DA says Manson follower Davis not fit for parole

Associated Press/May 1, 2010

Los Angeles - The LA County district attorney asked the California governor Friday to reverse a parole board decision recommending the release from prison of Bruce Davis, a former Charles Manson follower who participated in two killings.

Davis, 67, has been in prison since 1972 after being convicted in the murders of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea. He was not involved in the Manson family's infamous murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969.

District Attorney Steve Cooley wrote to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, saying he believes Davis remains an unreasonable parole risk and a danger to the public. The governor can accept or reverse the panel's recommendation.

Davis' lawyer, Michael Beckman, said his client is totally rehabilitated and meets state requirements for parole.

He said that at his most recent parole hearing in January, he accepted responsibility for the murders of Hinman and Shea even though he didn't kill anyone himself.

"He said, 'I was as responsible as everyone there,'" Beckman said.

Cooley cited Davis' past efforts to minimize his part in the crimes as a reason to keep him behind bars.

"I strongly oppose the release of inmate Bruce Davis and believe that he is an unreasonable parole risk and a danger to the public," Cooley said in his letter.

Beckman said a petition has been submitted to the governor from those who know Davis and support his release.

"Mr. Cooley needs to read the law on suitability requirements," the attorney said. "He would see that Bruce Davis is a model prisoner who has accepted full responsibility for these acts. He is no longer remotely a threat to anyone."

Beckman said Cooley's office has a blanket policy of opposing parole for life-term prisoners even though the law provides for it.

He also said that given the state's budget crisis, "It would be a good move to save the state $100,000 a year and let him go home. He certainly is rehabilitated in every sense of the word."

Davis became a born-again Christian in prison and ministered to other inmates, married a woman he met through the prison ministry and has a grown daughter. Beckman said Davis earned a masters degree and a doctorate in philosophy of religion. He hopes to live with his wife and daughter in Grover Beach near San Luis Obispo, where he has the possibility of a landscaping job and wants to work with a church.

The only other Manson family member convicted of murder to be paroled was Steve Grogan. He was released in 1985 after leading authorities to the site where Shea's body was buried.

Manson follower Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was released from federal prison last year after serving time for the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.

Manson and two of his followers, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, remain in prison for life in the Tate killings. Their co-defendant, Susan Atkins, died in prison last year.

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