As media interviews with inmates are banned in California, the only time the public gets to see Sirhan Sirhan is in televised coverage of his parole hearings. In 1994, Court TV broadcast Sirhan’s parole hearing live and I’m posting the closing statements of Sirhan and his attorney Larry Teeter from that broadcast today, followed by the parole board’s predictable decision.
Teeter is continually interrupted as he puts several key points on the record that don’t just challenge the official version of the crime but also speak directly to the key criteria the board sets for considering parole. As Teeter reminds the panel, sentencing guidelines at the time recommended 15-19 years for first-degree murder. After 26 years in prison, Sirhan had already served way beyond this. And now, 22 years later, he’s served three times the recommended term for his crime.
In 1982, KCRA obtained a court order and the Board of Prison Terms allowed closed-circuit cameras to record Sirhan’s parole rescission hearings, and all of his subsequent parole hearings were recorded and briefly televised during news broadcasts until now.
Now I hear that since Sirhan’s last hearing in 2011, the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) in California no longer allows video or audio recording of parole hearings, censoring Sirhan’s voice from the continuing debate about his case. The relevant title code in the regulations states the following:
§ 2032. (b) Television and radio coverage of Board of Prison Terms’ parole hearings will be authorized, unless such coverage would create a risk to the security of an institution, obstruct the hearing process, pose a risk to the personal safety of any person, or have the potential for prejudicing judicial proceedings…
I can’t see how any of these apply, given the previous thirty years of televised hearings. So what possible justification can the BPH have for denying the public television and radio access to a case of such historical importance? I asked the BPH this question a week ago and am still awaiting a reply.