Thinking Citizen Blog — Should Sirhan Sirhan Be Paroled?
Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day
Today’s Topic: Should Sirhan Sirhan Be Paroled?
What does justice demand? In California? elsewhere? In 1968 (when Sirhan Sirhan was sentenced to death)? In 1972 (when capital punishment was abolished in California)? In 2021? Many have strong opinions on the subject. Do you? Does what is fair depend on time and place? Or is it universal? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
JUSTICE DEMANDS PAROLE — Rachelle Cohen, Boston Globe
1. “Parole…isn’t about forgiveness. It isn’t a pardon; it doesn’t erase the record. And heaven help us if it ever becomes about politics.”
2. “Parole is and always has been based on rehabilitation, the expression of remorse, and the likelihood of an inmate to re-offend.”
3. “It shouldn’t matter if the victim was a Kennedy or a Smith or a Jones. It shouldn’t matter whether my dreams were shattered, a nation was deprived of a future leader, and a passel of kids was left fatherless.”
NB: Sirhan Sirhan has not had a disciplinary infraction since 1972 and has expressed remorse. “For the parole board, Sirhan Sirhan should be just another prisoner who played by the rules — no more, but no less.”
NO PAROLE — JOE KENNEDY, son of Robert F. Kennedy
1. “Two commissioners of the 18-member California Parole Board made a grievous error last Friday in recommending the release of the man who murdered my father,”
2. “The prisoner killed my father because of his support of Israel. The man was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Yet he now may walk free, no doubt to the cheers of those who share his views,”
3. “Let there be no mistake, the prisoner’s release will be celebrated by those who believe that political disagreements can be solved by a gun.”
NB: “The murderer of anyone who runs for or holds public office because of his political stance must know that he will at a minimum spend life in prison without parole.”
HE SHOULD DIE BEHIND BARS — Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe
1. “At his trial for the murder of Robert F. Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan testified that when he gunned down the charismatic Democratic presidential candidate in 1968, he did it so ‘with 20 years of malice aforethought.”
2. In 1972 when the death penalty was abolished in California, Sirhan Sirhan “ended up with a sentence that no judge or jury ever approved: a life term with the possibility of parole.”
3. “And what made Sirhan’s crime so terrible? Not primarily that it was a political assassination, that his victim was a presidential candidate, or that he murdered a member of a prominent family. It was that he destroyed the life an innocent person willfully, violently, and mercilessly. There is no escaping the political nature of what happened at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968. But if Sirhan had carefully plotted and deliberately carried out the murder of a busboy in the hotel kitchen, he would deserve the same punishment.”
NB: “Maxwell Kennedy, one of Robert Kennedy’s sons, wrote the other day that “the mere thought” of his father’s killer being released makes him sick. Such a travesty of justice should sicken us all.”
FOOTNOTES — 16th parole hearing, LA District Attorney Gascon, California Governor Newsom
1. “The parole hearing was the 16th time Mr. Sirhan had faced parole board commissioners, but it was the first time no prosecutor showed up to argue for his continued imprisonment. George Gascón, the progressive and divisive Los Angeles County district attorney who was elected last year, has made it a policy for prosecutors not to attend parole hearings, saying the parole board has all the facts it needs to make an informed decision.” (NYT — fourth link)
2. “In several instances, Mr. Newsom has denied parole to people whom the parole board has recommended for release, including two followers of the notorious cult leader Charles Manson, most recently in June.” (ditto)
3. “My only connection with Robert Kennedy was his sole support of Israel and his deliberate attempt to send those 50 [fighter jet] bombers to Israel to obviously do harm to the Palestinians.” (Statement of Sirhan Sirhan to David Frost in 1989. See last link.)
For the last three years of posts organized by theme:
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to justice, freedom, the law or basic values. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to justice, freedom, the law, or basic values. Or just some random justice-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.