RFK and the death penalty in California

One of history’s most infamous assassins may soon be released from a California prison, just as debates over crime and punishments take o...


One of history’s most infamous assassins may soon be released from a California prison, just as debates over crime and punishments take on a bigger role in the recall election to governor. State.

Tom jackman reports for the Washington Post:

Sirhan B. Sirhan, convicted of the 1968 murder of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, will face a California parole board for the 16th time Friday in a jail outside of San Diego. But unlike the first 15 times, no prosecutor will oppose the release of Sirhan, now 77.

Sirhan was arrested at the scene of the Kennedy shooting in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death for the assassination of a United States senator who was headed for the Democratic presidential nomination. The assassination, along with that of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. two months earlier, marked a turning point in American history with the sudden elimination of charismatic leaders from the American Civil Rights Movement and the Democratic Party.

When California abolished the death penalty, Sirhan’s sentence was reduced to life with the possibility of parole. And now Sirhan, who has been in jail for 53 years, may benefit from a new push among progressive prosecutors to call for the release, or not oppose the release, of convicts who have spent decades behind bars, no. pose more of a threat to society and be costly to treat medically in their later years.

But has California really abolished the death penalty? Sirhan’s sentence was reduced in 1972 when the state Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional. But within months, California voters changed the state’s constitution to uphold the death penalty. Several iterations later, capital punishment is still relevant.

Yet Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democrat now facing a recall election, claimed he had the power to impose a moratorium on the death penalty when he issued an order in 2019. Many voters in the state do not still don’t think the ordinance was legal.

In the Los Angeles Times in May Phil Willon noted that “In the past decade, Californian voters have twice rejected voting measures to abolish the death penalty, first in 2012 and again in 2016. In fact, voters in 2016 approved a measure to vote, Proposition 66, to speed up executions in California. Mr. Willon added:

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