Denial of Release Request for Palestinian-Jordanian Sirhan Sirhan Accused of Assassinating JFK

The California State Commission denied parole to Sirhan Sirhan, charged with the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

It comes in the first retrial since Gov. Gavin Newsom decided last year that Sirhan Sirhan, 78, should not be released, according to the New York Times.

The recent decision by the parole board, which follows a video hearing from Sirhan’s state prison in San Diego, marks the second time in three years that Sirhan, who spent more than half a century behind bars for shooting Senator Kennedy, was considered guilty. . Inside the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles at the end of his campaign speech in 1968, when Kennedy was then a presidential candidate and Sirhan was 24 at the time.

His lawyers argued that he was not a danger to society and should be released.

In 2021, the board’s parole committee approved the request for release, but after a series of unusual events, the governor overturned the committee’s decision last year, saying Sirhan had not yet been exonerated.

And yesterday Wednesday, after Sirhan’s 17th parole hearing, a new recommendation was made by the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, who were not part of the control group in 2021, without comment from Gov. Newsom.

Kennedy’s assassination stunned the nation as Americans grappled with deep intergenerational and cultural divisions, the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, and Robert Kennedy — the president’s favorite brother who had been assassinated just a few years earlier — won the California Democratic presidential primary.

Mr. Sarkhan, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian of Jordanian origin who immigrated to the US from Jordan, shot and killed Kennedy as he entered the hotel pantry, to which he confessed almost immediately.

He was initially convicted of murder and first-degree assault with intent to kill and sentenced to death, but that sentence was later commuted to life with the possibility of parole.

In a televised interview from prison in 1989, Sirhan said he killed Kennedy because he felt betrayed by the senator’s offer during the campaign to send military aircraft to support Israel, but later revealed that he did not remember the shooting.

By 2021, California law required the parole board to consider the prisoner’s advanced age and relative youth at the time of the crime, after 15 previous denials, when deciding whether to release an inmate, as the board of commissioners granted him parole that same year. .

They then speculated that Sirhan improved himself by taking lessons in prison and the two Kennedy sons called for leniency, but most of the family was adamant that Sirhan should remain behind bars and pleaded with Newsom to use his powers under California law. to overturn the committee’s decision. recommendation.

And in January 2022, after more than four months of consideration, the Democratic governor, who has long cited Kennedy as a role model, approved the petition.

“After decades in prison, he has failed to address the shortcomings that led him to assassinate Senator Kennedy,” the governor wrote last year. “Sarkhan lacks the foresight to prevent him from making the same dangerous decisions he has made in the past.” “

Sirhan’s lawyer Angela Berry has asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to overrule Newsom’s 2022 parole denial.

With the petition on hold, she said Wednesday she believes the committee’s latest decision was influenced by the governor’s refusal last year.

“I don’t know how I came to the opposite conclusion,” Perry explained, noting that since 2021 Sarkhan has gone through more consultations in addition to his long track record of good behavior.

And she added: “This month he will be 79 years old. He’s trying to do the right thing. He wants to help his younger brother, who is almost blind. They want to spend the rest of the years together.”

But she said the Kennedy family and their lawyers argued vigorously at Wednesday’s hearing that Sirhan was still a danger to society and that the committee had a “different dynamic.”

She continued, “Given that the governor has the power to overturn the rule, I think it would be difficult for any politically sensitive person to release him.”

Source: The New York Times.

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