Monthly Archives: June 2017
Friday, June 23rd, 2017
PRESS RELEASE FROM GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN, AGAIN DENYING PAROLE FOR FORMER MANSON FAMILY MEMBER BRUCE DAVIS
Jun. 23 – Bruce Davis was a member of Charles Manson’s cult known as “the Family.” In the summer of 1969, the twenty-member Family lived on the Spahn Ranch and fervently embraced Manson’s apocalyptic and warped worldview. Manson believed that a civilization-ending war between the races — known as Helter Skelter — was imminent, and that the Family would emerge from hiding in the desert at the end of the war to take control of the world. Manson came to believe that the Family would have to trigger the start of the race war by committing atrocious, high-profile murders of white victims to incite retaliatory violence against blacks. See People v. Manson (1976) 61 Cal.App.3d 102, 127-30. According to former member Barbara Hoyt, preparing for Helter Skelter physically, mentally, and financially was the all-pervasive fabric of the Manson Family’s daily life.
In July 1969, Manson spoke with a group of Family members, including Davis, about the need to raise money and supplies to relocate to the desert. Gary Alan Hinman, an aspiring musician known to the Family, was discussed as a possible source of funds. On July 26, 1969, Davis was seen in the company of Manson and Robert Beausoleil. Beausoleil was wearing a sheathed knife, and Davis was holding a 9-millimeter Radom gun he had purchased under a false name. That night, Davis drove Family members Mary Brunner, Susan Atkins, and Robert Beausoleil to Mr. Hinman’s residence and then returned to the Ranch by himself Two days later, Manson received a telephone call indicating that Mr. Hinman “was not cooperating.”
Manson and Davis returned to Mr. Hinman’s house. When they arrived, Mr. Hinman had already been struck with a gun in a struggle in which the gun had discharged. Davis took the gun away from Beausoleil and pointed it at Mr. Hinman while Manson sliced Mr. Hinman’s face open with a sword, cutting from his left ear down to his chin. Mr. Hinman was bandaged and put into bed, slipping in and out of consciousness. Davis and Manson drove back to the Ranch in Mr. Hinman’s Fiat station wagon. Brunner, Atkins, and Beausoleil remained at Mr. Hinman’s house for two more days while Mr. Hinman lay bleeding. Beausoleil eventually stabbed Mr. Hinman in the chest and smothered him with a pillow. Mr. Hinman’s badly decomposed body was found on July 31, 1969. Inside the home, the words “political piggy” and an animal paw print were drawn on the walls with Mr. Hinman’s blood.
On August 9 and 10, 1969, several Family members participated in the gruesome murders of Sharon Tate, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, and four other victims. See generally People v. Manson, supra, 61 Cal.App.3d 102. Davis did not participate in and was not charged with these crimes. Davis admits he found out about the Tate-LaBianca murders the next day.
Donald “Shorty” Shea was a stuntman and ranch hand at the Spahn Ranch. Manson Family members believed Mr. Shea was a police informant. In late August 1969, Manson and his followers discussed plans to kill Mr. Shea. Manson, in the presence of several members, including Davis, told them they were going to kill Mr. Shea because he believed that Mr. Shea was a “snitch.”
Around the evening of August 27, 1969, Mr. Shea asked longtime friend, Ruby Pearl, if he could stay at Mrs. Pearl’s home. Mr. Shea was very nervous and kept looking around, saying, “It gives me the creeps to stay here.” Mrs. Pearl had no place for Mr. Shea to stay. As she drove away, she saw a car pull up and several Manson members emerge from the car. She saw Davis, Manson, Charles “Tex” Watson, and Steven “Clem” Grogan approach and surround Mr. Shea. She left the area and never saw Mr. Shea again.
