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 rejection of his parole earlier this year.
Sirhan shot Kennedy shortly after the US Senator from New York claimed victory in California’s crucial Democratic presidential primary. He injured five others during the shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
Newsom said in January Sirhan remains a threat to the public and has not accepted 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.
She is filing a so-called habeas corpus, asking a judge to rule that Newsom broke state law, which says inmates should be paroled unless they pose a currently unreasonable risk to the public safety. Recent California law also required the parole board to consider that Sirhan committed the offense at a young age, being 24, and that he is now a senior prisoner.
Berry said she challenges the governor’s reversal as an “abuse of powers,” a denial of Sirhan’s constitutional right to due process, and a violation of California law. It is also alleged that Newsom misrepresented the facts in his decision.
Berry said the governor “acted with personal bias, adopting the wrong law, ignoring mitigation evidence and not granting Sirhan the same rights as others who qualify for parole.”
Newsom overruled two parole officers who had determined Sirhan was no longer a risk. Among other things, Newsom said the Christian Palestinian migrant from Jordan failed to deny the violence committed in his name, increasing the risk that he could incite political violence.
The verdict divided the legendary Kennedy family, with two of RFK’s sons – Douglas Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – supporting his release. But RFK’s wife, Ethel Kennedy, and six of Kennedy’s nine surviving children opposed his parole.
Newsom has referred to RFK as his political hero and keeps RFK photos in both his office and home office, including one of Kennedy with his late father. Berry accused him of politicizing the parole process.
Berry accused Newsom of putting his “political goals and agenda ahead of those of the Constitution.”
Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Newsom, a Democrat, has sought more national recognition in recent months by challenging Republicans, particularly the governors of Florida and Texas. Newsom is running for re-election in November but has also sparked speculation that he has presidential ambitions, which he has repeatedly denied.
It’s unclear how quickly a judge could rule on Berry’s petition, and both sides could appeal a negative decision. but Sirhan is scheduled for a new parole hearing on March 1.
Sirhan was originally sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to life when the California Supreme Court briefly banned the death penalty in 1972.
https://nypost.com/2022/09/28/sirhan-sirhan-challenges-parole-denial-for-rfk-assassination/ Sirhan Sirhan challenges RFK’s parole denial for murder