Bruce Davis Granted Parole for Fifth Time

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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Feb. 1 – For the fifth time in seven years, a California parole board has found Bruce Davis suitable for release. The decision was made earlier today, at Davis’ 31st parole hearing, held at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.

The parole board’s decision will undergo a 120-day review, after which Governor Jerry Brown will have 30 days to reverse, modify, affirm or decline to review the decision.

Davis, 74, serving a life term for his role in the 1969 murders of Gary Hinman and Donald “Shorty” Shea, has previously been recommended for parole in the past four consecutive hearings, but has seen all four of those recommendations reversed by the Governor’s office during the executive review process.

Davis turned himself in outside of the Hall of Justice on December 7, 1970, after evading capture for nearly a year. Davis’ trial began in late 1971 and lasted four months. On March 14, 1972, Davis was convicting on two counts of First Degree Murder and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Murder and Robbery. Judge Raymond Choate sentenced Davis to a life term the following month.

“These were vicious murders indicating a depraved state of mind on the part of the defendant,” said Choate during sentencing. “I don’t want to give the impression that he was at all a dupe or the foil of Charles Manson. Davis is much older than most of the youngsters that were led by Manson. He is more intelligent and educated and more capable of independent reasoning. For reasons only known to him, he did not exercise that reasoning.”

Davis has only two rules infractions in over four decades of incarceration, the last one occurring over 37 years ago. He received a write-up in 1975 for sharpening a spoon and one for conduct in 1980. Davis has received a Master’s degree from Borean School of the Bible and a Doctorate degree in philosophy and religion from Bethany Seminary, graduating summa cum laude. While incarcerated Davis has married and fathered a child. His marriage has since ended in divorce.

“Bruce is the single most rehabilitated inmate I’ve represented in the California prison system,” wrote attorney Michael Beckman, who has represented Davis since 2000.

After receiving 23 consecutive one-year denials, Bruce Davis was recommended for parole for the first time on January 28, 2010. The decision, however, was reversed in June of 2012 by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who wrote, “I believe his release would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society at this time.”

In preparation for Davis’ 2012 hearing, the first hearing since Davis’ initial recommendation, the District Attorney’s office did two things. Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequeira actively sought out next-of-kin from the Hinman and Shea families, who thus far had never attended any of Davis’ hearings. Sequeira wanted to notify the families of the upcoming hearing, perhaps hopeful they would provide impact statements to appeal to the board.

Sequeira also began pressing to acquire the 1969 tape-recorded statements made by Charles “Tex” Watson with his Texas attorney, Bill Boyd. Publicly, the Los Angeles Police Department sought the recordings for possible clues for unsolved crimes. But within the District Attorney’s office, where efforts to acquire the tapes had originated, Sequeira was hopeful that the tapes could provide material for him to use at Davis’ upcoming parole hearing.

Sequeira was unable to get the tapes in time for the hearing, but managed to secure statements from relatives of Gary Hinman and Donald Shea. Kay Martley, Gary Hinman’s cousin and Phyllis Shea Murphy, Donald Shea’s first wife, submitted impact statements. Neither Martley nor Murphy attended the hearing, but their statements were read to the parole board by Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra Tate and former Manson family member, Barbara Hoyt.

Despite their efforts, Davis was recommended for parole for the second time. After the decision passed its initial review, newly appointed District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, pleaded with California Governor Jerry Brown to reverse the decision.

“Davis has been diagnosed with narcissistic and antisocial personality traits. He consistently blames everyone but himself for his criminal and antisocial behavior,” wrote Lacey. “It is evident that Davis lacks insight, genuine remorse and understanding of the gravity of his crimes.”

On March 1, 2013, Governor Brown reversed the parole board’s decision stating Davis was still unsuitable for release into society because of the heinous nature of the crimes. Brown’s reversal highlighted areas where, over the years, he felt Davis had minimized his role in both the Manson family and their crimes. The governor also questioned how truthful Davis had been, stating as an example, that Davis hadn’t mentioned Larry Jones being present during the Shea murder until his 2010 parole hearing.

“Davis’s choice to withhold information regarding the crimes and the identity of a potential crime partner indicates to me that his commitment to the Manson Family still exceeds his commitment to the community,” wrote Brown.

Davis came up for parole again in March of 2014 and this time Kay Martley attended the hearing in person. It was the first time a family member of one of Davis’ victims had attended one of his hearings. The board commended Davis on his institutional programming and once again found him suitable. Five months later, on the weekend of the 45th anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders, Governor Brown once again reversed Davis’ parole grant.

“I asked Davis to explain why he has shielded other Family members from prosecution by withholding information about these crimes, and to finally reveal what he knows,” Brown wrote in his reversal decision. “I asked him to reconcile his version of being a follower with the evidence that he was a leader who actively championed the Family’s values. He did not address these concerns at his most recent parole hearing. For the same reasons I articulated last year, I find that Davis is not suitable for parole.”

Davis came before the board again in August of 2015 and for the second consecutive hearing, so did Kay Martley.

“Although it has been 46 years since Gary was murdered, the passing of time has not diminished the impact of this horrendous crime and our family continues to serve a life sentence of heartbreak, grief, and loss,” Martley told the board. “I’m here today to respectfully ask the Board to require Mr. Davis to serve a sentence that is no less than the one my family is now serving, a term of life.”

Despite this plea, the parole board found Davis suitable for release and again his fate went onto the Governor’s desk where months later the decision was overturned.

“The horror of the murders committed by the Manson family in 1969 and the fear they instilled in the public will never be forgotten,” wrote Brown when reversing Davis’ parole recommendation in January of 2016. “I have reversed grants of parole to Davis twice before, not only because of his atrocious crimes, but also because he minimized the nature and extent of his responsibility for these murders and his role in the Manson family.”

