Thank Goodness California Is Not Scotland

One of the oddest post titles I’ve ever written, I admit, but work with me here

(CNN) — Former “Manson Family” member Susan Atkins, who stabbed actress Sharon Tate to death more than 40 years ago and now is terminally ill, was denied parole Wednesday, prison officials said.

The parole hearing was the 13th for Atkins, 61, who is battling terminal brain cancer. Held at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California, the hearing stretched to more than nine hours.

The panel set another hearing for Atkins in three years, said Michele Kane, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Atkins was 21 when she and other followers of Charles Manson participated in a two-night rampage that left seven people dead and terrorized the city of Los Angeles in August 1969. She and the others — Manson, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles “Tex” Watson — were initially sentenced to death in the slayings of five people, including Tate, and two additional deaths the following night.

…By her own admission, Atkins, known as Sadie Mae Glutz within the Manson family, held Tate down as she pleaded for mercy, and stabbed the actress 16 times. Tate was eight months pregnant. In a 1993 parole board hearing, Atkins said Tate “asked me to let her baby live. … I told her I didn’t have any mercy on her.”

She should never see the light of day.


56 Responses to “Thank Goodness California Is Not Scotland”

  1. Skyler says:

    The tragedy is that California didn’t have the death penalty back then. Whenever I hear people get all puffery about the death penalty, I think of the Mansons.

  2. Paula1 says:


    The Manson Family members were sentenced to death. In 1972 the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty and their sentences were commuted to life.

  3. Mr. Bingley says:

    Hi Paula!

    Yeah, that was my recollection, as well. But, in essence Skyler is correct in that having a death penalty on the books is useless if you don’t use it.

  4. Paula, that was one of the gravest injustices ever by the SC.

    But the other points are still well taken, since CA hadn’t executed anyone since (IIRC) Caryl Chessman in 1960.

  5. nightfly says:

    I wonder if the parole board put it in terms a Manson could understand:

    “You’re old enough to know better,
    So cry baby cry.”

  6. tree hugging sister says:

    Oh, if only she had some oil to negotiate with!

  7. Martin says:

    What harm could she do now? And what good will it do keeping her in prison? Bring Sharon Tate back. It is ridiculous and is indicative of where America is now. Not Justice, revenge and if we can have an execution, all the better. Show some compassion, show some mercy, or did that go away when you decided it was OK to torture people? Your State glorifies killings – if a few of it’s citizens do it as well, what the hell?

  8. Mr. Bingley says:

    So Martin, by your logic, what’s the point of ever putting anyone in jail? Heck, it won’t bring the people they slaughtered back, right?

    Hope you guys enjoy your Libyan oil; it kind of puts a new spin on the Left’s old “No Blood For Oil” chant, doesn’t it?

  9. Martin says:

    Well, I am South African, so no Libyan oil for us I regret. No, my logic is not that at all. My point is that a society, at some point, has to care. Prisons are not ideal, but it’s the best solutions we have at the moment. And yes, if she was capable of walking, I would also oppose her release. But a bedridden woman, riddled with cancer poses no threat to anyone. Her release merely sends a message that the society is bigger than those who commit these deeds.

    Since the US has the highest prison population in the world, per capita, perhaps it’s time for it to examine their own society to root out the problem? Is it in your education system, what is it?

  10. Les says:

    I guess you had to be living in the US back when this horrible crime took place to fully understand. I was 15 yrs old and it was very unusual for something so shocking to happen. You cannot imagine how these murders impacted the lives of everyone across the US. It was the end of life as we knew in a sense. Manson and his followers showed no mercy to any of their victims, not even a baby just 3 weeks from being born. I have no mercy for them.

  11. jim says:

    Look at the makeup of the American prison population and you’ll realize what the problem is. You, of all people, should see it.

  12. amy says:

    They should not release her. Her sentence was for PUNISHMENT, not rehabilitation. I don’t care if she is not a danger to anyone or not. She is being punished and should remain where she is, as should Manson and all his minions.

  13. Mr. Bingley says:

    Ah, a pity on the lack of oil.

    I think our society does care: when someone has paid the penalty that society has asked them to pay for the crime they have committed they are allowed to rejoin society. Her current physical condition is irrelevant, as it is immensely superior to her victims’.

    I think a major part of the problem as to why we have such a very high prison rate is that there are far too many crimes that are classified as “felonies” (Instapundit has some discussion on this recently: here and here) and thus require prison sentences. As far as our ‘society’, if memory serves me the actual crime rates in the US (with the obvious exception of firearm-based crimes) are much lower in the US than most other countries, we just are a tad better at catching folks and convicting them.

    (By the way, love your wines. The Molderbosch cabernet rose is one of my favorites)

  14. Mr. Bingley says:

    Jim, if you’re implying what I think you’re implying you will be banned. That shit don’t fly around here.

  15. Teresa says:

    It is justice to keep her in prison. Period.

    The state changed the sentence handed down. So the fact that she wasn’t put to death for her acts of utter depraved barbarity is leniency in and of itself.

