A California appeals court ruled Tuesday that former Manson family member Leslie Van Houten should be paroled following her participation in the 1969 infamous Helter Skelter slayings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, the Associated Press reported.
The court reversed an earlier decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom who rejected Van Houten’s recommendation for parole in 2020, according to the Associated Press. Since 2016, Van Houten has been recommended for parole five times only to have those recommendations dismissed by Newsom or former California Gov. Jerry Brown.
A California appeals court said Leslie Van Houten, who participated in two killings at the direction of cult leader Charles Manson in 1969, should be let out of prison on parole. https://t.co/1f337aF6Il
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 30, 2023
Van Houten was 19-years-old when she was convicted of murdering the LaBiancas in their home in August 1969, one day after her fellow Manson family members slaughtered five people, including heavily pregnant actress Sharon Tate.
Initially, the Manson family members involved in Helter Skelter killings were sentenced to death, but after California abolished capital punishment in 1972, their sentences were commuted to life in prison. Now in her 70s, Van Houten has maintained through the years that her actions in 1969 were heavily influenced by cult-leader Charles Manson. Manson, she argued, held sway over her due to her struggles with her parents’ divorce, her drug and alcohol abuse and the trauma she underwent during a forced illegal abortion, the AP reported. (RELATED: REPORT: Former Manson Family Member Linda Kasabian Dead At 73)
Since her incarceration, Van Houten has kept out of trouble and earned an advanced degree, something that seemed to impress the appellate court. “Van Houten has shown extraordinary rehabilitative efforts, insight, remorse, realistic parole plans, support from family and friends, favorable institutional reports, and, at the time of the Governor’s decision, had received four successive grants of parole,” the judges wrote, according to the AP.
“Although the Governor states Van Houten’s historical factors ‘remain salient,’ he identifies nothing in the record indicating Van Houten has not successfully addressed those factors through many years of therapy, substance abuse programming, and other efforts,” the judges continued.
Newsom can request for California Attorney General Rob Bonta to petition the California Supreme Court to prevent Van Houten’s parole — a process that could take years, the AP reported. In the interim, however, the court could order Van Houten’s release while it decides whether or not to grant the stay, Van Houten’s attorney, Nancy Tetreault, told the outlet,.
“I will, of course, vigorously oppose any stay,” Tetreault said. “And they could let her out during that process.”
The one dissenting judge in the court’s 2-1 ruling agreed with Newsom that Van Houten lacked insight into the killings and argued that her petition for parole should be denied.
Hadar Aviram, a professor at UC College of the Law, San Francisco, rejected the dissent stating that the opposition to Van Houten’s release is based solely on her participation in the Manson family killings. An earlier California Supreme Court ruling rejected the state’s ability to deny parole to individuals based only on the heinousness of their past crimes, forcing officials to make other arguments in order to deny parole, the AP reported.
“There is no reason whatsoever to keep her behind bars except for the politics and optics of it,” Aviram stated, according to the AP.