The following day, the Manson Family left the Spahn Ranch and went to the desert. According to trial testimony from Barbara Hoyt, Manson recounted the details of the Shea murder to a group of members. Manson said that “they had killed Shorty [Shea]” and “they cut him up in nine pieces.” Manson described how they had taken Mr. Shea for a ride, hit him in the head with a pipe, and then stabbed him repeatedly. Manson also related that Mr. Shea was “real hard” to kill until they “brought him to ‘now.”‘ (The term “now” to the Manson Family meant absence of thought.) Davis, agreeing with Manson’s description of the murder, stated: “Yeah, when we brought him to now, Clem cut his head off,” adding, “That was far out.” As Manson described the murder, Davis nodded his head and smiled several times. See People v. Manson (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 1, 21-22. Davis later bragged to one Family member, Alan Springer, that they had ways of taking care of “snitchers” and had already taken care of one. Davis told Springer, “We cut his arms, legs and head off and buried him on the ranch.”
Davis was arrested on December 7, 1970, after evading capture for over a year. He was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and robbery.
The question I must answer is whether Davis will pose a current danger to the public if released from prison. The circumstances of the crime can provide evidence of current dangerousness when the record also establishes that something in the inmate’s pre- or post-incarceration history, or the inmate’s current demeanor and mental state, indicate that the circumstances of the crime remain probative of current dangerousness. (In re Lawrence (2008) 44 Cal. 4th 1181, 1214.) In rare circumstances, the aggravated nature of the crime alone can provide a valid basis for denying parole even when there is strong evidence of rehabilitation and no other evidence of current dangerousness. (Id. at pp. 1211, 1214.)
The Board of Parole Hearings found Davis suitable for parole based on his lack of violent juvenile history, his few rules violations in prison, his participation in self-help programs, his risk rating, his age, his educational achievements, and his work ratings.
I acknowledge that Davis is now 74 years old and has been incarcerated for 46 years. He has not been disciplined for any misconduct for 25 years, and he has made efforts to improve himself while incarcerated. Davis has earned several vocational certifications, a master’s degree, and a doctorate degree. He regularly receives positive work ratings and he has continued to participate in self-help programs including Alcoholics Anonymous, Denial Management, and Victim Awareness. I commend Davis for taking these positive steps. But they are outweighed by negative factors that demonstrate he remains unsuitable for parole.
Bruce Davis and the Manson Family committed some of the most notorious and brutal killings in California’s history. With the perverse goal of starting a race war, Davis and other members of the Manson Family robbed, tortured, and killed numerous victims in Southern California in 1969. Davis himself participated in two of these calculated murders. He drove others to Gary Hinman’s house so they could rob him to finance their apocalyptic scheme. Davis returned to the scene two days later and held Mr. Hinman at gunpoint while Manson sliced his face open with a sword. Davis left Mr. Hinman in the hands of his fellow cult members, who extorted Mr. Hinman and allowed him bleed profusely before ultimately stabbing and strangling him to death. In the coming days, other Manson Family members committed the gruesome Tate and LaBianca murders, leaving behind bloody political messages in an attempt to prompt “social chaos.” Davis, Manson, and others later beat and stabbed Donald Shea to death, buried his body, and bragged about dismembering him. These cult murders have left an indelible mark on the public — the Manson Family is still feared to this day. Incredibly heinous and cruel offenses like these constitute the “rare circumstances” in which the crime alone can justify a denial of parole.
And these crimes aren’t the only evidence that Davis should not be released from prison — his continued minimization of his own violence and his role in the Manson Family further shows that he remains an unreasonable risk to the public. As I discussed in my previous decisions reversing Davis’s grants of parole, Davis has long downplayed his role in these murders and in the Manson Family. Although the Board granted him parole again in February 2017, he has done little to address my concerns.