    If there was any question about whether or not she took part in the murders, there might possibly be a case for her to be paroled at the end of her life. However, that is certainly not the case.

    When their sentences were commuted, it should have been to life without parole. Since this is not how it was handled,the families of the victims have had to go through these parole hearings every so many years since the sentences were commuted. (thus ensuring they can never find peace while these people still live)

    So a cold blooded killer will die in jail. Somehow I can’t get all worked up about that.

  16. mojo says:

    Justice would be letting some member of the Tate family take her out back and stab her to death. With a fork.

  17. Martin says:

    Jim, don’t like the tone of that comment. Our prison population is also spinning out of control, but we have social problems here that formed over many years. But, we acknowledge them and are working on them.

    I take issue with Theresa here – saying that not completing a state sanctioned murder on her is lieniency in itself. If a state is violent, it is merely the sum of it’s peoples violence and it sets a terrible example. I was raised to believe in the majesty of the law, etc, etc and it horrifies me to think that you are prepared to take the custodians of those laws and allow them to kill. My country is a prime example. In the 1980’s, we executed many many people. The death penalty was a racist, political and geared towards the poor. It was indiscriminate and went against many moral standards. America ranks with Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan etc in executing. Nice neighbours!

    Yes, being half dead is far better than her victims, but what happened happened and some compassion might go a long way.

    The Tate LaBianca murders were horrific and spelt the end of so much. The tolerating of the hippies came to an end and fear became a suburban byword. The Manson family really did leave their mark on America. And, ironically, that’s what they set out to do. This parole hearing has done it again. Just release her – it’s the compassionate thing to do and will blow over quickly.

  18. someone says:

    lockerbie bomber kills many gets freed mercifully. Girl stabs 1 (these crimes are common) but since its the manson family – it is political… gets no mercy. Stupid country = USA;

  19. Jane says:

    Martin, forget it. CM and his minions were bloodthirsty, and the murders may not have stopped with the Tate/LaBianca murders. They could have killed again if they were not caught. They showed no mercy to the young 16-year-old boy in the driveway, they cut all phone lines before going into the home, and “Sadie” herself giggled during court proceedings, during arraignment I believe. She was 21 years of age, an adult when she committed those vile murders. She had no mercy for human life. She deserves to stay in prison, as do all of the others who participated in the crime. They are all criminals and need to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

  20. Skyler says:


    That the popular trend is to abolish the death penalty has no bearing on whether it is appropriate or not.

    I’d say that with modern science, especially DNA testing, it is even less appropriate to abolish the death penalty. The principle argument against the death penalty is that there is often a chance of error on whom the murderer is. With DNA testing, it is possible in many circumstances to know with absolute certainty that the acused is guilty.

    Allowing murderers to live after being caught is immoral. The popular trend to not execute people guilty of horrendous crimes is depraved. The United States retains its death penalty out of morality. The Sauds and the Chinese might have other reasons, but that is ours.

    Since Atkins is not to be executed, as is her due and as was decided by a jury of her peers, it is only fit to keep her caged like the animal she is until she dies.

  21. JeffS says:

    My point is that a society, at some point, has to care.

    How about the time Sharon Tate was pleading for the life her baby, Martin?

    Oh, wait, Susan has already answered that one: “I told her I didn’t have any mercy on her.”

    So, keep her in prison. That’s most appropriate. Oil or not.

  22. “CM and his minions were bloodthirsty, and the murders may not have stopped with the Tate/LaBianca murders. They could have killed again if they were not caught.”

    Actually, they or their cohorts DID kill again, several times both before and during the trial (including even one of their frickin’ lawyers). These just weren’t the ghastly public (and publicized) slaughters that the Tate/LaBianca murders were.

  23. Martin says:

    I am not disputing the horrific nature of the murders. I am not saying that they did not deserve to sit in prison. I have no qualms about them sitting in prison whatsoever.

    My arguement is that a society has to show some compassion. And, yes, she showed no compassion when these horrific deeds were done. But that doesn’t mean that society has to stoop to that level.

    As to the use of the death penalty or not – Skyler, I am not convinced that a society that choses not to kill it’s citizens is depraved, no matter what the citizens have done. Society, and certainly the whole worl, needs a moral beacon and if society cannot be that beacon, who is? Yes, DNA can reduce the risk of wrong executions, but can you honestly say that the death penalty is applied fairly? Can you honestly say that no innocent person has been executed? And, if an innocent person is excuted surely the society that demanded that death is guilty of murder?

    We cannot play God and decided who is to live and who is to die. If we want to do say, why is it that judges become the God that choses who lives and who dies? It is far too sticky a morass to allow that to happen.

  24. Mr. Bingley says:

    Actually, Martin, I agree with a lot of what you are saying. As I’ve aged over the years I have gone back and forth but currently I’m not a proponent of the death penalty (oh, I freely admit there are lots of people that I would not mind if they were dead, but that’s an issue I expect I will take up directly with my Maker at some point in the future). I would say that I think society shows sufficient compassion towards these folks by allowing them to live, albeit in prison.

