Thursday, December 11, 2014
S.C. Denies Latest Bid for Release of ‘Manson Girl’
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The California Supreme Court yesterday denied the latest bid for the release of the youngest defendant convicted of the notorious Tate/LaBianca murders.
The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco, denied review of the summary denial, by Div. One of this district’s Court of Appeal, of the most recent habeas corpus petition by Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten. The Board of Parole Hearings last year found Van Houten, now 65, unsuitable for release, for the 20th time.
Van Houten was 19—the youngest of the defendants—at the time of the killings.
Van Houten admitted her involvement in the August 1969 murders of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca in their Cielo Drive home. One day earlier, actress Sharon Tate and four others were murdered at the home Tate rented with her husband, director Roman Polanski, who was in Europe at the time.
Van Houten was convicted of the La Bianca murders. She was not present during the Tate murders but was convicted of conspiracy to commit them.
Rosemary La Bianca was stabbed a total of 42 times, and Van Houten said at various times that she had herself stabbed the woman 14 or 16 times. Another Manson Family member testified that Van Houten admitted stabbing La Bianca after she was already dead and said “the more she did it the more fun it was.”
None of the Supreme Court’s justices voted to hear the petition by Van Houten, who contends that she has rehabilitated herself in prison and is no longer a danger to society.
At her hearing in June of last year, Board of Parole Hearings Commissioner Jeffrey Ferguson told Van Houten she had failed to explain how someone as intelligent and well-bred as she was could have committed such “cruel and atrocious” murders. She won’t be eligible to ask for parole again until 2018, but Ferguson said she could request another hearing sooner if circumstances change.
“The crimes will always be a factor,” he said. “The question is whether the good will ever outweigh the bad. It certainly didn’t today.”
During the penalty phase of Van Houten’s trial she confessed to joining in stabbing Mrs. La Bianca after she was dead.
“I know I did something that is unforgiveable, but I can create a world where I make amends,” Van Houten told the parole board.
With survivors of the LaBiancas sitting behind her at the hearing, Van Houten acknowledged, in great detail, participating in the killings ordered by Manson.
“He could never have done what he did without people like me,” Van Houten said.
Six representatives of the La Bianca family spoke at the hearing. “Today after 44 years, your crimes still instill fear in innocent people,” said Ferguson. “The motive was the worst I can imagine, to incite a race war. Your crimes were gruesome and bloody.”
During her comments, Van Houten repeatedly said that she was traumatized by her parents’ divorce when she was 14, her pregnancy soon after and her mother’s insistence that she have an abortion.
“Many people have traumatic childhoods,” said Ferguson. “You have failed to explain at this time what would cause you to commit such horrific atrocities.”
Arguing to the board, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequiera said some crimes may be an exception to the law guaranteeing the possibility of parole.
“There are certain crimes that are so heinous, so atrocious, so horrible that it should cause denial of parole,” he said, elaborating on Van Houten’s contradictions over the years.
In response, Van Houten’s lawyer Michael Satris said his client “sank to the depths of Dante’s inferno and she put herself there by consorting with the devil himself, Charles Manson.”
However, Satris said his client has totally reformed herself.
“Leslie committed a great sin, a great crime in 1969, and in that time (in prison) she has developed into the equal of a saint,” he said. “Everything she does is for humanity.”
Van Houten was portrayed at trial by her defense lawyers as the youngest and least culpable of those convicted with Manson, a young woman from a good family who had been a homecoming princess and showed promise until she became involved with drugs and was recruited into Manson’s murderous cult.
Van Houten has previously been commended for her work helping elderly women inmates at the California Institution for Women. She earned two college degrees, in philosophy, while in custody.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company