who actually enforced the law. Now this DA is going to release a guy to be grand marshal of the PLO parade. Well done, GG, well done.

  2. From Gascon’s wiki page (Was his campaign underwritten by George Soros?):

    Gascón began his time as Los Angeles DA by announcing that his office would not seek cash bail for certain offenses (and would seek release for those currently awaiting such bail), would never seek the death penalty, and would end the charging of juveniles as adults. He also announced plans to reevaluate any sentence for which the prisoner had already served 20 years, and to reopen some cases of officer-involved shootings from the previous eight years. His policies have sparked outrage from some victims and their families and revolt from some of his own prosecutors, who have sought to block him in court.

    In February 2021 an effort began to place a proposition on an upcoming ballot to remove Gascón from office. While the recall’s most visible supporter is Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, it is led by former District Attorney Steve Cooley and two women who lost relatives to violent crime.

    On May 22, 2021, the recall petition was approved by the L.A. County Registrar. Proponents of the recall have until October 27, 2021 to collect signatures of support from 10 percent of Los Angeles County voters, for a total of 579,000 valid signatures.

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