Life Sentences and Parole

Robert F Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, is up for parole, again. Sirhan’s current defense attorney, Angela Berry, in arguing for his release on parole this time (the 16th time he’s faced a parole hearing):

We can’t change the past, but he was not sentenced to life without the possibility of parole[.]

That’s true enough (he was sentenced to death originally, but when California subsequently (and briefly) eliminated the death penalty, his sentence was commuted to life). However, a life sentence with the possibility of parole carries no guarantee of parole.

Beyond that, parole boards that deny parole aren’t extending the felon’s court-determined sentence; they’re only requiring more of the felon’s sentence to be served in prison. That’s not always a bad thing.

In the particular case, Sirhan’s parole board has granted parole; now the matter goes to the board’s staff, and if they agree, the question will go to the California Governor for approval or disapproval.

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