LOS ANGELES — A California appeals court ruled Tuesday that Leslie Van Houten, who was involved in two murders at the direction of cult leader Charles Manson in 1969, should be released on parole.
The appeals court’s ruling reverses an earlier ruling by Gov. Gavin Newsom that denied Van Houten parole in 2020, and she’s been recommended for parole five times since 2016, but those recommendations weren’t. Both were rejected by Newsom or former California Governor Jerry Brown. .
Newsom may ask California Attorney General Rob Bonta to petition the California Supreme Court to stay the release. Bonta’s office reached Newsom’s office with a request for comment, but Newsom’s office did not respond to questions about possible next steps.
Van Houten, now in his 70s, is serving a life sentence for helping Manson and his followers murder Reno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary, a Los Angeles grocery store. Van Houten was 19 years old at the time.
Newsom said Van Houten still poses a danger to society. In denying her parole, she said she gave inconsistent and inadequate accounts of her involvement with Manson at the time of the murder.
The Los Angeles 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 overruling Newsom’s decision, saying there was “no evidence to support the governor’s conclusion” about Van Houten’s parole eligibility.
Judges disputed Newsom’s claim that he had not adequately explained how Van Houten came under Manson’s influence. At her parole hearing, she recounted how her parents’ divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, and forced illegal abortion had put her on a vulnerable path toward him. .
They also opposed Newsom’s suggestion that her past violent behavior be cause for concern in the future should she be released.
“Van Houten has demonstrated extraordinary rehabilitation efforts, insight, reflection, realistic parole planning, support from family and friends, favorable institutional reports, and has received four consecutive parole grants at the time of the governor’s decision. was,” the judges wrote. “The governor said Van Houten’s historical factors were ‘remaining prominent,’ but Van Houten’s failure to address these factors through years of therapy, substance abuse programs, and other efforts. We have not identified any records to indicate that
The dissenting judge argued that there was some evidence that Mr. Van Houten lacked insight into the brutal murders, and Mr. Newsom’s opinion that her plea for release should be denied. Agreed.
Van Houten’s attorney Nancy Tetlow expects Newsom to ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider the lower court’s ruling against Bonta, a process that could take years. said to be sexual.
In addition, Mr. Bonta is likely to request a stay of the appeals court’s judgment, Mr. Tetlow said. The High Court may order the release of Mr. Van Houten while it decides whether to grant the stay.
“Of course, we are categorically against any stay,” Tetrow said. “And they were able to get her out in the process.”
Van Houten was 19 when she and other cult members stabbed the LaBiancas to death in August 1969. They mutilated Reno LaBianca’s body and smeared the couple’s blood on the walls, she said.
The killing came a day after Manson followers, with the exception of Van Houten, violently murdered four people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate, who spread terror throughout Los Angeles and captivated the nation.
Van Houten was found fit for parole after a hearing in July 2020, but Newsom blocked his release. She appealed to the court of first instance, but the court dismissed it. She then sought her release through the Court of Appeals.