July 5, 2018

Leslie Van Houten: Appeal Denied

Photo:  ABC News

In better late than never news, and I do mean that, Leslie Van Houten, once known as Lulu when she lived and conspired with the notorious Manson Family, once again lost her chance at parole.  (And when I say "lived and conspired with," I also mean "killed with.")

As you may know, Van Houten was recommended for parole by the California Parole Board last September, a recommendation that was shut down by Governor Jerry Brown in January.  Van Houten and her attorneys then filed a writ of habeas corpus with the Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking an appeal on Brown's refusal.  That petition was responded to last week with a 16 page ruling that stated, among other things, Van Houten "may someday be suitable for parole, when her commitment offense is no longer predictive of current dangerousness, it is not yet that day."  The legal document also called the crimes she participated in "among the most abominable committed in California in the second half of the 20th century" and Judge William C. Ryan noted "Petitioner's crimes terrified a generation and remain imprinted on the public."  Judge Ryan also pointed out that "if any crimes could be considered heinous enough to support a denial of parole based on their circumstances alone years after occurrence, they must certainly be the crimes perpetrated by the Manson Family."

Debra Tate, younger sister of victim Sharon Tate and now the only surviving child of Paul and Doris Tate, was quoted after the ruling as being "very pleased."  Ms. Tate says she believes that Van Houten is "as self-consumed today as she ever was, and that is the premiere marker of a sociopath."

Van Houten was 19 in 1969, when she joined Manson and several of his other Family members on their second night of murderous glee at the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in Los Feliz.  By her own account, she knew that people would die that night and she put a pillowcase over Rosemary LaBianca's head and stabbed the woman some 16 times.  After the couple was slaughtered, she joined Charles "Tex" Watson and Patricia "Katie" Krenwinkel in playing with the LaBiancas' dogs, eating their food, drinking some chocolate milk and helping themselves to Rosemary's clothing.

Over the years, due to being the youngest convicted Manson killer and the argument that she "only" participated in the killing of two people, Van Houten has had more support for her release than other Manson Family members.  However, like Watson and Krenwinkel, Van Houten too has also laid the majority of the blame at the feet of the now-dead Charles Manson.  Last summer during a hearing to present mitigating evidence in Van Houten's favor, former Family member Catherine "Gypsy" Share testified that prior to the murders Van Houten was "extremely docile" and it was her belief that Van Houten would have done anything Manson asked her to.

If you've read my previous posts on Leslie Van Houten and the Manson Family in general, you'll probably guess that I'm okay with this denial.  I will never forget that Vincent Bugliosi, the District Attorney who prosecuted the Manson Family, stated that he believed that Van Houten was the least devoted of Manson's followers.  That's a frightening thought - - the least devoted of all and yet she would still kill for him.  (Unless of course that "kill for him" is utter rubbish and she simply wanted to kill.)  I also can't get out of my mind how Van Houten acted during the trial in 1970.  She giggled and laughed, even while the terrifying and painful last moments of the victims were being detailed, and when asked by her own attorney if she ever thought about Rosemary LaBianca, she said, "Only when I'm in the courtroom."  That coldness is what I believe Rosemary LaBianca saw, not the "extremely docile" person Catherine Share attempted to describe.

I've said this many, many times.  Leslie Van Houten, and all the convicted Manson Family members, were granted far more mercy than they ever showed their victims when the death penalty was declared unconstitutional in California and their death sentences were commuted.  Getting life sentences with the possibility of parole was yet another gift.

Were Leslie Van Houten not linked to Charles Manson and the infamous killings, do I think she'd get parole?  Probably.  But she is linked with Manson.  That will never change.  And the murders were horrifying, brutal and senseless.  Rosemary LaBianca was only 39 years old.  The last thing she heard before being stabbed to death was her husband, screaming in pain and begging for his life, while Tex Watson killed him in the other room.  An hour or so before she was killed, she was crying about the Tate murders the night before -- crying because she couldn't understand how anyone could be so cruel.  I have no sympathy for Leslie Van Houten; I reserve my sympathy for the LaBiancas who did nothing other than be home that night.

Van Houten's attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, refiled the writ with the appellate court.

Van Houten remains incarcerated at the California Institute for Women in Corona.

Rosemary LaBianca
December 15, 1929 - August 10, 1969
She is the victim, not Leslie Van Houten

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