Davis’s claim that he was a reluctant participant in these murders and the Manson Family is completely unconvincing. Davis told the psychologist who evaluated him in 2016 that while he “went very willingly in the Hinman case,” he became afraid when he saw Manson cut Mr. Hinman’s face and decided “I’m out of here…I made a decision, hey, I’m gone.” He said that he didn’t participate in the Family’s “creepy crawling” excursions because he was too scared. Davis continued, “But, with the Shea thing, I’m standing there, I’m like what am I gonna do? I would’ve liked to opt out, but what was I going to do?” He explained that he that he had “adopted Charlie [Manson] as my dad” and couldn’t leave the Family because he felt connected to Manson. At his 2017 parole hearing, Davis said that he “wanted to be a leader” of the Manson Family and “wanted to be Charlie’s favorite guy.” He claimed that he didn’t buy into Manson’s “silly” plan to provoke a revolution, but that he agreed with whatever Manson said because he was afraid of Manson’s “disapproval.” Davis explained, “I had convinced myself that if I don’t get directly involved…in anything that’s — that they’re doing wrong, then I’ll be all right.” When asked why he carved a swastika into his forehead in jail after his arrest, Davis responded, “It was just part of goin’ along…part of what they were doing.” These statements severely understate Davis’s active participation in these murders and the Manson Family. The 2016 psychologist concluded that Davis maintained “some ongoing blame toward others” and characterized himself as an unwilling participant in these crimes. The psychologist opined that “when it came to discussing the actual violence he engaged in, [Davis’s] insight was limited and he tended to deflect responsibility.” The psychologist continued, “[T]here is a dearth of deeper explanation of why he personally was willing to enact such violence and continue associating with people who executed such a plethora of additional violence.”
Davis’s statements show that he still has not come to terms with his central role in these murders and in the Manson Family. He was far from an unwilling participant. By his own account, Davis idolized an extremely violent cult leader — he wanted to be Manson’s favorite, did whatever Manson said, and wanted to help Manson lead the group — and actively participated in these two murders as a result. Although Davis tries to distinguish between himself and the other Family members by saying that he was simply associating with them to get drugs and girls, the fact is that he continued his active involvement with the Family even after witnessing firsthand the violent manifestation of their perverse ideology. Davis knew when he drove Manson and others to Mr. Hinman’s home that they planned to rob and kill him. Davis was aware of the stakes when he held Mr. Hinman at gunpoint and watched Manson cut into him with a sword. And Davis didn’t just happen to find himself present at Mr. Shea’s murder — he discussed it in advance with Manson and then helped stab Mr. Shea to death. Davis’s commitment to the Family continued well after his participation in these murders. He evaded capture for more than a year and ultimately branded himself with a swastika in jail along with the other Manson Family members. Davis’s portrayal of himself as a disinterested follower is belied by his repeated violent actions and his continued dedication to the Manson Family.
I am also disturbed by Davis’s apparent lack of remorse for his participation in these heinous murders. During his hearing, the Board questioned Davis’s remorse and empathy, observing, “[Y]ou say the right words, but do you really feel it? That didn’t really come out today.” The presiding commissioner reported that Davis was “smirking smugly” and smiled as he discussed the crimes. She explained, “It’s like you’re reminiscing about it…that’s why it’s disturbing.” The 2016 psychologist also had concerns about Davis’s “possible ongoing callousness, lack of empathy (especially for the victims’ families) poor judgment, and lack of remorse to an extent.” It is difficult to understand how someone could commit these extreme crimes and still, after more than four decades in prison and 32 parole hearings, show anything but profound regret and remorse. Davis’s demeanor demonstrates a chilling disregard for his victims and the families who mourn them, and the magnitude of his crimes.
I have considered the evidence in the record that is relevant to whether Bruce Davis is currently dangerous. When considered as a whole, I find the evidence shows that he currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison. Therefore, I reverse the decision to parole Bruce Davis.
Decision Date: June 23, 2017
EDMUND G. BROWN JR.
Governor, State of California
Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
Jun. 22 – Patricia Krenwinkel has been found unsuitable for parole by the Board of Parole Hearings, at a hearing held today at the California Institute for Women, in Chino. The hearing was a continuance of a December 29, 2016 hearing that was suspended after Krenwinkel’s attorney claimed his client had been a victim of intimate partner battering.
