Leslie Van Houten, a former follower of Charles Manson and convicted killer, has been given permission to apply for parole by a California Appeals Court, but a protracted legal battle is almost certainly still to come.
According to an opinion filed on Tuesday, the court’s decision overturns a 2020 decision by California Governor Gavin Newsom who denied Van Houten’s release despite the California Board of Parole Hearings’ recommendation.
At the age of 19, Van Houten—who is now in her 70s—met Charles Manson and enlisted in the violent cult that would later become known as the “Manson family.” She was found guilty in 1971 for her part in the murders of supermarket CEO Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their home, and she is currently serving concurrent sentences ranging from seven years to life.
Although the court judgment overturns Newsom’s denial, Van Houten’s lawyer, Nancy Tetreault, anticipates a lengthy battle.
The tweet below confirms the news:
A California appeals court has upheld the parole of Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten, reversing a decision by CA Gov. Newsom, who had rejected her release. @MattGutmanABC. https://t.co/Vi6g0kSjWX pic.twitter.com/50BDIGI14X
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) May 31, 2023
According to her, the California Attorney General’s office is anticipated to submit a petition for review to the state’s Supreme Court, which would then make a decision regarding how to proceed.
Tetreault also stated that she anticipates the attorney general’s office to vehemently oppose any application for a stay that would prevent Van Houten from being released while the matter is being reviewed.
Given the extreme nature of the crime in which she was implicated, Newsom wrote in his denial of parole for 2020, “Given the nature of the crime in which she was involved, I do not believe she has sufficiently demonstrated that she has come to terms with the totality of the factors that led her to participate in the vicious Manson Family killings.”
Van Houten Parole Ruling Overturned
The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles issued a ruling on Tuesday that stated, “There is no evidence to support the Governor’s conclusions.”
“Van Houten provided extensive explanation as to the causative factors leading to her involvement with Manson and commission of the murders, and the record does not support a conclusion that there are hidden factors for which Van Houten has failed to account. The Governor’s refusal to accept Van Houten’s explanation amounts to unsupported intuition,” the opinion said.
If the appellate court’s judgment is upheld, the matter will be sent back to the Board of Parole Hearings, which is housed inside the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, for review of any new information that would support revoking the parole grant.
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If there is no such change or new information, the Board will issue a release memo and CDCR will process the person for release,” said department spokesperson Mary Xjimenez in a statement.
Van Houten was found guilty and given a death sentence; however, the death sentence was quashed and her sentence was changed to life in prison. In 1977, she first qualified for parole.
Following earlier parole denials in 2016, 2017, and 2019, including two by former governor Jerry Brown, Newsom’s refusal in 2020 was the fourth. In the year following the 2020 rejection, Newsom rejected a fifth request for a pardon.