  25. Alan says:

    You do the crime, you do the time.

    The fact that this woman has a terminal disease, is irrelevant.

  26. JeffS says:

    “I would say that I think society shows sufficient compassion towards these folks by allowing them to live, albeit in prison.”

    I think that’s too much compassion, but it’s certainly far more than she showed Sharon Tate’s baby.

  27. Skyler says:

    Martin opines, “And, if an innocent person is excuted surely the society that demanded that death is guilty of murder?”

    No. If there is an error, that is not murder.

    The incidence of error is really quite low, and the point is that with modern science it should be nearly zero.

    Yes, refusing to execute people who are clearly guilty of such horrific crimes is a sign of moral depravity. I want no part of a moral code that allows people like that to live.

    It is not “compassion” to allow them to live, and it is certainly not “compassion” to free them simply because some doctor opines that they will die soon.

  28. No Sympathy says:

    I don’t care if she’s dying. What irks me is that the victim’s families have had to go through this 13 TIMES because the State of California, in its stupidity, commuted a death penalty to life WITH the possibility of parole. The equivalent would have been life WITHOUT the possibility of parole.

    As Jay Sebring’s nephew said yesterday, and in 2005 – who cares how exemplary her record has been in prison? What she’s done in prison would be considered normal law-abiding behavior in the outside world. None of us would have been commended for it.

    Luckily, it seems this will be the last time the victims’ families will have to go through this, since it’s doubtful Sadie Mae will live another three years.

  29. Gunslinger says:

    “My arguement is that a society has to show some compassion. And, yes, she showed no compassion when these horrific deeds were done. But that doesn’t mean that society has to stoop to that level.”

    Then you obviously don’t understand the concept of the punishment fitting the crime.

    Using the “take the high road” argument is quite naive and ignorant as well.

  30. nightfly says:

    I would argue that for the most part the penal system is not the part of society that ought to show compassion, in the same way that we don’t expect our feet to taste our food for us. Let people, churches, and such be compassionate – but let courts and jurists strive for justice.

  31. dawn says:

    Mr. Bingley:

    Jim is right. It’s unfortunate, but he is dead on right. There must be truth to it or neither you or me would have recognized his jist.

  32. NYer says:

    I think that Susan Atkins should remain in prison. She is not a danger to society, but given the atrocious nature of her crimes and her subsequent behavior at the trial and in prison, it would be virtually impossible for her to rehabilitate herself from that. She told a woman that she had no sympathy for her or for her baby as she was murdered, wrote “PIG” in her blood afterwards, snickered and giggled at the trial, remained loyal to Manson YEARS after she was sentenced into prison and recanted her earlier testimony at parole hearings over a decade after, claiming innocence. I think her purported “rehabilitation” in jail in recent years is borne out of necessity. She really felt bad for the victims and the vicious nature of the attacks…only because it was preventing her from being released from jail. She stopped giving TV interviews about 25 years ago, because she was upset with her being portrayed as a monster after an interview with an Australian news show…she is more concerned with self-preservation than with a genuine desire to show remorse. How can one justify releasing someone like that from jail?

    If you read some of the blogs / chronology of her prison incidents, she is not as “model” of a prisoner as some recent news coverage suggests, and she has a history of breaking prison rules (albeit some are minor), making excuses and not taking accountability for her actions…exactly as she did with respect to the Tate La Bianca murders.

    Martin — you are right! Society should show compassion, but let us show compassion for the victims, for the family members that have showed up at every Susan Atkins hearing to plead for her non-release. Let’s show compassion for those capable of receiving compassion, but not for a woman whose plea for compassion is predicated on her selfish desire to be paroled before her death, rather than a demonstrated deep atonement for her actions and behavior.

  33. Mister_Mister says:

    Ironically, people like Martin are one reason why the death penalty persists in the US. Victims – and their next of kin – fear that even if a murderer is sentenced to life without parole, there is still no guarantee that some soft-headed judge or parole board will let the miscreant out at some time in the future. Best, then, to make sure that can never happen.

  34. Jason says:

    From a moral and religious perspective for the crimes that Susan Atkins committed, she should have been executed or spend the rest of her life incarcerated. However, we live in a secular society and ultimately the Law and the Constitution are paramount. If you truly believe in the rule of law and considering her actual sentence and subsequent prison record she should be granted parole. Pure and simple, she is still incarcerated because of the notoriety of the case. The blame lies solely with the politicians and the judicial system who first negated her death sentence and then resentenced her to life with the possibility of parole. Susan Atkins has been playing the game entirely within the parameters that have been set for her for the last 38 years. In a free and democratic society, you can’t change the rules of the game just because you don’t like the score.

  35. Wrong. There is no right to parole. Parole is a nice thing we do for some prisoners, often to our detriment, who have demonstrated good behavior in prison. The only right a prisoner has on that score is to not be held longer than the original sentence.

    Oh, and No Sympathy, that one you can’t blame on California. It was the SCOTUS that commuted all then-existing death sentences to life WITH parole. And obscenity, yes, but not one you can blame on CA.

