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RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan challenges his parole denial

The man who killed Robert F Kennedy more than 50 years ago is asking a judge to overturn the ruling denying him parole.

September 28, 2022
28 September 2022

Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy in 1968, will ask a judge to free him from prison by reversing California Governor 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.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has been accused of bias in his decision on Sirhan Sirhan’s parole. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Newsom said in January Sirhan remained a threat to the public and hadn’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.

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.

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan leaves the courtroom in Los Angeles on July 19, 1968 after the assassination of Robert F Kennedy. (AP Photo/File)

Berry said she was 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.

The ruling split the iconic 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 cited RFK as his political hero and keeps RFK photos in both his official and home offices, including one of Kennedy with his late father. Berry accused Newsom of putting his “political goals and agenda above that of the Constitution.”

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.

Sirhan originally was sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to life when the California Supreme Court briefly outlawed capital punishment in 1972.

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