L.A. DA Gascon Refused to Oppose Parole for Manson Family Killer Bruce Davis

(AP Photo, File)

Since 2012 Kay Martley has attended parole board hearings for Bruce Davis, a member of the Manson family who participated in the brutal murder of her cousin, Gary Hintman, on July 27, 1969. Each time, a member of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office also attended and opposed parole for Davis. When the 81-year-old Martley logged on to a California Board of Parole Hearings video conference in January in which the board was scheduled to again consider parole for Davis she was shocked to learn that there was no Deputy District Attorney or other representative from the DA’s office present due to one of new DA George Gascon’s policy “reforms.”

Debra Tate, whose sister Sharon was also murdered by Manson family members, also attended the hearing and was “outraged” by the absence of a DDA. Both spoke to Yahoo News:

“I had no one to speak for me,” said Martley….“I felt like no one cares about the victim’s families anymore. We are totally forgotten.”

“My jaw drops. I’m outraged,” said Debra Tate…

“At the most horrible moment, when you have to relive the gruesome details of the loss of your loved ones, you are now also supposed to perform the job and act as the DA would,” she said.

The Yahoo News piece states that Gascon is “among a handful of district attorneys…to rethink their stance on automatically opposing parole requests,” which isn’t what Gascon has done here. He’s done more than rethink, and instead of automatically opposing parole requests, he’s automatically not opposing a single parole request. There’s a huge difference between the two.

Gascon’s Special Directive 20-14 lays out the policy, which goes further than not opposing parole and not attending parole hearings:

This Office’s default policy is that we will not attend parole hearings and will support in writing the grant of parole for a person who has already served their mandatory minimum period of incarceration, defined as their MEPD, YEPD or EPD. However, if the CDCR has determined in their Comprehensive Risk Assessment that a person represents a “high” risk for recidivism, the DDA may, in their letter, take a neutral position on the grant of parole.

As highlighted, the office’s default policy is to support in writing the grant of parole, and only in cases where the inmate is deemed a “high” risk for recidivism will that position switch to neutral. What would it take for Gascon to allow his office to oppose a grant of parole? According to the (faulty) “science” and “data” Gascon claims inform his policies, “most” parolees don’t reoffend and, in fact, being behind bars for an extended period of time is what causes recidivism.

Tell that to the families of Hana Abe and Elizabeth Platt, who were murdered on New Year’s Eve in San Francisco by a drunk parolee who had recently been re-arrested and was driving a stolen vehicle (which also contained a loaded gun and meth) when he mowed them down. What was his determined risk of recidivism? Pretty sure, though, that their families wish that piece of human excrement was still behind bars instead of taking lives.

In Davis’ case the parole board recommended release for the sixth time, but many believe Gov. Gavin Newsom will still deny parole because of the high visibility of the case and the “visceral reaction” many have to a mention of the Manson family and their crimes. A review of just the murders Davis was involved in shows why so many have a “visceral reaction.”

Hinman, an aspiring musician, was tortured and killed after Manson mistakenly believed he had come into an inheritance. According to court testimony, Davis held Hinman at gunpoint while Manson slashed his face and sliced his ear with a sword.

Authorities called to the home on July 31, 1969, discovered Hinman’s body and a Black Panther symbol and “political piggy” written on the walls of the home in what was later identified as Hinman’s blood.

Davis was also involved in the murder and dismemberment of Spahn Ranch foreman Donald “Shorty” Shea on August 26, 1969. Shea was stabbed and clubbed to death, and his screams were so loud and “blood-curdling” that one Family member, Barbara Hoyt, started plotting her escape, terrified that she would be next. After Shea’s remains were discovered in 1977, an autopsy confirmed that “his body suffered multiple stab and chopping wounds to the chest and blunt force trauma to the head.”

In prior parole hearings Davis claimed minimal involvement in the murder, saying that he tried but he just couldn’t participate in the stabbing so he “walked away” and “was sick for about two or three days,” but when Shea’s abandoned car was found a few months later with Shea’s bloodstained cowboy boots and footlocker inside, Davis’ palm print was found on that footlocker.

Rehabilitated. Yeah, right.

When asked for comment about the Davis parole hearing and the family members’ concerns, Gascon’s spokesman, Alex Bastian, said that office policy is to “continue to provide a victims advocate to support family members” who still choose to attend the parole hearings even though the DA’s office is on record supporting the grant of parole. What good does that do, Mr. Bastian? The victims advocate can’t testify or introduce evidence. Still, Martley disputes Bastian’s contention and says she was never informed about having a victims advocate.

Bastian also told Yahoo News:

“The prosecutors’ role ends at sentencing. There’s been a tug of war between public safety versus equity. The DA believes you can do both.”

If the prosecutor’s role ends at sentencing, why does Gascon’s office have a policy to support the grant of parole in writing? Why does Gascon have an entire policy about resentencing cases that were litigated years or even decades ago? If Gascon truly believes that the prosecutor’s role ends at sentencing, then his office can do away with all resentencing efforts.

Gascon is also under fire for refusing to allow a DDA to oppose parole for a serial child rapist or to even attend the upcoming hearing.