  36. JeffS says:

    Pure and simple, she is still incarcerated because of the notoriety of the case.

    If by “notoriety”, you mean that she willingly and gladly murdered a pregnant woman who pleaded for the life of her baby, you do have a point there.

    In a free and democratic society, you can’t change the rules of the game just because you don’t like the score.

    I hope that Susan Atkins reads your post, because that’s exactly why she was denied parole.

  37. Oh, and one more reason to keep the death penalty (even if it’s rarely used). The left and the so-called human rights crews keep moving the goal posts. Several of the groups are already on record as opposing life without parole as inhumane. IIRC, one group (HRW, I think but don’t remember for certain) opposes life sentences under any circumstances, parole or no (but grain of salt on that one, I may be remembering incorrectly).

    Here’s another argument: capital punishment is permanent and a mistake cannot be corrected, so death penalty cases get a LOT of special scrutiny by anti-death penalty advocates and by the courts. Mistakes are very highly likely to be corrected.

    In contrast, no other convicts have their trials examined in such detail. Mistakes are far more likely to fly under the radar and bad convictions more likely to go unnoticed.

    That suggests that a bad conviction resulting in a life sentence is less likely to be overturned than if it had been a death penalty verdict. I know, not a strong argument for it, but just one more datum.

  38. NYer says:

    Jason — I disagree. Consider what prison record?

    1976 – Engaged for the 1st time (but he didn’t marry her).
    1977 – Completed autobiography, with proceeds to help women get off the streets. The book had $14 million in proceeds (though she claims someone stole a lot of the money from her). When the publisher went bankrupt, she signed over all future proceeds to the publisher. When asked why she had not considered compensating the victims, she said “she had never thought about it”. Convenient oversight!

    1978 – Engaged (but not married) a 2nd time.

    1979 – Engaged (but not married) a 3rd time.

    1981 – Married a man (4th engagement) who eventually conned her. At her parole hearing, she said she “felt guilty” for not stabbing the 7 victims (claimed she never did it) because she had been “programmed to kill”.

    1982 – She completes a vocation in data processing before her hearing because she liked computers and hoped to get a good job upon her eventual release. She showed up to the parole hearing wearing heavy eye makeup, dolled up and with a poker face (first time TV cameras were allowed for high-profile criminal cases). She claims afterwards that she was heavily depressed, preventing her from showing more remorse.

    1982 / 1983 – Ran a nail manicure business in prison. When caught with money (a prison offense), she claimed it was to pay for supplies. When caught with a package with alcohol (also an offense), she claimed she didn’t know what was in it.

    1985 – Prior to her parole hearing, she was given a pysch exam. The examiner wrote that she was rebellious, immature, self-oriented, gullible and manipulative, signs of socio-pathic behvavior. (Socio-paths are considered at risk for committing crimes because they cannot exhibit empathy with others, allowing themselves to detach from victims). At the hearing, she apologized to the family’s victims, saying “I know the pain and suffering I caused…I know. Nobody has to tell me. I know!”

    1987 – She married James Whitehouse (current hubby and 5th engagement).

    1988 – She refused to take the psych exam prior to her parole hearing (presumably fearing she’d be labeled a socio-path again). Parole hearing delayed 1 year for her showing bad judgment.

    1989 – Interview with Australian TV tabloid. She agreed, but Doris Tate was also interviewed. The show made her out to be a monster, so she decided to “never” grant a TV interview again.

    1991 – Received a disciplinary violation report for disrespecting prison staff.

    1993 – After being denied for 3 years at a parole hearing, she said that “in terms of Christian values, there should be room for forgiveness for me.” A few days after the hearing, she received a violation for using an institution computer for personal emails. She made an excuse for why she was there, continuing the string of manipulation.

    1993 – Refused to be interviewed by Diane Sawyer as part of special on “Manson Girls”.

    1994 – Studied to be a paralegal so she could work for her hubby Whitehouse (who graduated from Harvard Law) after her eventual release.

    1986 – She was dropped from a therapy group for lack of attendance. In prison psych examination, she was diagnosed with “anti social personality disorder”. Psych doctor claimed she did not “deal with problems directly, but rather skillfully deflects them away during conversation” and he added that she had a “tendency to overcompensate and minimize or avoid certain topics”. He said she skillfully deflects any discussion of the crime.

    2000 – Prior to parole hearing, she refuses pysch exam, fearing previous results. Doctor says “I believe the inmate continues to be adept at side-stepping issues and creating controversy where no one really exists.” After she is denied at parole hearing, she says “I jump through all their hoops, and then each time…they give me a different set of hoops.” Really? Afterwards, former prosecutor Steven Kay notes that Susie is a “facial chameleon”…he says he saw a crying, sympathy seeking woman turn it off when she moved to her holding cell, coldly yelling at a prison guard for being late with her meal.

    2002 – Received 2 violations for carrying make up.

    2003 – Sues CA government because she claims to be in prison as a political prisoner. Suit thrown out of court.

