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

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

Who, What, Why

RFK Friend to Raise Doubts About Sirhan Guilt at Parole Hearing

On the eve of Sirhan Sirhan’s parole hearing, I just published a lengthy article at Who What Why about Paul Schrade’s courageous appearance before the panel and the history of injustice in Sirhan’s parole process. Since 1982, California has treated Sirhan like a political prisoner who will never be released, not a human being who has served his time and has the right to a fair hearing and the rule of law.

Two weeks ago, I asked the Board of Parole Hearings for the legal justification behind their ban on video and audio recordings of tomorrow’s hearing. They still haven’t given me an answer and this high-handed, unaccountable approach was reflected in Sirhan’s treatment by the commissioners at his last hearing. The absence of cameras tightens their control around a political prisoner they don’t want to public to see.

As the clips of the 2011 hearing I’ve posted recently illustrate, Sirhan is intelligent, articulate, remorseful and at 71 years old, a danger to nobody.

13 shots = 2 guns

A couple of days before the fortieth anniversary of the RFK assassination in 2008, I interviewed forensic audio expert Phil van Praag about his stunning analysis of the Pruszynski recording, the only known audio of the shooting at the Ambassador Hotel on 5 June, 1968.

You can watch a seven-minute overview of Phil’s findings above, made for the Documentary Channel as an epilogue to my film RFK Must Die. You can also read Phil’s detailed declaration for Sirhan’s habeas corpus petition below. In short, he concludes that at least thirteen shots were fired from two guns in the Ambassador pantry that night but the courts denied Sirhan’s petition without even granting an evidentiary hearing.