Gov. Gavin Newsom will not appeal a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s decision allowing the parole of a man convicted in the 1982 Westwood murder of a Turkish diplomat, a governor’s office spokeswoman said Thursday.
The decision and impending parole immediately drew outrage from Turkish diplomats.
Hampig “Harry” Sassounian, now 58, was convicted in 1984 for the shooting death of Turkish Consul General Kemal Arikan.
The 54-year-old victim died shortly after two armed men approached his car from both sides while he was waiting for a red light at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Comstock Avenue on Jan. 28, 1982, and fired several rounds that hit him in the head and chest.
At trial, a jailhouse informant testified that Sassounian told him he killed Arikan to “get revenge on what the Turkish people did to his people,” referencing the deaths of more than a million Armenians from 1915 to 1918 in their historic homeland in eastern Turkey.
Sassounian, an Armenian immigrant who lived in Pasadena, was initially sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But a federal appeals court subsequently overturned the jury’s special circumstances finding of murder because of national origin.
In 2002, Sassounian signed a statement renouncing terrorism and the prosecution agreed not to go forward with a retrial on a special circumstance allegation. Sassounian was re-sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
He has been denied parole four times and granted parole twice, with then-Gov. Jerry Brown and Newsom each reversing parole.
A spokeswoman for Newsom noted that the governor reversed the parole grant last May, but a Los Angeles Superior Court judge last month vacated the governor’s parole reversal.
“The governor has carefully weighed the factors in this case and will not pursue an appeal,” the spokeswoman said.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the Republic of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “We strongly condemn this approach that deeply hurts the conscience of the Turkish nation.”
“This grave decision, that could not be reversed despite all attempts of the U.S. Administration, is in conflict with the universal principles of law and the understanding of justice,” according to the statement.
The statement said Sassounian “has never shown a sign of remorse during his 38 years of conviction” and the crime “will never be forgotten as a crime that represents a sick and distorted ideology.”
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