    2005 – After 12 years of negative psych reports, the doctor says that she no longer is socio-pathic and seems to be showing remorse and responsibility for her actions, though complete assurance of this would be clouded by her earlier versions of the crime (and post-incarceration behavior). At her parole hearing, she refused to talk about the crime but spoke freely about her childhood and life in prison. After she is denied parole, she claims “The victims families are begging the Board not to give me parole…those people don’t understand that that’s something the law affords me.”

    2009 – She was essentially brain dead and slept through most of the hearing.

    I disagree that she is imprisoned “pure and simple…because of the notoriety of the case”.

    She is imprisoned, pure and simple, because she has been a life-long socio-path, incapable of showing empathy for her victims, who only in recent years has started to show DEEP remorse due to her deteriorating physical condition. As far as I’m concerned, this woman’s life-long motivations have been self-centered, without genuine regard for victims families.

    You don’t get to leave prison because you behaved and were a “model prisoner.” Parole is for those that show a deep atonement for their sins. The ONLY THING that does not make the woman a socio-path (i.e., someone who cannot show empathy for her victims) today is her near-death physical condition.

    She may not be the woman she was in 1969, and she may be incapable of killing someone today, but she’s never shown anything but a “me, me, me” attitude when it comes to the victims of the crime.

  39. Jason says:

    To Kenn S. Fifth String on the Banjo:
    In Susan Atkins case contrary to your statement parole is not discretionary. The applicable legislation clearly states she must be released on parole unless she is deemed an unreasonable risk of danger to society. In her present physical and mental condition I ‘m not sure how she would be a danger to anyone.

  40. Jason says:

    To NYer:
    I think you are putting too much emphasis on psych exams. They should be considered but like a polygraph exam I’m not sure how much validity they really have in predicting future behavior. If they had a strong predictive value, you would never have a police officer who commits a crime or a member of the CIA or FBI commit espionage.

  41. NYer says:

    To Jason: Granted, that pysch exams should not carry too much weight, but in my opinion, the women’s actions (even outside of pysch exams) shows a cold callousness towards the victims that has thawed over time, but only in so much as she doesn’t want to be “bothered” about discussing the crime anymore. Are you contending that she should be released solely on the basis that she is no longer a physical danger to anyone? Should that be the sole basis for her release? It doesn’t matter if the women has gone up and beyond to make amends to the family? She used her notoriety to benefit everyone but the victims. Her actions have always been driven by selfish motives. Why should she be released, just because she is sick now? That does not make sense to me.

  42. NYer says:

    I meant “above and beyond” in the comment above. And to clarify, her actions are driven by her desire to better herself (witness the 5 engagements, focus on career development), those like her (witness the decision to dedicate the proceeds of her book to troubled young women), and those she loves (her religion, her husband and her immediate family). Maybe she can find 10 minutes of her time and 10 cents out of her pocketbook to focus instead on helping the victims?…maybe after her death.

  43. Jason says:

    To NYer:
    Yes, essentially I am contending that she should be released based on the fact that in my opinion, given her present physical and mental condition and medical prognosis she is no longer a danger to anyone in society in any way, physical or otherwise. By the way, that is the issue for parole eligibility to be decided in Susan Atkins particular circumstances. If she had actually helped the victims families, do you still think they would support her parole? I doubt it. It’s fanciful thinking to propose that anything she could do would ever satisfy them. Seems they are more interested in revenge. Isn’t it normal in today’s society for individuals to be motivated by their own self aggrandizement whether for pecuniary gain or another motive. It’s an unfortunate element of the human condition, which I believe is present in all of us to different degrees. Why should she be any different? Do you have an opinion on Leslie Van Houten not getting paroled yet? Seems to me she would fit your criteria for a person who was suitable for parole. I would really appreciate your response concerning her situation before I write a letter to the California Parole Board advocating her release.

  44. Dave J. says:

    “I would really appreciate your response concerning her situation before I write a letter to the California Parole Board advocating her release.”

    Knock yourself out, scumbag. Her victims never got anything like that degree of advocacy on THEIR behalf.

  45. What would be the point of releasing her now that she is dying and in fact is apparently brain dead? None to her — she’s not being kept in a slime-floored dungeon chained to the wall, she’s receiving care in the prison hospital for her illness. Releasing her would benefit no one — she wouldn’t care, the victim’s families would be devastated, her family would have to take on her care… the only people this maneuver would benefit at this time are the advocates for the further weakening of the American justice system. Oh — and it would impress foreigners like Martin who have no idea what they are talking about in cases like this, and pathetic beta males like the five men this woman somehow got to say would marry her (and the fifth one — a Harvard grad! — did!) and Jason, who really needs to learn to apply that misplaced chivalrous attitude to a more proper target; perhaps to defending real victims, like Sharon Tate, instead of Tate’s killer, who has been living fat and happy off the taxpayer’s dime for decades.

