Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, September 29, 2023


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C.A. Blocks Release on Habeas of 15-Year-Old Girl’s Slayer


By a MetNews Staff Writer




The Court of Appeal for this district on Friday reversed an order granting a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the case of a man who, at age 17, participated with two other youths in the brutal slaying of a 15-year-old girl as part of a devil-worshipping ritual entailing the sacrifice of a virgin.

Div. Six held, in a 2-1 decision, that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to veto the Parole Board’s intended release of inmate Royce Casey is supported by “some evidence”—the established standard—and that San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Craig B. Van Rooyen erred in countermanding the governor by granting the habeas petition.

The Parole Board on March 17, 2021, found that Casey was suitable for release. At the time, he had been imprisoned for 23 years three months.

His sentence was life imprisonment with possibility of parole.

Newsom’s Explanation


Newsom said, in part, in vetoing the board’s decision:

 “I have carefully examined the record for evidence that Mr. Casey’s insight and self-awareness have developed sufficiently to minimize his risk factors, including associating with negative peers, being swayed by violent and antisocial ideologies, and rationalizing brutal conduct for self-serving purposes. Mr. Casey’s discussion of the causative factors for his involvement in the crime are concerningly lacking.”

The governor continued:

“At his parole hearing, Mr. Casey discussed his fear of judgement and need to be accepted saying, ‘I’ve tried to please people to protect myself from perceptions of when I was a little kid and being hurt and not having the ability to communicate or to express or to ask…for help from people that can help me.’ I have determined that Mr. Casey must do additional work to deepen his insight into the causative factors of his crime and coping skills before he can be safely released on parole.”

Gilbert’s Opinion

Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of Div. Six said in Friday’s opinion, in which Justice Kenneth Yegan joined:

“Casey explained that at the time he committed the murder he was hurt and angry. He thought that violence against someone who could not hurt him was an appropriate response.

“But hurt and anger do not explain what Casey did. Nor does not being able to express himself and pleasing others even begin to account for his act. Almost everyone feels hurt and anger at some point in their lives. Yet they do not plot for months to kill an innocent person and then execute the plan in a particularly brutal manner. Hurt and anger, a fascination with death metal music, the use of marijuana, all seem typical of many teenagers. Nothing Casey said explains the brutal murder of a 15-year-old girl. The Governor could reasonably conclude that Casey lacks insight into his crime.”

Van Houten Case

Casey relied upon the May 30 decision from Div. One of the Court of Appeal for this district granting a writ of habeas corpus sought by Manson follower Leslie Van Houten and directing that Newsom’s reversal of the Parole Board’s finding of suitability for release be vacated.

Van Houten had participated in the 1969 slayings, with other Manson cult members, of Rosemary and Leno La Bianca.

Gilbert wrote:

“Van Houten is easily distinguished. At the time of her final parole hearing, Van Houten was over 70 years old. She had spent 50 years in prison participating in therapy, self-help programming, and reflection. She had three prior hearings at which she was found suitable for parole. Finally, Van Houten committed her crimes under the influence of cult leader Charles Manson, who is now deceased.

—Department of Corrections



 “In contrast, Casey is 45 years old and, as far as the record shows, suffers from no psychological disabilities. He has not spent 50 years in therapy, self-help programming, and reflection. In fact, at the time of his parole hearing, Casey had not even served the minimum 25 year term. He did not have three prior parole hearings at which the board found him suitable for parole. Casey had two prior hearings in which he was denied parole. Finally, when Casey committed his crime, he was not acting under the influence of a cult leader. He acted fully of his own accord to commit a brutal murder that he had planned for many months.”

Baltodano’s Dissent

Justice Hernaldo J. Baltodano dissented. He insisted that “there is no evidence to support the Governor’s conclusion that Casey lacks insight into why he murdered Elyse Pahler.”

He added:

“[E]ven if Casey lacks insight, the Governor has not explained any causal connection to a current public safety risk….This nexus is required if we are to uphold a parole unsuitability determination.”

 Gilbert countered:

“The dissent states that the Governor has failed to explain the causal connection between Casey’s lack of insight and his current public safety risk. But the connection is obvious. Casey is relatively young and is physically capable of more violent crimes. Without insight he also remains mentally capable of more violence.”

The case is In re Casey, 2023 S.O.S. 3594.


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