Sirhan Legal Appeal Denied

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied Sirhan Sirhan’s right to appeal his case last week, effectively ending his hopes of a new trial in criminal court.

The decision follows Sirhan’s parole denial in February and concerns the habeas corpus petition first filed in federal court in 2000 and dismissed without leave to appeal by Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell in January 2015.

While Sirhan’s attorneys plan to file an en banc petition challenging the ruling and could also take Sirhan’s appeal to the US Supreme Court, their hopes of overturning the decision are remote.

Sirhan’s most viable legal option now seems to be a civil trial in California, but they’re expensive and a substantial fundraising effort would be required to meet legal costs and travel and lodging expenses for witnesses.

In 1999, Sirhan’s attorney William Pepper represented the King family in a successful civil suit against Lloyd Jowers and “other unknown co-conspirators” in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

In the meantime, L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has still not responded to Paul Schrade’s request for a new investigation into the case and it seems only the direct intervention of Robert Kennedy Jr. may stir California authorities into action.

(Originally published at WhoWhatWhy.org)

Tortured Logic

In the newly released transcript of Sirhan Sirhan’s parole hearing on February 10, we discover why— at nearly 72 years of age — the convicted murderer of Bobby Kennedy “continues to pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society or a threat to public safety and is therefore not suitable for parole.”

Sirhan Sirhan during a parole hearing Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, Pool)

Since its landmark opinion in the Lawrence case in 2008, the California Supreme Court has required the parole board to provide “some evidence” that a prisoner is “currently dangerous” when denying parole. This, and pressure to reduce prison overcrowding, has seen parole grant rates for “lifers” jump from 8 percent in 2008 to 33 percent in 2014.

Stanford Law School study in 2011 found that, of 860 murderers paroled in California since 1995, only five reoffended and none were convicted of another murder. But, as we’ll see, the tortured logic used by one of the commissioners to compute Sirhan’s current threat level gives him little hope of freedom anytime soon.

As described in my previous piece, the hearing was hotly contested. On one side, David Dahle, representing the L.A. County District Attorney’s office, called Sirhan a “terrorist.” On the other, Sirhan’s attorney William Pepper and shooting victim Paul Schrade called him “a political prisoner” and condemned his inhumane treatment.

In his victim impact statement, Schrade criticized Dahle for his “venomous” attack on Sirhan, saying the assassination was a political crime but it’s “also a political crime keeping him in prison.” Read the rest at WhoWhatWhy.org

The Full Story of Sirhan’s Hearing

Today, I published a detailed report on Sirhan’s parole hearing at WhoWhatWhy.org. You can read an excerpt below and continue reading on their site. This wraps up my coverage of Sirhan’s parole hearing until the official transcript is published in the next four weeks or so, when I’ll back with more details:

Sirhan Parole

The ban on video and audio recordings at Sirhan Sirhan’s parole hearing on February 9 meant the world depended on the one reporter allowed inside the hearing to tell us what happened. He had to condense “more than three hours of intense testimony” into 854 words.

Elliot Spagat’s lively account of the proceeding for the Associated Press omitted one very important document that shooting victim and Kennedy family friend Paul Schrade presented to the parole board. This was a letter from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to US Attorney General Eric Holder, dated September 25, 2012, supporting Schrade’s request for a new investigation of his father’s murder:

Paul was a close friend and advisor to my father. He was standing beside my father when Daddy was killed and Paul was himself wounded by a bullet. With boundless energy and clear mind, Paul continues to pursue my father’s ideas, an endeavor to which he has devoted his life. He organized with the support of my mother and my family the building of the new Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools on the former Ambassador Hotel site. Paul and his team…strongly believe this new evidence is conclusive and requires a new investigation. I agree and support his request for a new investigation.

Read more here

Sirhan Sirhan with attorney William Pepper

Sirhan Sirhan with attorney William Pepper

Denied again

Sadly but predictably, Sirhan Sirhan was denied parole for the 15th time yesterday in San Diego. I’ll post full reaction soon but for now, here are the pool images shot by the AP photographer at the hearing and two reports from the ABC affiliate in San Diego featuring reaction from Paul Schrade and Sirhan’s attorney William Pepper.

You can watch further reaction from Paul Schrade in reports from the NBC station in San Diego and the ABC affiliate in Los Angeles.

Anatomy of a Murder

Sirhan Sirhan’s parole hearing is now underway in San Diego. As we await the outcome, here’s a new video essay on Sirhan’s role in the assassination, remixing my previous film RFK Must Die and unseen footage from Sirhan’s last parole hearing in 2011 with echoes of his case found in movies on amnesia and post-hypnotic suggestion

Sirhan Sirhan

Sirhan Sirhan