  46. Jason says:

    To Andrea Harris:
    Simply, from a practical perspective, I disagree with your statement “releasing her would benefit no one.” Please see the on line ABC News article from July 2008 entitled “Is High-Profile Convicted Killer Getting Better Cancer Treatments?”
    Between March and July 2008 Susan Atkins had cost the taxpayers an additional $1.4 million Dollars to be treated for her brain cancer and guarded in a hospital. It’s now September 2009, how much more money have us taxpayers spent on her care? If she is released she will no longer be living fat and happy off the taxpayer’s dime as you so eloquently stated in your concluding sentence. In her present state of health, how she is an unreasonable risk of danger to anyone in society? Not just a risk but an unreasonable risk. She is terminally ill with brain cancer, paralyzed over 85% of her body, has had her left leg amputated, is rarely able to speak and because of all the medication she takes, sleeps practically all day. Can you give me a realistic scenario where she is an unreasonable risk of danger to society? Remember not just a risk, but an unreasonable risk. All she wants is to be paroled on compassionate grounds, so that she can die at home. If anything, releasing her from prison may even expedite her demise, because she may not receive the same level of health care as she presently is getting for free. I believe this was the main thrust of Vince Bugliosi’s argument to the parole board. Although he successfully prosecuted and convicted her for these crimes in 1971, he now publicly advocates for her release on compassionate grounds given her present condition. If Susan Atkins was not terminally ill and in her present state of health, I would be 100% opposed to her release, because I believe under normal circumstances given her apparent sociopathic proclivities she would still pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society.

  47. Jason says:

    To Dave J:
    Re: Leslie Van Houten
    I don’t understand your statement “Her victims never got anything like that degree of advocacy on THEIR behalf.” According to the law when she was prosecuted for her crimes, her victims did receive that degree of advocacy on her behalf. The State relentlessly prosecuted Ms. Van Houten three times for these crimes and at her third trial, she was found guilty and sentenced for seven years to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Therefore, her sentence was such, that after seven years of incarceration she became eligible for parole. In theory, if her first parole hearing had occurred seven years and one day after her incarceration and at this hearing, the California Parole Board concluded that she was no longer an unreasonable risk of danger to society and the Governor of California also agreed with this assessment, then at that time, she would have been paroled. Although this did not in fact happen, the scenario I outlined, is a completely unimpeachable legal reality, that unless successfully challenged under the Constitution, nobody including the victim’s families would have been able to do anything about it.
    Rightly or wrongly, her sentence is not death or life imprisonment without parole while being held in a dark cell for 23 hours a day. As previously stated, her punishment under the law at the time of her conviction was a minimum of seven years incarceration which also included rehabilitation with the explicit purpose of repairing the deficiencies in her character, so that eventually she could become a productive member of society. Education, work skills, deferred gratification, treating others with respect, and self-discipline are all stressed. In Ms.Van Houten’s particular circumstances, as of 2009 she is 60 years of age and has spent more than 30 years incarcerated in prison. In this period of time, she has a nearly perfect record of no discipline infractions. She has studied and successfully achieved both a Bachelor’s and a Masters Degree in English Literature. If released, it’s a virtual certainty she will be gainfully employed. Although, I do not have access to this information, for those of you who really believe in the validity of this stuff, she has apparently over the last several years always received positive psych evaluations. She has actively denounced any association or support of Charles Manson, even prior to her incarceration. I cannot 100% guarantee anything, in fact nobody can accurately predict the future, but in my opinion, I really believe her to be an excellent candidate for parole. Parole does not mean freedom, she will be constantly scrutinized by parole officers 24/7 and I will assure you there will be a great many restrictions on her liberty, including a curfew. Practically any rule violation she makes, no matter how minor and their will immediately be a hearing to revoke her parole.
    Stephen Kay who was the prosecutor for the State at her trial has publicly stated, that although he adamantly opposes her parole, when looking at the totality of the circumstances, he believes that her parole is inevitable.
    I really didn’t appreciate you characterizing me as a scumbag. Ad hominem threats just demonstrate a lack of maturity on your part. I didn’t make the law. I am simply stating how it applies in Ms.Van Houten’s situation and why I believe she has fulfilled certain criteria for consideration of being released on parole.
    The United States of America is a free and democratic society. In our system of justice there is always going to be situations where the punishment will not fit the crime or where a guilty person will be set free, as in my opinion with Mr. Orenthal J. Simpson. The people of the United States through the Constitution, the Courts and the legislatures decided that Ms. Van Houten would have the possibility of parole after seven years incarceration for her crimes and Mr. Orenthal J. Simpson could not be prosecuted for the same crime in the same court twice, regardless of whether he had stated he did kill them ten seconds after the Court acquitted him of the charges. That is the price of freedom.

