Manson figure's parole denial upheld

San Diego Union-Tribune/March 3, 2004

Riverside -- A California appellate court has ruled a state parole board didn't have to provide additional evidence supporting its decision to deny parole to former Manson family member Leslie Van Houten. On Monday, the three-justice panel from the 4th District Court of Appeal unanimously reversed a lower court's order that the board provide "some evidence" showing Van Houten's offense was so great that, to protect public safety, she ought to serve more time.

The panel ruled San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Bob N. Krug used a stricter standard of review than was permitted.

"By that reversal, we affirm the board's serious, deliberate and thoughtful decision in a difficult case," the justices wrote.

Van Houten was denied release for a 14th time in 2002, after the parole board concluded she hasn't shown sufficient remorse for her role in the cult killings that shocked the nation in 1969.

Although the parole board praised Van Houten for undertaking a number of positive activities in prison, including working as a chapel clerk and making audio tapes to help other inmates, commissioners had said she must come to terms with her role in the killings.

Van Houten was a 19-year-old member of career criminal Charles Manson's ersatz hippie cult in 1969 when the group killed nine Los Angeles area residents, including seven in two days, in what prosecutors said was an attempt to start a race war Manson believed was prophesied in the Beatles' song "Helter Skelter."

She wasn't present when Manson's followers killed Sharon Tate and four others at the the young actress' Beverly Hills mansion but, the next night in Los Angeles' fashionable Los Feliz neighborhood, she took part in the kllings of grocer Leno La Bianca and his wife, Rosemary.

In their ruling, the justices said the state Board of Prison Terms had "made it clear that it relied heavily on the character of the crime in denying parole."

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