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California Gov. Gavin Newsom Reverses Decision to Grant Sirhan Sirhan Parole


The decision is here; some key paragraphs:

The gravity of Mr. Sirhan's crimes alone counsels against his release. But I have concluded that he is unsuitable for parole because he poses a current threat to public safety. After decades in prison, Mr. Sirhan has failed to address the deficiencies that led him to assassinate Senator Kennedy. Mr. Sirhan lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the same types of dangerous decisions he made in the past.

The most glaring evidence of Mr. Sirhan's deficient insight is his shifting narrative about his assassination of Senator Kennedy, and his current refusal to accept responsibility for his crimes. As the following examples show, Mr. Sirhan has inconsistently described his role in the assassination of Senator Kennedy, claimed shifting memory lapses, minimized his participation in the crimes, and outright denied his guilt….

But Mr. Sirhan's risk of committing acts of interpersonal violence is not the most relevant indication of his current risk level. As explained above, Mr. Sirhan poses a risk to public safety because he lacks insight, as demonstrated by his refusal to accept responsibility for the assassination of Senator Kennedy, his failure to renounce political violence, and his lack of the requisite skills to manage complex external triggers. Thus, evidence of Mr. Sirhan's diminished physical strength does not mitigate the serious threat to public safety that he currently poses, including the risk that he may incite political violence should he be released on parole. Accordingly, his release is not consistent with public safety.

I can't speak to the merits of the Governor's decision, since I know little about parole practices generally. But I should note that, while someone can't just be put in prison based on a "risk that he may incite political violence," decisions about parole for people who have already committed political violence may indeed generally turn on such matters.

NEXT: Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby Indicted for Perjury,

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  1. On a related note does anyone know where I can find statistics for (actual) average time served by offense? Not just in the US but in other countries like in Europe? Even the statistics for the US although much more readily available are too vague for example the murder numbers are lumped together without any differentiation for degrees.

    1. Sirhan has been good to the scumbag lawyer profession. Why was he kept alive, anyway? He should have been executed decades ago.

  2. Newsom takes a free card in the tough on crime game.

  3. This was a cold blooded, pre-meditated murder. The choice of punishment should have been the death penalty or life without parole. Life without parole is what it should be and what Sirhan Sirhan should have expected.

    We make allowance for who is murdered. Those kill law enforcement officers, public officials and the like should get the maximum punishment because in addition to killing an individual they also kill a part of society, a part of the body politic, a part of what enables us to live in a free society governed under the rule of law.

    Denial of parole is not only appropriate, it is important to establish what we are and what we want to be.

    1. Treat him as if he'd killed a convenience-store clerk in order to get at the money in the till.

      The fact that the victim was some hack Senator rather than a humble clerk doesn't make the offense worse.

      1. What made him a hack, you bigoted, superstitious, obsolete right-wing clinger?

        Was it his preference for tolerance over bigotry?

        Reason over childish superstition?

        Education over backwater ignorance?

        Progress over backwardness?

        1. Remind me who ordered the wiretaps on Martin Luther King, you moron.

          1. You gullible, drooling, slack-jawed, cretinous, racist excrescence, why do you support illegal wiretaps of black civil rights leaders, you shit-for-brains, tiny-dicked, disgrace to your fellow morons?

          2. Virtual high five, cal. Nicely done.

            1. I suppose there is some value in Prof. Volokh establishing a spot at which our society’s right-wing misfits can share a few moments of happiness along their bitter, deplorable journey toward replacement.

              Party on, clingers. Until your betters decide the party’s over.

              1. In your progressive future, will there be illegal surveillance of black civil rights leaders?

                1. It will be everyone’s progressive future, not just mine. I suggest you pray on that a while.

      2. His victim was a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to president of the United States.

        Such an assassination should be among the most harshly treated crimes there is.

        1. Any first-degree murder should be harshly treated.

          Whether the victim is a voter like the clerk or an aspiring public servant seeking the clerk's vote.

          1. Look, Sirhan didn't just murder a person, he murdered a nation's future. That future may have been a good one, it may have been a terrible one, but it was our future and we were entitled to it. This is the reason his crime is more serious and more deserving of a harsher punishment than murdering a clerical person.

