California Rejects Parole for Sirhan Sirhan, 78

RFK assassin already asked a judge to reverse governor's earlier decision blocking release
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 28, 2022 8:05 AM CDT
Updated Mar 1, 2023 6:15 PM CST
RFK Assassin Sirhan Sirhan Challenges Newsom's Decision
This photo released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows Sirhan Sirhan.   (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP)
UPDATE Mar 1, 2023 6:15 PM CST

The man convicted of assassinating Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 will not yet be freed from prison. Sirhan Sirhan's bid for parole was rejected Wednesday in California, the AP reports. Angela Berry, his lawyer, said the board found Sirhan lacks insight still into why he shot Kennedy, a conclusion she disagrees with. Sirhan's filing to overturn the governor's rejection of parole last year remains undecided, and Berry said it's not clear how that will be affected by the decision Wednesday. Her client has "continued to show great behavior" in prison, Berry said.

Sep 28, 2022 8:05 AM CDT

Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, is asking a judge on Wednesday to free him from prison by reversing California Gov. Gavin Newsom's denial of his parole earlier this year. Sirhan shot Kennedy moments after the US senator from New York claimed victory in California's pivotal Democratic presidential primary. He wounded five others during the shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Newsom said in January that Sirhan remains a threat to the public and hasn’t taken responsibility for a crime that changed American history. But his attorney, Angela Berry, says there is no evidence her now 78-year-old client remains dangerous.

The AP reports she is filing what's known as a writ of habeas corpus asking a judge to rule that Newsom violated state law, which holds that inmates should be paroled unless they pose a current unreasonable public safety risk. Recent California laws also required the parole panel to consider that Sirhan committed the offense at a young age, when he was 24, and that he is now an elderly prisoner. Newsom overruled two parole commissioners who had found that Sirhan no longer was a risk. Among other factors, Newsom said the Christian Palestinian who immigrated from Jordan has failed to disclaim violence committed in his name, adding to the risk that he could incite political violence.

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Berry said she is challenging the governor's reversal as an "abuse of discretion," a denial of Sirhan's constitutional right to due process and as a violation of California law. It also alleges that Newsom misstated the facts in his decision. Berry said the governor "acted with personal bias, incorporated the wrong law, ignored mitigation evidence, and did not afford Sirhan the same rights as others eligible for parole." Newsom has cited RFK as his political hero and keeps RFK photos in both his official and home offices. It's unclear how quickly a judge might rule on Berry's petition, and either side could appeal an adverse decision, but Sirhan is set for a new parole hearing on March 1.

(Read more Sirhan Sirhan stories.)

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