The reversal of Leslie Van Houten’s 2017 parole grant has been upheld by the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
A parole board found Van Houten suitable for parole in September, but the decision was reversed by Governor Jerry Brown, who reasoned that the heinousness of the murders outweighed Van Houten’s positive prison record. Brown also accused Van Houten of downplaying her role in the murders, saying she attempted to shift blame to Charles Manson.
In January, Van Houten’s attorney, Richard Pfeiffer filed a writ of Habeas Corpus challenging Brown’s reversal, arguing the decision relied on isolated negative factors to support the conclusion that Leslie Van Houten posed an unreasonable risk if released.
In a ruling today, Judge William C. Ryan stated there was some evidence supporting Governor Brown’s decision.
“The Governor met all due process requirements, and considered all relevant statutory factors tending to show suitability, including positive psychological reports,” wrote Ryan. “This court is not entitled to reweigh the evidence before the Governor; rather it is tasked with determining whether the record contains some evidence in support of the Governor’s decision. This court finds that it does, and that there is a rational nexus between the evidence in the record and the Governor’s determination of [Van Houten’s] current dangerousness.”
This evening, Pfeiffer sought relief from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal, filing 48-page writ challenging Ryan’s ruling.
Van Houten, was sentenced to death in 1971 for her part in the August 10, 1969 murder deaths of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. The following year, Van Houten saw her sentence commuted to life after the California supreme court outlawed the death penalty, stating it was unconstitutional. In 1976, an appeals court ruled Van Houten was denied a fair trial because her attorney, Ronald Hughes, disappeared while the trial was in progress.
Van Houten was retried in 1977, resulting in a hung jury. She was retried the following year and again convicted, this time sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. Because of time served on her original sentence, Van Houten was already eligible for parole when she returned to prison in August of 1978.
Since then, she has been denied parole 19 times. She has been recommended for parole in her last two consecutive parole hearings. Both decisions have been reversed by Governor Brown.
Her next parole hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 2019.