            And why is it that you people think name calling and personal degradation is an effective argument? Is it because you have no logical position to articulate?

            1. And why is it that you people think name calling and personal degradation is an effective argument? Is it because you have no logical position to articulate?

              The poster you replied to made no such statement.

              1. Yeah, I see the problem.

                1. No, you don't. I called RFK a hack and then I defended myself against Artie in the same language he used. I'm not going to apologize for engaging in verbal self-defense.

            2. 'he murdered a nation's future."
              Sidney, get out the violins.
              RFK was a vile human being, not an incipient savior of the nations. Instead Hubert Humphrey,an honorable man got to run.

              1. You must not have been around then.

            3. The murder of a convenience store clerk is as bad as the murder of a Senator, even if the Senator's death made Boomers sad. Anything else is simple classism.

            4. "Look, Sirhan didn't just murder a person, he murdered a nation's future."

              So, we're living in some alternate history where he wasn't assassinated? Because I notice the nation is still around, and it's the future...

          2. Have to agree. We don't have royalty in this country, assassinating a Presidential candidate isn't regicide, it's just plain old murder. Which should be bad enough.

      3. National leaders are tied to the nation itself. They get more protections, and their death has more moment.

        Trying to pretend otherwise because you are above such loyalties is silly, and solipsistic.

        1. The question is not whether their death has "more moment," but whether the law should treat their murder more harshly than that of an ordinary citizen. And to that, the answer, IMO, is No.

          1. With the exception of cases of (arguable) terrorism, I agree. Even where terrorism isn't formally charged, a motive to influence public policy or intimidate the wider public seems like something that should factor into the sentencing decision.

  4. Sirhan lacks "insight."

    Is "insight" what used to be called "repentance"?

  5. Considering the timing, I would say Sirhan was the first of a long series of palestinian terrorists who killed Americans. He should have gotten a date with the gas chamber. Sidney (above) has it right in this instance.

  6. I think we all know the real reason Sirhan didn't get parole. He was convicted of murdering a Kennedy. Had he been some run of the mill dime store criminal the "progressives" would have dropped all the charges and told us how evil we were for keeping him in prison all those years.

    1. There's no hypocrisy like hypothetical hypocrisy.

    2. John Lennon's killer can't get parole either. Killing a VIP means people will be watching your parole process.

      1. Yeah, basically. Too many people watching to get away with it, that's all that stopped him from being released.

  7. The stunning parole recommendation by the board was accompanied by an endorsement by the notorious Robert F. Kennedy Jr and one other sibling. Popular reaction in Boston was negative. Sirhan's continuing evasion of responsibility told heavily; pandering to deranged conspiracy theories of Robert F. Kennedy Jr was not an acceptable substitute.
    A few days later, the other six Kennedy siblings, led by former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, denounced assassins in general and Sirhan in particular. Their mother, RFK Sr's widow Ethel, followed suit a few days later.

  8. "But Mr. Sirhan's risk of committing acts of interpersonal violence is not the most relevant indication of his current risk level."


  9. Somehow I think Governor Newsom was moved more by political calculation than anything else. Although he did go to the trouble of writing a fig leaf of reasoning for his decision.

    I think most people who were around at the time of RFK's assassination (I was) would be happy if Sirhan Sirhan never got out of prison.

    1. It was a rare instance in which Newsom legitimately exercised executive authority rather than making up fiat law or slandering the judiciary.

  10. Newsome essentially ignored the findings of the 2-person commission based on assumptions and speculation. The real reason is that except for RFK Jr and Douglass, the rest of the family objected to his release. so he made up rationales to support this decision,

    1. Yeah, that and he has to run for re-election in November.

  11. Welcome to America, where no politician ever got in trouble for locking up (alleged) criminals for longer.

    1. "alleged"
      Let me guess: it was the Jews that really killed RFK, right? Just like 9/11?

    2. Martinned: Gov. Newsom doesn't seem to be a big fan of reversing parole decisions; according to this article, he seems to have reversed about 5% of the decisions in favor of parole. I don't think the Sirhan case necessarily says much about Newsom's or the California voters' attitudes generally on "lock up criminals for longer"; it seems to me to turn more on the particulars of Sirhan and his crime.

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