The decision to suspend the hearing enraged victims’ relatives who regularly attend Krenwinkel’s hearings to oppose her release.
Leno Labianca’s nephew, Lou Smaldino, called the decision “absurd.”
Jay Sebring’s nephew, Anthony DiMaria, filed a complaint with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, about what he considered to be troubling behavior exhibited by the board and its unusual reasoning in suspending the hearing to investigate Krenwinkel’s intimate partner battering claim.
In January, Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra, wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.
“Patricia Krenwinkel has been diagnosed as a sociopath more than once,” wrote Tate. “In the controlled environment of prison, she has done well. But she is still a dangerous woman. Krenwinkel — and all the members of the Manson family — should never be granted parole.”
Following the December hearing, the Board of Parole Hearings launched a formal investigation to determine whether Krenwinkel was a victim of intimate partner battering. According to the California penal code, parole boards are directed to put great weight to any evidence that, at the time of commission of the crime, an inmate had experienced intimate partner battering.
The investigation included interviews of former Manson family members in and outside of prison. According to multiple sources familiar with the investigation, the board interviewed Charles “Tex” Watson, Leslie Van Houten, Bruce Davis, Diane Lake, Steve Grogan, Catherine Share, Barbara Hoyt, Stephanie Schram and Sherry Cooper. Others were sought but not located. Charles Manson refused to be interviewed.
The investigation was completed on February 17, 2017 and the report concluded that Charles Manson used violence and manipulation towards the women in the family. Accordingly, the investigation ruled that Krenwinkel was a victim of intimate partner battering at the hands of Manson.
Today, the board discussed the findings of the investigation and again listened to arguments from both sides.
“Given the horrific dimension of Patricia Krenwinkel’s crimes, how profoundly her many victims suffered, the inexplicable disconnect exhibited in her statements, and the behavioral evidence defining an entrenched sociopath despite decades of rehabilitation,” DiMaria told the board. “It is only just and civil to deny Patricia Krenwinkel parole for the longest period of time.”
Despite the conclusions made in the investigation, the board found Krenwinkel was still unsuitable for release. Krenwinkel, now 69, is serving a life sentence for her role in the seven Tate-LaBianca murders. She was sentenced to death on March 29, 1971, but saw that sentence commuted to life when the death penalty was briefly outlawed in 1972. Today was the 14th time she has been denied parole since she became eligible in 1977. She will not be eligible for another hearing until 2022.
Monday, June 19th, 2017
Jun. 19 – The California Board of Parole Hearings has concluded that Patricia Krenwinkel was a victim of intimate partner battering at the hands of Charles Manson. Krenwinkel appeared before the parole board on December 29, 2016. Following a daylong hearing, the board reconvened after a two hour deliberation and issued a continuance to investigate abuse claims made by Krenwinkel’s attorney, Keith Wattley.
On October 10, 2016, Wattley wrote the Board of Parole Hearings to inquiry why an intimate partner battering investigation had never been conducted in Krenwinkel’s case, since it had all the hallmarks. According to Wattley, the board responded on October 21st stating in effect that they had enough information to conclude that she was a victim of intimate partner battering and if they needed more information, they’d conduct an investigation. During the December hearing, Wattley again questioned why a formal investigation had never been conducted.
“Why is there an aspect, a significant aspect of this case that has never been explored, investigated in the way that any other case would be?” questioned Wattley. “Well, obviously, this case gets a lot of different kinds of attention. I get that. But the fact is, the substantiation of that aspect of it is yet another factor the Board would have to weigh and it would weigh in favor of suitability.”
The penal code directs the board to put great weight to any information and evidence that, at the time of commission of the crime, the inmate had experienced intimate partner battering. Additionally, the code states that if an inmate presents evidence of intimate partner battering it cannot be used to support a finding that the inmate lacks insight into their crimes and its causes.
