Thursday, June 1, 2023

In re Van Houten (5/30/23): youngest of Manson's devotees found the Court of Appeal on her side: challenging Governor Gavin Newsom’s reversal of her 2020 grant of parole

In re Van Houten Docket: B320098 (Second Appellate District) Opinion 5/30/2023. 


 A California appeals court overruled Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday to find Leslie Van Houten, one of Charles Manson's murderous "family" of followers, entitled to parole after more than 50 years in prison for her part in the cult's 1969 killing spree. Van Houten has spent more than half of her life in prison for her part in the murder (then 19, a Youth Offender) of Rosemary and Leno La Bianca, a supermarket executive. 

 A jury convicted Van Houten in 1971 of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. She was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. 

Van Houten, now 73, the youngest of Manson's devotees, has been recommended for early release by the state parole board on five occasions since 2016, but was denied three times by Newsom and twice by his predecessor, fellow Democrat Jerry Brown. 

This decision appears to marks the first time a court has overruled a governor's denial of parole to a Manson follower. The California appeals court said 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.

 As we remember --> Manson, died in prison in 2017 at age 83, and directed his mostly young and female followers to murder seven people, including actress Sharon Tate, in August 1969 in what prosecutors said was part of a plan to incite a race war. I

  IN COURT ======= 

Petitioner (Leslie Van Houten ) petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus challenging Governor Gavin Newsom’s reversal of her 2020 grant of parole. Petitioner is serving concurrent sentences of seven years to life for the 1969 murders which she committed with other members of a cult led by Charles Manson. This is the fourth time a governor has reversed Petitioner’s parole. 

The Second Appellate District granted Petitioner’s petition. The court held that there is no evidence to support the Governor’s conclusions. The court explained that Petitioner provided an extensive explanation as to the causative factors leading to her involvement with Manson and the commission of the murders, and the record does not support a conclusion that there are hidden factors for which Petitioner has failed to account. 

The court wrote that the Governor’s finding of inconsistencies between Petitioner’s statements now and at the time of the murders fails to account for the decades of therapy, self-help programming, and reflection Petitioner has undergone in the past 50 years. The historical factors identified in the comprehensive risk assessment (CRA) are the sort of immutable circumstances the California Supreme Court (In re Lawrence, 2008) has held cannot support a finding of current dangerousness when there is extensive evidence of rehabilitation and other strong indicators of parole suitability, all of which Petitioner has demonstrated. 

Newsom now has 10 days to request that California Attorney General Rob Bonta petition the California Supreme Court to stop her release. If the state Supreme Court denies it, the appellate court’s decision to parole Van Houten stands and it could be a matter of weeks before she is set free under parole,