The right call on Manson follower

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost fifty years since the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969.  Unfortunately, we are reminded of these murders on too regular a basis.  They were again in the news recently when Gov. Brown overruled the parole board’s recommendation to release Leslie Van Houten, one of several Manson Family members convicted of murder.

Good call – she is where she belongs.

If you lived in southern California at the time, you likely have strong memories of those events.  It was an unusually hot August that year, when the Tate murders hit the news.  Six people were killed in horrifically brutal fashion.  One of the victims, actress Sharon Tate, was eight and a half months pregnant; her baby was the sixth victim.  Tate was also the wife of director Roman Polanski, which magnified the crimes’ visibility.

The next night, in upscale Los Feliz, two more people, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were also murdered.

As the details came out, the inhumanity, the cruelty involved, was shocking, even to hardened investigators.

All of southern California was on edge.  My aunt and uncle lived in the area but moved in with another uncle for a period of time.  The edge abated only after arrests were made.  The trials of the killers, Leslie Van Houten, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel, ended on March 29, 1971, when four (Linda Kasabian was granted immunity) of the five killers were sentenced to death.  The ringleader, Charles “Charlie” Manson, was convicted later.

The relatively straightforward trial lasted nine months.  The case against Charlie differed dramatically, as Manson was not present at the murders.  Thus, the D.A., the late Vince Bugliosi, had to prove that Manson held sway over these people to the extent that they murdered at his command – not an easy task.  Charlie helped him in this effort when he carved an X (later modified into a swastika) into his forehead.  His followers watching the trial followed suit.  Bugliosi later stated that his case was made at that point.

Benicia resident Donna Wigand was director of behavioral and mental health services for Fresno County while Charlie was incarcerated at nearby Corcoran State Prison.  During that time, members of her staff had the opportunity to evaluate Manson.  They described him as narcissistic, psychopathic, and sociopathic, a description that should surprise no one.

Prosecutor Vince Bugliosi summed Charlie up:

Of all the murderers, rapists, thieves and assorted other criminals I prosecuted, the only one that truly frightened me was Charlie Manson.

Manson received the death penalty, a sentence never meted out.

The California chief justice was a Brown appointee: Rose Bird, a far-left extremist adamantly opposed to the death penalty.  As a result of Bird’s activism, the sentences for all death row inmates were commuted to life.

Leslie Van Houten was granted parole in April at her 21st hearing.  This is the ruling Gov. Brown overruled.

Manson was denied parole for the 12th time on April 11, 2012.  He will not be eligible again until 2031.

Tex Watson’s last hearing was in November 2011.  The next one will be this November.

Susan Atkins died in prison in 2009, after 18 parole hearings were denied.

Patricia Krenwinkel, denied twelve years ago for the 13th time, is eligible again in 2018.

Many of the “Manson Family” members have turned their lives around.  Leslie Van Houten is a model prisoner, received a college degree, and is well known for helping other prisoners.

Tex Watson became an ordained minister and is counseling fellow murderers.

I am glad that Governor Brown denied parole.  I cannot help but wonder: did guilt for the continuation of the pain to the survivors play any part in his decision?  Would release have eased or magnified their suffering?

It is the responsibility of the justice system to assure all of us that the victims of crime are also considered in evaluations of leniency.

There is today a never-ending debate over the death penalty.  Those seeking to eliminate it would better serve humanity if they demonstrated a level of empathy for the victims’ families equivalent to that displayed for the killers.

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost fifty years since the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969.  Unfortunately, we are reminded of these murders on too regular a basis.  They were again in the news recently when Gov. Brown overruled the parole board’s recommendation to release Leslie Van Houten, one of several Manson Family members convicted of murder.

Good call – she is where she belongs.

If you lived in southern California at the time, you likely have strong memories of those events.  It was an unusually hot August that year, when the Tate murders hit the news.  Six people were killed in horrifically brutal fashion.  One of the victims, actress Sharon Tate, was eight and a half months pregnant; her baby was the sixth victim.  Tate was also the wife of director Roman Polanski, which magnified the crimes’ visibility.

The next night, in upscale Los Feliz, two more people, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, were also murdered.

As the details came out, the inhumanity, the cruelty involved, was shocking, even to hardened investigators.

All of southern California was on edge.  My aunt and uncle lived in the area but moved in with another uncle for a period of time.  The edge abated only after arrests were made.  The trials of the killers, Leslie Van Houten, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel, ended on March 29, 1971, when four (Linda Kasabian was granted immunity) of the five killers were sentenced to death.  The ringleader, Charles “Charlie” Manson, was convicted later.

The relatively straightforward trial lasted nine months.  The case against Charlie differed dramatically, as Manson was not present at the murders.  Thus, the D.A., the late Vince Bugliosi, had to prove that Manson held sway over these people to the extent that they murdered at his command – not an easy task.  Charlie helped him in this effort when he carved an X (later modified into a swastika) into his forehead.  His followers watching the trial followed suit.  Bugliosi later stated that his case was made at that point.

Benicia resident Donna Wigand was director of behavioral and mental health services for Fresno County while Charlie was incarcerated at nearby Corcoran State Prison.  During that time, members of her staff had the opportunity to evaluate Manson.  They described him as narcissistic, psychopathic, and sociopathic, a description that should surprise no one.

Prosecutor Vince Bugliosi summed Charlie up:

Of all the murderers, rapists, thieves and assorted other criminals I prosecuted, the only one that truly frightened me was Charlie Manson.

Manson received the death penalty, a sentence never meted out.

The California chief justice was a Brown appointee: Rose Bird, a far-left extremist adamantly opposed to the death penalty.  As a result of Bird’s activism, the sentences for all death row inmates were commuted to life.

Leslie Van Houten was granted parole in April at her 21st hearing.  This is the ruling Gov. Brown overruled.

Manson was denied parole for the 12th time on April 11, 2012.  He will not be eligible again until 2031.

Tex Watson’s last hearing was in November 2011.  The next one will be this November.

Susan Atkins died in prison in 2009, after 18 parole hearings were denied.

Patricia Krenwinkel, denied twelve years ago for the 13th time, is eligible again in 2018.

Many of the “Manson Family” members have turned their lives around.  Leslie Van Houten is a model prisoner, received a college degree, and is well known for helping other prisoners.

Tex Watson became an ordained minister and is counseling fellow murderers.

I am glad that Governor Brown denied parole.  I cannot help but wonder: did guilt for the continuation of the pain to the survivors play any part in his decision?  Would release have eased or magnified their suffering?

It is the responsibility of the justice system to assure all of us that the victims of crime are also considered in evaluations of leniency.

There is today a never-ending debate over the death penalty.  Those seeking to eliminate it would better serve humanity if they demonstrated a level of empathy for the victims’ families equivalent to that displayed for the killers.