Following Krenwinkel’s December 2016 hearing, the Board of Parole Hearings launched a formal investigation, interviewing former Manson family members in and outside of prison. According to multiple sources familiar with the investigation, the report relied on information taken from interviews of Charles “Tex” Watson, Leslie Van Houten, Bruce Davis, Diane Lake, Steve Grogan, Catherine Share, Barbara Hoyt, Stephanie Schram and Sherry Cooper. Others were sought but not located. Charles Manson refused to be interviewed.
The investigation was completed on February 17, 2017 and the report concluded that Charles Manson used violence and manipulation towards the women in the family. Accordingly, the investigation ruled that Krenwinkel was a victim of intimate partner battering at the hands of Manson.
Krenwinkel’s hearing is scheduled to resume on Thursday. The board will go over the findings of the investigation, take comments from both sides and then a decision on parole suitability will be made.
Krenwinkel was last denied parole for seven years in 2011
Saturday, June 17th, 2017
Jun. 17 – The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has asked Judge Sam Ohta to deny Leslie Van Houten a hearing in the Superior Court, meanwhile Van Houten’s attorney continues to doggedly pursue disclosure of the Tex Watson tapes.
In January, Van Houten filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to People v. Franklin, contending she is entitled an opportunity to establish a record of mitigating evidence of her characteristics and circumstances at the time of the murders.
On May 4th, Judge Ohta ordered the District Attorney show cause as to why such a hearing shouldn’t be granted. Specifically, Ohta asked the District Attorney if Van Houten had previously had an adequate opportunity to create such a record; and if not, whether she is now entitled to make one now.
In a brief filed on June 1st, Deputy District Attorney Donna Lebowitz conceded that Van Houten did not have an opportunity to make such a record when her case was pending in the Superior Court, but did have ample time to prepare one for her April 14, 2016 parole hearing.
With the passage of a Senate Bill in October 2015, Van Houten became eligible for Youth Offender Parole, in which parole boards are instructed to put great weight on diminished culpability of juveniles and contrast it with any evidence of growth and maturity that has occurred since their commitment offense.
Lebowitz noted that Van Houten had 6 months to create a record to present the board, between the passage of the bill and her April 2016 parole hearing. Further, Lebowitz argued that at that parole hearing, Van Houten did submit onto the record, numerous factors in support of Youth Offender Parole. The factors included testimony about her family background, social history, adolescent development and juvenile criminal history; an interview with a forensic psychologist that discussed her childhood; and letters from people who knew Van Houten before the murders,
“It would be entirely redundant to allow [Van Houten] to duplicate in court, that which she has already presented to those making the ultimate decision on her parole suitability,” wrote Lebowitz.
Van Houten’s attorney, Rich Pfeiffer called Lebowitz’s argument disingenuous considering she was aware that Van Houten’s attorneys had sought the Tex Watson tapes continuously throughout the 18 months prior to the April 2016 hearing.
The Tex Watson tapes are the earliest known documented account of the Tate-LaBianca murders. Recorded before any codefendant account had been made public, the tapes provide an uninfluenced look into the two nights of murder which Watson led. The tapes consist of conversations Charles “Tex” Watson had with this Texas attorney, Bill Boyd. Watson waived his attorney-client privilege in order to have Boyd sell copies of the recordings in 1976 to Chaplin Ray Hoekstra, who was authoring a book on Watson.
In 2008, Boyd discussed having the tapes in an interview with writer Tom O’Neill. The following year, Boyd died suddenly after suffering a heart attack. Within months, his law firm went into bankruptcy.
The District Attorney’s office found out about the tapes in 2011, when O’Neill told Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequeira that he had been trying to acquire copies from Linda Payne, a bankruptcy trustee who possessed the recordings. O’Neill, through the help of an attorney, tried to convince Payne that privilege no longer existed. Going through two boxes of legal records Boyd had related to Watson’s case, Payne found Watson’s contract with Boyd, as well as the 1976 attorney-client privilege waiver signed by Watson when Boyd to turned over copies to Hoekstra.
