Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Gov. Jerry Brown to Decide if Leslie Van Houten, Manson Family Murder, Will Go Free

Wow. Having grown up obsessed with the Tate-LaBianca murders, this one really touches a nerve. Leslie Van Houten was a Charles Manson follower who admitted in court testimony to stabbing one of the victims of the "family" -- Rosemary LaBianca -- 14 times in 1969. Van Houten says she and another woman first held Rosemary down as Charles “Tex” Watson stabbed to death husband Leno LaBianca before turning the knife on Mrs. LaBianca. Watson then handed the knife to Van Houten, whose stabbing frenzy may have occurred post-mortem. 

Van Houten admitted holding a pillow over the head of Rosemary La Bianca, left, while other cult members stabbed her and husband Leno, right, to death

On Thursday, a review board recommended parole for her, which is awaiting a final decision by Gov. Jerry Brown. I have ambivalent feelings about this. While I understand prison is supposed to be a place to rehabilitate criminals -- even though we know it's so dysfunctional it often makes them worse -- and I can imagine a 66-year-old convict with an exemplary prison record poses little threat to the general population, I'm not sure a crime this heinous warrants parole. (Or any crime this violent.) That being said, if she was sentenced with having the chance at parole, what message are we sending by not granting it if someone does everything right after doing something so wrong? Apparently she was originally sentenced to death when she was convicted in 1971 but then had that changed to life with the possibility of parole when the California Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty. (She later was retried twice and eventually was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, hence where we are today.) What I would have liked to have seen is the Manson family members being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and save the option for people who have not committed violent offenses. Thoughts?

Leslie Van Houten, 19, is escorted by two deputy sheriffs as she leaves the courtroom in Los Angeles, Dec. 19, 1969

Van Houten, right, along with fellow Manson family members Susan Atkins, left, who died in prison in 2009,.and Patricia Krenwinkel, center, arrive in court in August 1970 


TomF said...

I just re-watched the 1976 TV movie Helter Skelter. The actor who did Manson was very good but the actress who portrayed Atkins was phenomenal. She didn't look much like her, but she was so chilling.

I agree it's a tough call what to do now so many years later. There are probably others who have gotten out after worse crimes, but this one is so infamous, they know whatever they decide it will be under careful public scrutiny. I lean slightly more towards giving her a chance to live out the rest of her life on the outside, but I don't know if I could feel that way if any of the victims were my family. If the parole is denied I won't feel too bad for her. She made her choice to help take someone else's life in the most cold blooded way possible and the consequence is living her life in prison. At least she gets to live hers.

I read that Krenwinkel is up for parole again in a couple years and has also been a model prisoner. Will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Stephen said...

Sorry, but she should never be set free.

woodstockdad said...

Not sure why this particular heinous crime hit so hard. Perhaps it was because it didn't seem so commonplace then for violent crimes to occur. Nonetheless, I still think they should all stay in jail. What they did was reprehensible and shouldn't be "rewarded" with parole.

JimmyD said...

I'm sure there will be some argument because that's what people do in the 21st Century, but in John Waters book, 'Role Models,' has a very interesting look at Leslie. Did anyone here know she had been out on bail and attended the Academy Awards in 1978?
It's not a weird John Waters essay. It's very insightful... for those who are actually interested. It was eye opening for me.

willie said...

Who cares if she's been a model prisoner what she did was vile, heartless and malicious. I'm sure Manson influenced her but she still is the one who savagely killed that woman. I've seen her interviewed and hear that she's worked with troubled youth, got a degree and so forth...well that's great that she's trying to make some amends but the bottom line is when Rosemary La Bianca gets a chance to come back to life than this sick twist should get parole. Since that will never happen she needs to spend the rest of her life in that jail along with the rest of those animals.

Cybele Moon said...

Yes, I wish they had been given life without possibility of parole. The crimes were particularly savage. Her supporters talk about all the good she's done in prison, and has got her degree etc. Well, some of us had to work and pay for our own degrees and many people have accomplished great good without having to go to prison to do it. I do feel sorry for them but their soft calm voices always chilled me. There is still something very strange and chilling about them and their demeanor.

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