Politics 11:47 24/03/2021 Armenia

Why did the Superior Court reject Governor’s denial of Sassounian’s pardon

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

Last month, California Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan rejected Gov. Gavin Newsom’s refusal to accept the Parole Board’s decision to release Hampig Sassounian from jail. I was under the wrong impression that the Governor’s decision on pardons was final and not subject to a review or reversal by the courts. It turns out that the law requires the Governor to consider “all relevant, reliable information available” and his parole decisions must not be arbitrary or capricious. This article is based on a copy of the Judge’s 19-page ruling.

Hampig Sassounian, not related to this writer, was convicted on June 29, 1984 of first degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, but was resentenced to a term of 25 years to life in 2002, making him eligible for parole. Sassounian assassinated Turkish Consul General Kemal Arikan in Los Angeles on January 28, 1982 when he was 19 years old. He is now 58.

On December 27, 2019, the Board of Parole Hearings, found Sassounian suitable for release on parole. However, on May 25, 2020, Gov. Newsom rejected the Board’s decision based on the prisoner’s crime, “outsized political import,” and that his insight was “relatively new.”

On August 14, 2020, Sassounian filed a petition to the Superior Court challenging the Governor’s reversal of the Parole Board’s decision. He argued that the Governor’s decision is not supported by evidence that he posed an unreasonable danger to society, if released. Sassounian also contended that the “Governor imposed an unlawfully heightened standard of parole suitability illegally founded upon the circumstances of Sassounian’s life crime.” He contended that there is no evidence that he lacked “insight” and “the Governor’s conclusion that Sassounian has not demonstrated insight ‘for a sufficiently long period’ is an illegal reason to deny parole.”

On October 7, 2020, the court issued an Order to Show Cause. The Governor’s office filed its response on January 11, 2021, repeating the reasons why he refused parole for the prisoner. Sassounian then submitted his response on January 26, 2021 rejecting the Governor’s claims against him.

Judge Ryan ruled that Sassounian’s record does not contain any evidence to support the Governor’s contention that he is not suitable for release on parole. In addition, the Judge found that the Governor used an improper standard when considering both the “import” of Sassounian’s offense and the notoriety of his victim, as well as the recency of his insight. Therefore, the Judge ordered the release of Sassounian from jail.

Judge Ryan, in his verdict, mentioned Sassounian’s description of his background “as an Armenian born and raised until the age of 13 in Lebanon. During this time, they lived in an ‘active war zone and would routinely see dead bodies,’ including those of women and children. His father was an alcoholic who was often gone for weeks at a time, though Petitioner [Sassounian] had a good, loving relationship with his mother. He lived with his many siblings and extended family members, including his grandparents who were victims of the ‘Armenian Genocide.’ His grandmother often told Petitioner of how she lost her entire family to the genocide and that she only narrowly escaped death herself.”

The Judge continued: “At 13, his [Sassounian’s] family immigrated to the United States to escape the violence in Lebanon, but the family dynamic remained challenging. They moved to Pasadena where there was a large Armenian population. He joined the Armenian Boy Scouts and the Armenian Youth Federation. This is where he met his crime partner, Krikor ‘Koko’ Saliba. They became friendly a year or two before the crime and would discuss politics and the history between Armenia and Turkey, including the genocide. They also noted and discussed that there were ‘a lot of political assassinations going on’ at the time. That is, ‘Armenians were assassinating Turkish diplomats in Europe mostly because they were angry that … after the genocide Turkey would deny the genocide…. Young Armenians were upset about this and -- they thought that -- Turkey should step up and acknowledge the genocide…and get into dialogue with the Armenian people or make peace with them.’ Because this was not happening, ‘young Armenians decided to resort to violence….[They had] given up that… peaceful dialogue with Turkey was… going to happen.’ During this time Petitioner [Sassounian] and his crime partner, who was a few years older than Petitioner, discussed going to Europe to carry out an assassination like they had been seeing take place. At some point, Arikan, however, made a public address calling all Armenians ‘liars’ and declared there was no Armenian genocide. Saliba showed Petitioner an article regarding Arikan’s statement. ‘Being the grandsons of survivors of the Armenian genocide, we took that to be very insulting. And we took very deep offense about that.’”

Judge Ryan decided that “there is no evidence in the record to support the Governor’s finding of lack of insight, such the commitment offense of nearly 40 years is still probative of Petitioner’s current dangerousness.”