Payne contacted Sequeria in March of 2012 and informed him that she would turn over the recordings to Los Angeles authorities. Watson fought the release for nearly a year but ultimately lost due to the contract and waiver. The Los Angeles Police Department took possession of the tapes in the spring of 2013.
Attorneys for Van Houten have sought copies of the tapes for nearly four years, but the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has refused to turn them over. A brief filed by Pfeiffer, chronicled efforts to obtain copies of the tapes dating all the way back to 2014.
In the Fall of 2014, Christie Webb, one of Ms. Van Houten’s attorneys, began calling the Los Angeles Police Department to determine whether they would be willing to participate in informal discovery with regard to audio tape(s) made by Charles “Tex” Watson made in or about 1969. On October 3, 2014, Ms. Webb spoke with someone in LAPD’s media relations who directed her to Greg Toyama, the supervisor of the Risk Management and Discovery Unit. Ms. Webb was then directed to the LAPD Detectives who were handling the audio tapes. Detective Dan Jenks directed Ms. Webb to the District Attorney’s office. Ms. Webb learned that LAPD had done a 40-page report about the content of the tapes.
On October 20, 2014, Ms. Webb spoke with John Morris, Head Deputy District Attorney, Parole Division. Ms. Webb informed Mr. Morris that she believed the tapes contained information about Ms. Van Houten that might be relevant to her parole suitability hearing. On December 10, 2014, Ms. Webb again spoke with Mr. Morris, who stated the “tape is in the possession of the LAPD,” and the police are “not inclined to participate in informal discovery.” Mr. Morris opined the tapes were not discoverable because there is “not any cross over” between the cases, meaning Ms. Van Houten’s case and Mr. Watson’s case. Mr. Morris stated he would check with the LAPD to see if Ms. Van Houten was mentioned in the tapes.
Ms. Webb again spoke with Mr. Morris on January 6, 2015, who agreed with the LAPD detectives that there was “no overlap” between the cases. Mr. Morris stated that Ms. Van Houten is “hardly mentioned at all” on the tapes. Most of the recording was Mr. Watson talking about his “drug upbringing” and “Manson’s control over him.” Therefore, the LAPD would not be participating in informal discovery of the tapes. Mr. Morris was informed that “control” exerted by Manson was a central issue in both cases, and that defense counsel would decide what to do about discovery of the audio tapes.
On March 26, 2015, Ms. Webb served a Deposition Subpoena for Production of Business Records to be served on the LAPD’s Custodian of Records-LAPD Discovery Unit. On March 31, 2015, Ms. Webb received an email in response to the service of the subpoena from Jess Gonzalez, Supervising Assistant City Attorney, Public Safety General Counsel Division, Police Discovery Section, who stated in the email that the District Attorney’s Office has placed a “hold” on the tapes and would not release them. Gonzalez suggested Ms. Webb contact the District Attorney’s Office.
Ms. Webb then wrote to Head Deputy John Morris in the District Attorney’s Office to confirm whether the “hold” on the tape(s) was still in place and if that was the position of both the District Attorney and LAPD. In response, Ms. Webb received a letter dated June 19, 2015, from Head Deputy John Morris. Mr. Morris stated that he had discussed Ms. Webb’s request for the tapes with LAPD Detective Jenks who was the investigating officer on the Manson Family Cases. The letter concluded: “The District Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office all agree that we cannot provide the tape(s) you have requested because there are unsolved crimes Manson Family members are suspected of committing. The information contained in the tape(s) are part of the investigation of those crimes and could be used to solve them. Releasing the tape(s) could endanger the investigation those (sic) crimes.”
On September 11, 2015, a petition for writ of mandate was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. On October 27, 2015, the superior court denied the writ petition. On November 13, 2015, a petition for writ of mandate was filed in the Second Appellate District, Division One. The court of appeal summarily denied the writ petition on November 19, 2015.
