Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has no plans for his prosecutors to speak out during Sirhan’s parole hearing scheduled for Friday, affirming his stance that the role of a prosecutor ends at sentencing.
“If someone is the same person that committed an atrocious crime, that person will correctly not be found suitable for release. However, if someone is no longer a threat to public safety after having served more than 50 years in prison, then the parole board may recommend release based on an objective determination,” said Gascón adviser Alex Bastian in a statement, noting that the parole board has all the pertinent facts and evaluations, along with behavior during incarceration.
“Our office policies take these principles into account and as such, our prosecutors stay out of the parole board hearing process,” Bastian said.
Gascón’s office said the previous practice, typical of many district attorneys across the country, involved almost always objecting to inmate releases, based solely on the circumstances of the crime and not of the actions of the inmate in the years following. The new directive aims to leave the decision up to the parole board.
Sirhan, 77, shot Kennedy to death in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles following a campaign event in which Kennedy celebrated primary victories in his run for the Democratic nomination for president in 1968.
Initially sentenced to death for the murder, Sirhan’s punishment was commuted to life in prison in 1972 after the California State Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional.
Angela Berry, Sirhan’s attorney, did not comment on the upcoming hearing but provided sentencing memorandums which focus on her client’s youth at the time of the murder — he was 24 — and his childhood. Describing Sirhan as a Palestinian who became a refugee at age four, he “witnessed atrocities most of us only see in movies or in our worst nightmares” before emigrating to the US as a teenager.
If released on parole, Sirhan plans to live with his only surviving brother in Los Angeles, according to the filing.
An attorney for the Kennedy family did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.