Manson Follower Denied Compassionate Release

Associated Press/July 16, 2008

Sacramento - The California Board of Parole Hearings unanimously denied compassionate release Tuesday to a follower of Charles Manson who stabbed pregnant actress Sharon Tate to death nearly 40 years ago and is now dying of brain cancer in prison.

The board's unanimous decision on the release of Susan Atkins came hours after a 90-minute hearing, during which it heard impassioned pleas from both sides.

"Obviously, it was too hot of a potato for them to handle," said one of Atkins's attorneys, Eric P. Lampel. "Of course we're disappointed. There's no basis for denying this."

Lampel filed a motion July 10 with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Wesley, asking for his client's release no matter what the parole board recommended. No hearing has been set, Lampel said after the hearing.

Atkins's doctors and officials at the women's prison in Corona requested her release in March because of her deteriorating health. She also has had her left leg amputated and is paralyzed on her right side, her husband, James Whitehouse, told the parole board.

Whitehouse, also acting as one of Atkins's attorneys, said doctors have given her three months to live. Atkins, who is in a hospital near the Southern California prison where she was housed for nearly 40 years, did not attend Tuesday's hearing.

The request for compassionate leave generated opposition from relatives of the victims, the state corrections department, Los Angeles County prosecutors and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). Sharon Tate's sister, Debra Tate, the last surviving member of her immediate family, sent a letter to the board opposing Atkins's release.

In the trial, Atkins recounted her role in stabbing Tate in 1969. The wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski was 8 1/2 months pregnant and pleaded for the life of her unborn baby, Atkins testified. Atkins said she was on LSD at the time.

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