  48. Jason says:

    To JeffS:
    By “notoriety”, I mean the media fascination of the case including film documentaries, numerous books, motion pictures, television interviews etc., etc., etc.. have taken this entire sad episode in American history to a higher level and given it a life all of it’s own. It’s become a cash cow for numerous people.
    How many people in California have ever heard of Ed Kemper. He killed and cannibalized ten people in the 1960’s and 70’s including his mother, grandmother and grandfather in Santa Cruz, California. Not many books and documentaries about him. I guess there’s not any money to be made. He comes up for parole just like the Tate Labianca murderers. Last time was in 2007. Court TV, Nancy Grace and Larry King were all over that one. No mention or interviews with anyone on those shows concerning him. Very little in the newspapers and nothing in the blogs. Apparently no reporters from Time or Newsweek or any other nationally syndicated magazine. Only local media coverage on the news in Northern California. He comes up for parole again in California in 2012. Probably very few people will still know anything about him.
    How about Randy Steven Kraft? He was convicted of murdering 16 men and is very strongly suspected of at least 51 others along California freeways between 1971 and 1983. Currently awaiting execution on California’s death row where he should be. There is one book written about him and his crimes, but practically nothing else. How many written about Manson and the Manson family? 25? 30? I wouldn’t be surprised if a new book about Manson is published next month. These are just two examples of many that never remotely get the same media attention as Manson and his followers.
    Further to this, Mr. Vince Bugliosi who was the prosecuter stated in a radio interview on the Charles Adler show which originates from Winnipeg, Canada on Monday, August 10, 2009 that if it wasn’t for the bizarre nature of the crimes we would have forgot about them a long time ago. He further stated that their importance and significance pales in comparison to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I’m not sure if he really believes this statement or if he wants us to jump on line and buy “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (2007) at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. He claimed that this work is his magnum opus. I found it interesting how the interviewer was trying to ask him questions about the 40th anniversary of the Tate Labianca murders and Vince spent the majority of the time talking about his book on the assassination of Kennedy and a new one he’s written with the title “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder” (2008).
    “In a free and democratic society, you can’t change the rules of the game just because you don’t like the score. By this statement concerning Susan Atkins, I was attempting to draw an analogy with her current situation of seeking parole on compassionate grounds and a team sporting event, for the purpose of this exercise, let’s call it basketball. Susan Atkins wins the game if she no longer poses an unreasonable risk of danger to society, which means she gets paroled. Otherwise, her opponent wins. The tip off of this game for Susan Atkins began at the time of her crimes in 1969. For the past 40 years the game has been played but it is now very late in the fourth quarter. Throughout the entire game Susan Atkins has trailed by a lot of points. This is because in the normal course of events prior to her diagnosis of brain cancer, viewing the totality of the circumstances, she did pose and unreasonable risk of danger to society if paroled. However, now late in the game given her present health status including she is terminally ill with brain cancer, paralyzed over 85% of her body, has had her left leg amputated, is rarely able to speak and because of all the medication she takes, practical sleeps all day, in my opinion, given these facts, she does not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society if paroled on compassionate grounds. How about giving me a plausible realistic scenario where she still is an unreasonable risk of danger to society in September 2009? Therefore, back to our basketball analogy, I would say there are 6 seconds left in the game with Susan Atkins leading by 24 points and she has possession of the basketball. You can’t try and change the rules of the game (law) post facto to a different standard, so that if she in fact no longer poses an unreasonable risk of danger to society she doesn’t get paroled.

  49. Jason says:

    To Andrea Harris:
    In the United States health care system, The Economic Elite, professional athletes and prison inmates get the best medical care for the money. I would prefer not to have any more of my tax money spent on health care for a terminally ill inmate.

  50. Jason says:

    Apparently, I made a mistake when I was describing Susan Atkins health. Not only has she had one leg amputated but her other leg is now paralyzed. Somehow I get the impression that the decision to deny her parole wasn’t a transparent, objective and impartial process.

  51. Dave J. says:

    “According to the law when she was prosecuted for her crimes, her victims did receive that degree of advocacy on her behalf.”

    Bzzt, wrong. I’m a prosecutor. The State got plenty of advocacy. Her victims got none: they were already dead, genius.

  52. Mr. Bingley says:

    Apparently, I made a mistake when I was describing Susan Atkins health. Not only has she had one leg amputated but her other leg is now paralyzed. Somehow I get the impression that the decision to deny her parole wasn’t a transparent, objective and impartial process.

    Actually, wouldn’t that point to the fact that it was in fact completely impartial and looked strictly at the legal basis?

