SAN DIEGO (AP) — Sirhan Sirhan faces his 16th parole hearing Friday for fatally shooting Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, and for the first time no prosecutor will be there to argue he should be kept behind bars.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, a former police officer who took office last year after running on a reform platform, says he idolized the Kennedys and mourned RFK’s assassination but is sticking to his policy that prosecutors have no role in deciding whether prisoners should be released.READ MORE: Teen Driver Inured in Crash on Route 84
That decision is best left to California Parole Board members who can evaluate whether Sirhan has been rehabilitated and can be released safely, Gascón told The Associated Press earlier this year. Relitigating a case decades after a crime should not be the job of prosecutors, even in notorious cases, he said.
“The role of a prosecutor and their access to information ends at sentencing,” Alex Bastian, special advisor to Gascón, said in a statement Thursday.
The 77-year-old Sirhan has served 53 years for the first-degree murder of the New York senator and brother of President John F. Kennedy. RFK was a Democratic presidential candidate when he was gunned down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after delivering a victory speech in the pivotal California primary.
Gascón said he admired Kennedy while Sirhan is “the kind of individual that we all like to hate.”READ MORE: Homeless Man Found Dead with Gunshot Wounds Near Creek Trail
“I can get very emotionally wrapped around my personal feelings (about) someone that killed someone that I thought could have been an incredible president for this country,” Gascón said. “But that has no place in this process. Just like it doesn’t for the person nobody knows about.”
Sirhan’s new defense attorney, Angela Berry, said she couldn’t agree more.
She plans to argue that the board’s decision should be based on who Sirhan is today and not about past events, which is what the board has based its parole denials on before. She said she plans to focus on his exemplary record in prison and show that he poses no danger.
“We can’t change the past, but he was not sentenced to life without the possibility of parole,” Berry told the AP on Thursday. “To justify denying it based on the gravity of the crime and the fact that it disenfranchised millions of Americans is ignoring the rehabilitation that has occurred and that rehabilitation is a more relevant indicator of whether or not a person is still a risk to society.”MORE NEWS: Repairs Finish Early on Ramp Between I-80 and Highway 101
Sirhan’s hearing will be presided over by a two-person panel that usually announces its decision the same day. After that, the Parole Board staff has 90 days to review the decision, and then it is handed over to the governor for consideration.