Manson follower Leslie Van Houten should be paroled, California appeals court rules

A California appeals court said Tuesday that Leslie Van Houten, a member of Charles Manson’s “family” who participated in two murders that he directed should be let out of prison on parole.

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Van Houten was convicted alongside other Manson family members of the 1969 murders of Leno LaBianca, a grocer in Los Angeles, and his wife Rosemary. The murders of the LaBiancas came a day after Manson followers murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others at Tate’s Benedict Canyon home.

The ruling reverses a 2020 decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom who rejected Van Houten’s parole. Van Houten has been recommended for parole five times since 2016, The Associated Press reported.

According to the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, there is “no evidence to support the Governor’s conclusions” about Van Houten’s fitness for parole. The three-member court voted 2-1 to reverse Newsom’s decision.

Newsom has not said whether he will ask the California attorney general to petition the California Supreme Court to stop Van Houten’s release, according to the AP.

During the murders of the LaBianca’s, Van Houten said she put a pillowcase over Rosemary LaBianca’s head while Charles “Tex” Watson, another member of the Manson family, stabbed Leno LaBianca to death.

Patricia Krenwinkel and Watson then stabbed Rosemary. Van Houten said that she suspected that Rosemary was already dead, but “didn’t know for sure” and stabbed her 14 to 16 more times.

Newsom has said that Van Houten, who was 19 at the time of the murders, still poses a danger to society.

Van Houten is now 73.

In his 2020 rejection of the recommendation for parole, Newsom said there were inconsistencies between Van Houten’s recent statements and those she made during the killings in the summer of 1969, indicating “gaps in Ms. Van Houten’s insight or candor, or both,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles ruled 2-1 to reverse Newsom’s decision, writing there is “no evidence to support the Governor’s conclusions” about Van Houten’s fitness for parole.

“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.

“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 dissenting judge argued that there was a question about Van Houten’s insight into the killings, and agreed with Newsom that her petition to be released should be denied.

One of Van Houten’s attorneys, Rich Pfeiffer, told the Times he expected Newsom to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, and to request a stay of her release on parole pending the court’s review of the decision.

If a stay of the court’s order is not initiated, Van Houten could be released as soon as Wednesday, her attorney said, noting that it usually takes about five days to release an inmate under normal circumstances.

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