Sirhan’s Fears : Rejected for Parole, Robert Kennedy’s Assassin Is ‘Mad and Sad’
Sirhan B. Sirhan, saying he is both “mad and sad” about again being refused parole, expressed fear Thursday that he could be assassinated by a fellow inmate if he is forced into the general prison population as recommended by the parole board.
“There will be someone who wants to be a hero or make a name for himself,” Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin said said in an interview at Soledad prison’s Protective Housing Unit One.
Sirhan’s comments came as controversy continued to swirl around Wednesday’s proceedings that ended with a three-man Board of Prison Terms panel denying Sirhan’s bid for parole and recommending that he be transferred to the “mainline” population at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.
The controversy began when the usually secret deliberations of the panel were inadvertently piped into a room of reporters through a sound system.
With the mikes open, reporters could hear board member Rudolph Castro move to deny Sirhan’s parole less than three minutes into the closed session and without any discussion of factors weighing in favor of or against Sirhan.
Board members Joseph Aceto and Ray Jauregui concurred.
The reporters then heard the panel discuss Sirhan’s request to be transferred from Soledad to San Luis Obispo so he could be nearer to his family.
“We’ll send his ass down there for as long as possible,” said a member of the panel, whose voice could not be readily identified.
New Panel Sought
Sirhan’s lawyer, Luke McKissack, said Thursday that he is thinking of filing a charge of malfeasance against the parole panel in an effort to invalidate its action.
“A new hearing with a new panel is the only way Sirhan is going to get a fair shake,” McKissack said. “If other persons conduct the hearing, they hopefully will want to redeem the system by being fair.”
But in Sacramento, William Elliott, executive officer of the state Board of Prison Terms, said:
“At this point, we don’t perceive what happened in the deliberations to be a fatal flaw to the hearing. They may have come quickly to a decision, but then they really took quite a bit of time to deal with all of the ramifications and the setting up of Sirhan’s future programming.”
Elliott said his office plans to review a recording of that part of the deliberations overheard by reporters, but added, “There is no way that I can see where we would have to have a new hearing.”
If no rehearing of Wednesday’s proceedings is held, it will be two years before Sirhan can make another bid for freedom.
The parole board indicated that its decision to move Sirhan from his long-standing assignment in an isolation unit to the general prison population would “allow him to develop a marketable skill . . . (and) better pursue self-help programs.”
However, prison officials seemed to share Sirhan’s concern about personal safety.
At the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, spokesman Edward Morgan said: “We certainly can provide some of the vocational and other programs that the parole board seems to regard as necessary for Sirhan. But there are other factors to be considered, not the least of which is his safety and the safety of those around him.”
In Sacramento, state Department of Corrections representative John Dovey added: “There is a review process on these parole board recommendations that gives considerable weight to a prisoner’s safety when it comes to determining where he will be placed in the system.”
In turning down Sirhan’s parole request, the panel said they questioned the sincerity of Sirhan repeatedly telling them Wednesday that he was deeply sorry for killing Kennedy. Board members also voiced doubt about Sirhan’s insistence that he could not remember pulling the trigger or writing “RFK must die” over and over again in a notebook with entries dated over a six-month period before the June 5, 1968, assassination at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel.
Asking for a 90-day diagnostic study of Sirhan at the California Men’s Colony, the panel members said they want to determine whether Sirhan’s claim of partial amnesia about the assassination is “fact or fiction.”
Wednesday’s hearing was Sirhan’s seventh appearance before the parole board. He had originally had been granted a 1984 release date at a 1975 hearing. But that release date was taken away from him three years ago when John Van de Kamp, then-Los Angeles County district attorney and now state attorney general, successfully argued that the hearing in 1975 did not consider two death threats Sirhan made while in prison.