On December 2, 2015, a petition for review was filed in the California Supreme Court, case number S230851. On December 3, 2015, the Supreme Court ordered the District Attorney file an answer to the petition for review. The Court requested the District Attorney to:
“Please address the merits of the petition for review. If respondent is of the view that it would assist the court in its consideration and disposition of the petition for review, respondent may lodge, conditionally and confidentially with the court, a copy of any audio tape recordings of interviews with Charles “Tex” Watson in the possession of the Los Angeles Police Department and/or the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, and any report made by the Los Angeles Police Department regarding the contents of the recordings.”
On December 21, 2016, the District Attorney filed the answer and basically argued that their position throughout the entire matter was that “Manson was in complete control of the ‘family’ who committed the murders at his behest.” The District Attorney argued that this position made the tapes cumulative, because it was the same position relied upon by all parties in the underlying trials. Additionally, the “People do not believe it is necessary for the Court to arduously labor through the 326 pages of rambling musings about LSD, secret worlds beneath Death Valley and bizarre racial theories.” On February 3, 2016, the Supreme Court denied review.
Pfeiffer rejected Lebowitz’s argument that a parole consideration hearing would be the appropriate venue to create a record in support of Youth Offender Parole. The District Attorney has previously asserted that there is no post-trial discovery process to assist an inmate to compel discovery at a parole suitability hearing. Without discovery, Van Houten has no way to subpoena the Tex Watson tapes. Pfeiffer noted that the District Attorney’s office has used his efforts against Van Houten. In the April 2016 hearing Lebowitz suggested Pfeiffer’s efforts to get the Tex Watson tapes was an example of Van Houten not taking responsibility for her crimes. When the Board of Parole Hearings recommended Van Houten for parole, District Attorney Jackie Lacey wrote Governor Jerry Brown. Lacey was critical of a letter of support Van Houten received from a psychologist that she was getting therapy from. Lacey argued that Van Houten was attempting to manipulate the parole board by submitting a psychological assessment of insight by a private clinician.
“A Franklin hearing is the only way Ms. Van Houten can compel discovery so the parole board and the Governor will have all of the relevant information to use in making their important decisions in this case,” wrote Pfeiffer. “Due to the past conduct and allegations made by Jackie Lacey, Ms. Van Houten cannot even submit an expert’s report that deals with the science of a youthful offender parole hearing. A Franklin hearing is the only safe way to make such a record.”
Lebowitz also argued Van Houten in not entitled to a hearing pursuant to People V. Franklin because Van Houten’s case is distinguishable from Franklin’s.
In 2011, 16 year-old Tyris Lamar Franklin, shot and killed Gene Deshawn Grisby-Bell, also 16, after Bell had reportedly gotten into an altercation with Franklin’s younger brother. Franklin was subsequently convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive 25 year-to-life terms. The California Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, but ruled that Franklin did not have adequate opportunity to create a record of factors of youth. The case was sent back to the Superior Court where Franklin would be allowed to present mitigating evidence in support of his future youth offender parole hearings.
In opposition to Van Houten’s request for a similar hearing, Lebowitz noted differences between the two cases. Franklin would not be eligible for parole for 25 years, whereas Van Houten had not only been eligible for decades, she has already had several parole hearings. The motivation for the Franklin ruling was that the court felt compiling an accurate record of characteristics and circumstances of a juvenile offender would be best done at the time of the offense.
“[In Van Houten’s case], not only have more than four decades passed, but, memories have faded, and family members have, in fact, passed away,” wrote Lebowitz. “The rationale behind Franklin is completely inapplicable to this case.”
Pfeiffer feels Lebowitz’s argument in opposition of a Franklin hearing, only bolsters Van Houten’s need for the Tex Watson tapes.
“In applying that rational[sic] to this case, the tapes were made at the time of the offense, and were not influenced by any outside source,” argued Pfeiffer. “Memories have faded away and witnesses have relocated and/or passed away. Justice is fortunate to have the tapes to make this record.”