Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of assassinating Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) in June 1968, is eligible for parole, and L.A. District Attorney George Gascón will not send prosecutors to the parole hearing Friday, nor will he oppose parole.
Sirhan, 77, was arrested on the scene after he shot Kennedy, who had just made a victory speech in the California primary at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, and was exiting through the hotel kitchen.
The murder shocked the world, given the fact that Kennedy’s brother, President John F. Kennedy, had been killed five years before, and the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, just two months before, throwing the nation into turmoil.
After his win, Kennedy had seemed likely to win the Democratic nomination for president on a platform of opposition to the Vietnam War. Instead, the party went down to defeat against Richard Nixon, after a bitter convention in Chicago. On the American left, the second Kennedy assassination has often been seen as the moment that a brighter future was lost.
Today, with “criminal justice reform” a major motivating force in the Democratic Party, and “systemic racism” a rallying cry, there are calls for clemency for Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant who is not a U.S. citizen and could face deportation.
Gascón was backed in 2020 over incumbent Jackie Lacey, the first black woman to serve in the role, and received millions of dollars from left-wing philanthropist George Soros, who has invested heavily in electing left-wing prosecutors around the nation.
Gascón was also endorsed by incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who now faces a recall election on Sep. 14.
Gascón has since pursued a radical left-wing agenda, over the opposition of rank-and-file prosecutors in L.A. County, and has evoked opposition from the families of victims of crime, some of whom are pushing for him to be recalled.
Initially, Sirhan was sentenced to death for the murder. Instead, he has served 53 years in prison, repeatedly denied parole.
This time could be different, as the Washington Post noted on Wednesday, thanks to Gascón’s policies on reducing sentences:
When California abolished the death penalty, Sirhan’s sentence was reduced to life with the possibility of parole. And now Sirhan, who has been incarcerated for 53 years, may benefit from a new push among progressive prosecutors to seek the release, or not oppose the release, of convicts who have served decades behind bars, no longer pose a threat to society and will be costly to treat medically in their later years.
Newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón told The Washington Post shortly before his inauguration in December that he was creating a sentencing review unit to revisit the cases of about 20,000 prisoners for possible resentencing, analyzing both the fairness of long sentences and the cost savings for releasing low-risk or older inmates. Gascón issued a directive that his office’s “default policy” would be not to attend parole hearings and to submit letters supporting the release of some inmates who had served their mandatory minimums, while also assisting victims and victim advocates at parole hearings if requested.
In Sirhan’s case, Gascón’s office is remaining neutral. The office said it will not attend the parole hearing, as Los Angeles prosecutors have done historically, but it also will not send a letter in support of Sirhan’s parole.
The Kennedy family, some of whom believe there was a second gunman, have declined to take a position on the parole.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.