RFK’s assassin Sirhan Sirhan came up for parole today. It’s the 14th time this has happened, and the hearing is likely to go the way of all the rest and end in denial.
When I heard the news, my first thought was, “Why is this man still alive?” After all, he assassinated a presidential candidate in full view of a crowd of people.
The answer is that, although he was sentenced to death at his trial, the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972, before his execution had taken place. Even though he was sentenced when executions were allowed, the later ruling was retroactive. And even though executions were re-instituted in California in the late 70s, his re-sentencing to life in prison (with possibility of parole) during that small window of opportunity stands.
By the way, because Sirhan was a Palestinian whose motive was apparently anger at RFK’s pro-Israel stance, many people assume that Sirhan must have been a Muslim. He was not; his parents were Palestinian Christians who had brought him to this country when he was twelve.