Appeals Court Rules California Should Set Free 'Manson Girl,' Convicted Murderer Leslie Van Houten

(AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

On Tuesday, the Second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles ruled that California’s prison system should set free “Manson Girl’ and convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten, according to the Associated Press:

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California appeals court said Tuesday that Leslie Van Houten, who participated in two killings at the direction of cult leader Charles Manson in 1969, should be released from prison on parole.

The appellate court’s ruling reverses an earlier decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who rejected parole for Van Houten in 2020. She has been recommended for parole five times since 2016. All of those recommendations were rejected by either Newsom or former Gov. Jerry Brown.

Newsom could request that California Attorney General Rob Bonta petition the state Supreme Court to stop her release. Bonta’s office referred questions to Newsom’s office, which didn’t respond to queries about possible next steps.

The report continued:

In his 2020 parole denial, Newsom said, “Given the extreme nature of the crime in which she was involved, I do not believe she has sufficiently demonstrated that she has come to terms with the totality of the factors that led her to participate in the vicious Manson Family killings.”

The appeals court’s opinion dismissed Newsom’s argument on Tuesday, writing:

“There is no evidence to support the Governor’s conclusions,” the Tuesday opinion from the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles said.

“Van Houten provided extensive explanation as to the causative factors leading to her involvement with Manson and commission of the murders, and the record does not support a conclusion that there are hidden factors for which Van Houten has failed to account. The Governor’s refusal to accept Van Houten’s explanation amounts to unsupported intuition,” the opinion said.

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Van Houten was a member of a group led by cult leader Charles Manson that carried out a series of shocking and senseless murders over two days in August 1969, including the slaying of actress Sharon Tate (who was pregnant at the time):

In 1971, Van Houten was one of several followers of the cult leader Charles Manson convicted for the Aug. 10, 1969, murders of grocery-store-chain owner Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary, There are various theories about the motives for the crime, but one of them suggests that Manson may have wanted money from LaBianca, who liked to gamble. The murders came a day after Manson followers murdered actress Sharon Tate in a home she shared with film director Roman Polanski, killing four other people on the property as well in what TIME magazine called “one of the grisliest, bloodiest” and “most senseless crimes of the century.”

AP/Reuters Feed Library
FILE – In this Aug. 20, 1970 file photo, Charles Manson followers, from left: Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, walk to court to appear for their roles in the 1969 cult killings of seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate, in Los Angeles, Calif. Van Houten is expected to get a court hearing Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, to evaluate the role of her young age in the killing of a California couple four decades ago.(AP Photo/George Brich, File)

 

Van Houten was originally sentenced to death in 1971, but “….the death penalty was overturned and her sentence was commuted to life in prison. She first became eligible for parole in 1977.” CNN reported:

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Van Houten, now in her 70s, was 19 when she met Charles Manson and joined the murderous cult that came to be called the “Manson family.” She is serving concurrent sentences of seven years to life

Here’s the silver lining I’m happy to share, in the midst of all of these legal wranglings. Despite the appeals court’s decision, Van Houten will not be released anytime soon:

While the court opinion vacates Newsom’s denial, a legal battle is expected, Van Houten’s attorney, Nancy Tetreault, told CNN.

Tetreault…expects the attorney general’s office to file a motion for a stay so Van Houten would not be released while the case is in review. […]

Tetreault told the AP that she thinks the California AG and Gov. Newsom (and presumably, future governors) will seek the state Supreme Court’s review, “a process that could take years.”

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