  53. Jason says:

    To DaveJ.
    So your a prosecutor, well for your own personal enlightenment, I am also an attorney at law admitted to the State Bar of California since June 11, 1996. In addition to an LL.B., I also have a LL.M. from the University of San Diego. I absolutely do not in any way, shape or form consider myself a genius. However, I did pass the Cal Bar exam the first time.
    Although I am no longer actively engaged in the practice of law, I do think I should have the opportunity to participate in this forum and express my opinion whether you agree with it or not.
    As you well know, in our adversarial system of justice there will always be an advocate for the defendant. If you disagree with the defense counsel’s position do you call him a scumbag. Is Vince Bugliosi also a scumbag because he now supports Susan Atkins bid for compassionate release. I would really appreciate you keeping the personal insults to yourself. They really have no bearing on the discussion at hand. It’s a pretty sad indictment of the legal profession that an attorney like yourself has to use ad hominem remarks to emphasize your point of view.
    If you would like to advocate for the victim’s, that is your right. By the way how do you advocate for a dead person? At a parole hearing, don’t you advocate on behalf of the victim’s families and what they want? How do you know what the murdered person believes should be the proper punishment? Perhaps for religious or other reasons they may believe in redemption and not capital punishment or life in prison without the possibility of parole. They may have believed that rehabilitation is always a possibility, regardless of the perpetrator, the crime committed and the fact they were the victim. How do you know what the dead victim would have wanted?
    So they were brutally murdered with premeditation completely at random. That’s a historical fact and part of the court record. I would never mitigate the defendant’s responsibility for the crime committed. I do in fact support the death penalty and life in prison without the possibility of parole in the proper circumstances and if the law allows for it. However, in the case of Leslie Van Houten, she was punished to the fullest extent of the law for her crimes, which was at the time seven years to life in prison with the possibility of parole. She gets paroled if looking at the totality of the circumstances, including the brutality of the crime, she is deemed by the California Parole Board to no longer be an unreasonable risk of danger to society and the Governor of California looking at the case on the merits concurs. If you don’t want to accept this fact, then why don’t you propose a Constitutional Amendment to repeal the prohibition of ex post facto laws in Article I, section 10, clause 1 of the United States Constitution. Without this prohibition, the State can retroactively increase her punishment to anything, even death.

  54. Jason says:

    Mr. Bingley:
    Thank you for allowing me to participate in the discussion.
    I appreciate your comment “Actually, wouldn’t that point to the fact that it was in fact completely impartial and looked strictly at the legal basis?” However, I tend to disagree with you.
    Concerning impartiality, just looking on the face of it, how does a person terminally ill with brain cancer, paralyzed over 85% of her body, has had one leg amputated and the other one paralyzed, is rarely able to speak and because of all the medication she takes is confined to bed and sleeps practically all day, an unreasonable risk of danger to anyone in society?
    I’m also really unsure about the legal basis for the decision. Other than the pronouncement by the Parole Board members, that her compassionate release request was rejected because she still poses an unreasonable risk of danger to society and that the vote of the members was 12-0, I’m not sure if we really know the rationale that went into reaching this decision. Normally, due process would require that any judicial or quasi judicial tribunal, with the exception of a verdict by the jury, that renders a decision that affects the liberty of the person be accompanied by a discussion of how that decision was arrived at. This could then form the basis for an appeal. In the case of the Parole Board, I’m not sure if and when they are required to provide reasons for the decision. For example, in 2002, Leslie Van Houten was denied parole because the Board deemed her to be an unreasonable risk of danger to society. No reasons for the decision were provided by the Parole Board. Subsequently, a hearing concerning this decision was held in a California Superior Court. Justice King ruled that the Parole Board had the burden of providing at least a scintilla of credible reasoning to support their denial of Van Houten’s parole application. Since they had not, he ruled that she should be released from custody. The State immediately appealed this decision which ultimately went to the Supreme Court of California.
    At the end of the day, the Supreme Court of California unequivocally overruled Justice King’s decision and supported the Parole Board. However, at the present time, I am unsure if the Supreme Court of California’s decision is still the applicable precedent. Therefore, without knowing whether the Parole Board is legally obligated to provide reasons for their decision and whether these have actually been provided, I don’t know if the decision was in fact made on a legal basis.

  55. Mr. Bingley says:

    Hi Jason, I appreciate your thoughtful replies and you’re certainly welcome here any time.

    As my knowledge of California law is relatively non-existent, I will assume that this is a reasonable summation:

    She gets paroled if looking at the totality of the circumstances, including the brutality of the crime, she is deemed by the California Parole Board to no longer be an unreasonable risk of danger to society and the Governor of California looking at the case on the merits concurs.

    I certainly agree she does not appear to be any danger to society, and your earlier argument re: the cost to the state of her medical care, while not listed as perhaps an allowable factor, certainly further adds to the incentive to show ‘stately compassion.’

    But it seems to me that if the Parole Board weighed the historical evidence as listed in NYer’s earlier comment then I think the totality of it justifies denying her parole, at least in my mind. Again, is she in any way as an individual a “threat to society”? No. But her changed physical circumstances don’t balance the ledger of her debt to society. We can, as individuals, feel compassion for her and wish her perhaps a peaceful last few months, but as a society for her vicious, brutal crime and many years of defiant, unrepentant nature we must demand more.

    I also happen to agree with you re: ex post facto laws, which is why I am very troubled by all these Megan’s Law-type laws. When you are released from jail, after you have served the penalty proscribed for your crime, well, you paid the price that has been asked. It is markedly unjust to keep punishing people. If we feel that the crime is of such nature as to deserve continued punishment (and I do) then that should be assigned initially, not tacked on later at the whim of a legislature.

  56. Mr. Bingley says:

    But that’s a different discussion, I reckon.

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