The fate of one of murderous cult leader Charles Manson’s accomplices rests in the hands of Governor Gavin Newsom.
The California Parole Board last week recommended that Leslie Van Houten be paroled, but the decision about whether to spring her from the big house will be made by Newsom.
He has already nixed her approved release once and Jerry Brown did it twice when he was governor.
Newsom spokeswoman Vicky Waters was non-committal in a statement: “As with any parole suitability recommendation, when the case reaches the governor’s office, it will be carefully reviewed on its merits.”
Rich Pfeiffer, Van Houten’s lawyer, told the California Globe that given her notoriety and the enmity she still elicits–including an online petition with 171,000 signatories demanding she stay imprisoned–he doubted that Newsom would sign off on her release. “No governor is going to want his name on something like that.”
He said his client was “was very nervous going into the hearing, but she responded very well to all the questions” and that she “and her friends and family remain hopeful that she will be released.”
“We all think we are getting closer and closer to release,” he added.
Van Houten is serving a life sentence for helping Manson and other cult members kill a Los Angeles couple, Leno and Rosemary Labanca in 1969. They stabbed them and smeared their blood in the wall and cut up Rosemary’s body.
This May an appeals court rejected Pfeiffer’s motion to have Van Houten, 70, related because her age put her at particular risk for covid infection.
When he rejected the parole board’s recommendation for release in 2017 then-Governor Jerry Brown said that Van Houten was still dangerous and that she posed an “unreasonable danger to society if released from prison.”
In reversing the parole board’s decision last year Gavin Newsom said much the same thing. “I find the evidence as a whole shows that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison at this time.”
Apparently both these liberals thought it was too judgmental to just say she deserved to stay in prison because of her heinous deeds.
The present danger argument offered up by Newsom and Brown sounds like a pretext.
When the parole board grants release it is based in part on a determination that the prisoner is no longer a threat to society.
Pfeiffer, said that in 50 years in prison Van Houton never had a “write-up” for bad behavior and that she has been working with rehabilitative programs for other prisoners. “More than 20 prison psychologists” who have examined her over 50 years said she is no longer dangerous, he noted.
Pfeiffer, who is not getting paid to represent Van Houton and is a former drug addict who has done time in the slammer himself, said California law is clear that if parole is approved and a prisoner “is not a current risk to public safety” he or she “shall be released.”
He said the parole board proceeding could be used to challenge Newsom’s expected denial in court. “I’m very optimistic about the results of the hearing going towards relief.”
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