The District Attorney’s office view Davis as an unreasonable risk to society while Beckman sees him as a reformed man that has become a political prisoner because of his link to Manson. There’s little reason to believe anything will be different this time around.

It’s been nearly four years since the District Attorney’s office took possession of the Tex Watson tapes. Despite their eagerness to get them to use at parole hearings, to date, they never have.

“If they contained anything negative about Bruce,” wrote Beckman, “you can be certain the DA would have trotted it in as soon as the tapes became available.”

Governor Brown will have until July 1st to weigh in on the decision.

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13 Responses to Bruce Davis Granted Parole for Fifth Time

  1. Lee says:

    I find it a little strange that other murderers, say, as an example Arthur Shawcross (The Genesee River Killer) was paroled after only 12 years for RAPING & MURDERING two CHILDREN. The reason I give that example is because the violent nature of that man’s crimes is way more brutal than what Bruce Davis did, yet, ol Arthur was released and Davis is still locked up. I’m no bleeding heart by any means, but Bruce Davis is an old man. He isn’t a danger to society any more. It’s ridiculous to keep having parole hearings if they know he won’t ever get past that last step of that governor having the last word.

  2. flip says:

    Lee, your point may be accurate but, if it is, I’d say that it screams for more social outrage against the Arthur Shawcross parole decision rather than supports leniency for Bruce Davis.

    As a jailhouse convert to Christianity, Davis may be leading a useful life within the confines of prison. And I emphasize, “may”…it is not completely obvious that he is doing any profound good with his prison ministry, which, by the way was also closely connected with the self-serving jailhouse Christian ministry of his hideous friend Tex Watson. I think most people seriously doubt whether Davis could add anything of value to society outside
    of prison.

  3. Trumpabump says:

    5 times? Wtf? Waste of taxpayers money by now. What is the actual point of a hearing?
    At this point it needs to go higher up court for a decision ON THE DECISION. Talk about a waste of time/money.
    When someone, anyone is given permission to leave prison 5 times in a row and the Governer Vito’s it this many times it’s time for the governer to stay out of state prisons buisness. There’s only 2 or three states that even use their governors since their only concern is what they look like politically.

  4. flip says:

    Well, Trumpabump–it is the governor’s legal right and responsibility to review parole board recommendations of this type. That is, it is most definitely the governor’s business. Frankly, I’m glad that an elected official has the right to veto the recommendations of (unelected) parole boards when their parole recommendations of murderers are determined to be out of touch with reality.

    I have no idea how parole board members actually qualify for their jobs or how they are appointed but having read a number of parole hearing transcripts I’d say that generally their competence and attention to detail is spotty at best.

    Parole boards are responsible for releasing some very hideous criminals back into mainstream society and it sometimes looks very arbitrary when they do.

  5. cielodrive.com says:

    BPH Commissioners are appointed by the Governor and Deputy Commissioners are civil servants.

  6. flip says:

    Thank you for the clarification, cielodrive. Of further interest (if you know): Do the appointed BPH Commissioners generally hang on to their appointments through multiple gubernatorial changes, or is the slate often swept clean when a new governor is elected?

    BPH Deputy Commissioners…hmmm, I wonder what Civil Service career arc leads to that specific (unelected) job. The Deputies must be appointed by the full Commissioner-level folks, right? I wonder how that gets done, because it is certainly well under the radar of the typical citizen….

  7. Eileen says:

    Ironic to use his age…while his victims never had the chance to achieve what their murderer has. Compare all you must…it will NEVER equate.

  8. creepy karpis says:

    letting any of these murderers out is political suicide and even the moronic left wing liberal bed wetting bleeding heart CA politicians know that much.

    even BHO knew better than pardon any manson gang crew

  9. dianne b says:

    Bruce smile and eyes speak volumes.

  10. Eric Beck says:

    Let’s be honest folks. Would you want Bruce Davis moving in next door to you? If we can’t provide justice to the victims of this murderer because we lack the fortitude to execute him, we should at least have the common-sense to protect society by giving him life in prison.

  11. Fayez Abedaziz says:

    Lee, you really hit the nail on the head.
    What exactly does that mean, when the most hideous, sick crimes are committed, such as against children, as in the example you gave, and yet, wow, this guy or girl( Manson associated) committed one murder so some people are just aghast, aghast, I tell you (sarcasm) that Leslie or Bruce be allowed parole. Leslie didn’t even kill anyone!
    Unfair is unfair.
    If I may say, several months ago, I saw and approached a former governor of here, Colorado in a coffee shop in Denver. I said hi good to see ya, and,
    I said, some states allow a governor to veto a parole. This good guy sure was surprised.
    He said, what? I didn’t know that! I said yeah, he vetoed Leslie’s parole. I said, that was
    wrong. But hundreds of murderers in California alone were released. What the hell!

  12. Sug Michael says:

    I beg to differ. There was a rapist here in Tampa, who was also from California, who raped a 15 year old girl, cut both her forearms off and threw her off an embankment. The ONLY reason she survived, is she crawled out and got dirt in the wounds that stopped the bleeding and notified a passerby. He arrives in Tampa, after NO ONE in California wanted him because of early release on parole, and at the age of 69, he attacked a woman and stabbed her multiple times, earning him the death penalty in Florida. His name was Lawrence Singleton. The prosecutor said if anything, he’s WORSE now. We didn’t get the chance to watch him fry in old Sparky, he died of cancer at the age of 74.

  13. Marigold says:

    Yet, ” LEE” you do not want Leslie out!!! You socially retarded jerk!!!

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