The Judge challenged the Governor’s contention that Sassounian’s insight into his crime was “very recent.” Judge Ryan stated that “the case law establishes there is no predetermined amount of time an inmate must demonstrate or possess insight such that it is sufficient for the purposes of suitability.” The Judge ruled that “the insight standard the Governor used to guide his decision was incorrect… and held Sassounian to a different ‘arbitrary’ standard.”

Regarding the issue of Sassounian being a danger to society, “the court notes that the psychologist found Petitioner to represent a low risk of violence upon release,” wrote the Judge. “Petitioner wrote a victim apology letter to Mr. Arikan’s family, friends, and colleagues, as well as one to the ‘Nation of Turkey, the Turkish government, and Turkish Communities of the World,’” stated Judge Ryan. “The court finds the Governor’s decision was both arbitrary and procedurally flawed,” ruled the Judge. He also noted that Sassounian “has comprehensive release plans for both the United States and Armenia.” This is in reference to Sassounian’s statement that he may relocate to Armenia after his release from prison.

At the end, the Judge pronounced that Sassounian “committed a murder for which he has been appropriately punished…. The Governor’s reversal is vacated, the Board’s grant of parole from December 27, 2019, is hereby reinstated. The Board is directed ‘to proceed in accordance with its usual procedures for release of an inmate on parole unless within 30 days of the finality of this decision the Board determines in good faith that cause for rescission of parole may exist and initiates appropriate proceedings to determine that question.’” Gov. Newsom decided not to appeal the Judge’s ruling, allowing the pardon go into effect which would set Sassounian free shortly.

In my opinion, violence is never justified regardless of the reason. Consul General Arikan was not guilty of committing genocide against the Armenian people. He was not even born during the genocide. Armenians have demands from the Government of Turkey, not individual Turks. Sassounian committed a crime for which he was punished by serving almost 40 years in jail. The complaints by the Turkish government about Sassounian’s release are not credible. The Turkish government pressured the Federal Government to urge Gov. Newsom in 2020 and previously Gov. Brown in 2017 to reject the Parole Board’s decisions to release Sassounian. Even less credible, not to say completely shameful, are the protests of the Azerbaijani government against Sassounian’s release. Azerbaijan awarded Azeri axe murderer Ramil Safarov the title of national hero for butchering an Armenian soldier while he was sleeping. Safarov served not a single day in jail in Azerbaijan after his extradition from Hungary.

Finally, it is completely unacceptable that the Turkish Government would demand excessive punishment for an Armenian who murdered a Turk, while Turkey itself continues to deny the mass murder of 1.5 million innocent Armenians. Only after the Turkish government acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and makes appropriate amends for it, Armenians can consider apologizing for the murder of a single Turk!



Source Panorama.am
Share |
Տեքստում սխալ կամ վրիպակ նկատելու դեպքում, ուղարկեք խմբագրին հաղորդագրություն` նշելով տվյալ սխալը, այնուհետև սեղմելով Ctrl-Enter:

Newsfeed

18:15
Azerbaijani armed forces units discharged fire against Armenian combat positions near Verin Shorzha
The Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Armenia refutes the statement by the Ministry of Defence of Azerbaijan, which claimed that on...
18:11
Armenia Hires U.S. Law Firm in Amulsar Arbitration Case; Government Refuses to Reveal Contract Price
The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) panel has begun hearing a U.S. investor’s treaty claim against Armenia...
17:05
Temperatures to drop further in Armenia
Rain and fog are predicted in Armenia during the weekend and on Monday, with snow set to hit the country’s mountainous areas. The...
16:45
UK court freezes Azerbaijani lawmaker's £39m properties
U.K. authorities have frozen 22 London properties that the Azerbaijani lawmaker Javanshir Feyziyev and his wife are suspected to have bought...
16:35
Gevorg Papoyan to be named Armenia's new economy minister
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party has endorsed MP Gevorg Papoyan as new minister of economy. His candidacy was...
16:15
Analyst: Pashinyan's CSTO message addressed to the West
Relations between Armenia and the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have long been frozen, Yerevan-based political...
15:36
France plants flag in Russia’s backyard with Armenia arms deals – POLITICO
France wants Armenia to know it has its back — amid increased tensions with its neighbor Azerbaijan and strained ties with its historic...
15:05
Synergy chief expresses gratitude to IT and business community for their unity
Ashot Hovanesian, the founder and CEO of Synergy International Systems, issued a statement on Saturday expressing gratitude to the IT and...
14:32
King Charles overwhelmed by public support as 7,000 messages sent after cancer diagnosis
King Charles has been overwhelmed by messages of support from around 7,000 well-wishers worldwide since his cancer diagnosis, The Independent...
14:15
Fallen soldier's father hospitalized
Garik Galeyan, whose soldier son Mkhitar was killed in the 2020 Artsakh war, has been hospitalized after a suspected heart attack, his lawyer...
13:36
Moscow street named after Soviet spying legend Gevork Vartanian
A street in Moscow has been named after legendary Soviet Armenian spy Gevork Vartanian, who helped foil a Nazi plot to kill Allied leaders in...
13:15
Armenian Foreign Ministry reacts to reports about Zelenskyy's possible visit
The Armenian Foreign Ministry has commented on the news that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is reportedly planning to visit...
13:02
Political analyst: Armenia-CSTO relations in crisis
Relations between Armenia and the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are basically in crisis, claims political...
12:33
U.S. State Dept: Russia not concerned about Armenia’s interests
The U.S. Department of State has responded to an inquiry of the Voice of America’s Armenian Service regarding Prime Minister Nikol...
12:04
Opposition MP vows to push for Artsakh Armenians' repatriation
Opposition Hayastan faction MP Levon Kocharyan vows to keep pushing for the repatriation of the Artsakh Armenians and their safe life in their...
11:35
Karen Khachanov reaches Qatar Open final
Russian-Armenian Karen Khachanov, the second seed, reached the final of the Qatar Open by winning against Australian Alexei Popyrin 7-6 (12),...
11:26
New Azerbaijani attack on Armenia 'highly likely', Pashinyan tells France 24
A new Azerbaijani attack on Armenia is “highly likely,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned in an interview with France...
17:00
Azeris destroy sculptures in Artsakh capital
Azerbaijan continues intentional destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in the occupied Artsakh Republic (Nagorno-Karabakh), warns Cultural...
16:30
Cellist Astrig Siranossian plays Komitas at Panthéon in Paris
Armenian cellist Astrig Siranossian played Komitas’ “Groong” (The Crane) at the induction of WWII French Resistance hero...
15:56
Kremlin: Putin did not talk with Pashinyan about Armenia's CSTO membership
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet discussed statements about the suspension of Yerevan’s membership in the CSTO with Armenian...
15:33
Armenian community of Jerusalem initiates legal action to protect Cows' Garden
On February 18, the Armenian community of Jerusalem's historic Armenian Quarter has officially filed a lawsuit to invalidate the lease...
15:05
Armenian defense minister warns of risk of Azerbaijani attack
Armenia seeks to renew and modernize its armed forces and defense capabilities, Defense Minister Suren Papikyan said at a joint press conference...
14:32
Kremlin seeks clarity from Armenia over CSTO
The Kremlin said on Friday that Russia plans to contact Armenia after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Yerevan had frozen its participation...
14:00
How come Armenian government gets hold of major private companies' shares?
Babken Tunyan, an MP from Armenia’s ruling Civil Contract party who heads the National Assembly Standing Committee on Economic Affairs,...
13:35
Scientists announce discovery of 240 million year-old 'dragon' fossil
Scientists have revealed a new, remarkably complete fossil – a 16ft (5m)-long aquatic reptile from the Triassic period, BBC News...
13:00
CSTO responds to Pashinyan's statement on membership suspension
The Collective Security Treaty Organization’s (CSTO) Secretariat told Sputnik on Friday that it had not received any notices from Yerevan...
12:30
Armenian defense minister hails 'far-reaching' military cooperation with France
The visit of French Minister for the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu to Armenia testifies to the systemic and far-reaching military...
11:45
Biden meets with Navalny family in California
President Joe Biden met Thursday with the widow and daughter of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in prison last...
11:35
European Parliament to discuss visa liberalization resolution with Armenia next week
The European Parliament will discuss a resolution on visa liberalization with Armenia next week. German member of the European Parliament, Viola...
11:19
French army minister arrives in Armenia
French Minister for the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu has arrived in Armenia at the invitation of Armenian Defense Minister Suren...

Follow us and get updates!

Most popular articles

{"core.blocks.header.spell_message1":"Selected mistake: ","core.blocks.header.spell_message2":"Send a message about the mistake?"}