Aug. 22 – The California Supreme Court will take more time to decide whether to review or deny a petition filed by Leslie Van Houten which challenges Governor Gavin Newsom’s reversal of her 2019 parole recommendation.
The petition, filed on July 7th, argues the Governor’s decision was not supported by evidence of current dangerousness; due process was violated when Van Houten was denied access to the Tex Watson tapes; and that the notoriety of the crime creates a conflict of interest for Newsom, because his political career could be negatively impacted if he allowed Van Houten’s parole grant to stand.
The state’s attorney general told the court Van Houten’s petition should be denied.
“None of Van Houten’s specific challenges to the Governor’s decision has merit,” wrote Deputy Attorney General Jennifer O. Cano, in an answer filed on July 27th. “The Governor properly relied on the seriousness of her murders in his decision to deny her parole, and was not required to consider the Tex Watson tapes, which are not part of the parole record. Van Houten’s conflict-of-interest claim is also without merit as the Governor is constitutionally authorized to review parole decisions for convicted murderers — a review that is independent from the Board’s.”
On July 31st, Van Houten filed a 21-page reply to the attorney general’s answer.
Van Houten was found suitable for parole for the third time on January 30, 2019. Newsom reversed the decision on June 3, 2019, stating Van Houten lacked insight and must take additional steps to demonstrate she will never return to the type of submission or violence again. The decision was upheld in the Superior court on January 31, 2020. California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal also upheld the reversal in a 2-to-1 vote on July 2nd.
Justice Virginia Chaney was the lone dissenter, as was the case last year when the same court heard Van Houten’s appeal of former Governor Jerry Brown’s reversal of her 2017 parole grant.
“I would issue an order to show cause why the petition should not be granted because I find no evidence in the record to support the Governor’s conclusion that [Van Houten] currently poses an unreasonable risk to public safety if released on parole,” Chaney wrote in her dissent. “I also would issue an alternative writ directing the superior court to vacate that part of its September 11, 2019 order denying [Van Houten’s] request for the transcripts of taped interviews of Charles “Tex” Watson conducted in December 1969 and January 1970 and then issue a new and different order granting same, or show cause why it elected not to do so.”
Van Houten has since been recommended for parole for a fourth time, at a hearing held last month. The grant is currently being reviewed by the Board of Parole Hearings. Then it will be reviewed by Governor Gavin Newsom, who will either confirm, reverse or modify the parole grant. The decision will be finalized no later than November 20th.
The California Supreme Court will have until October 5th to decide whether to review or deny Van Houten’s petition related to her 2019 reversal.