Sept. 19 – Attorneys representing Leslie Van Houten are still pursuing disclosure of the Tex tapes, despite a ruling last week denying them access.
On September 12, Judge William Ryan denied Van Houten access to the recordings, reasoning that she wasn’t entitled to discovery and even if she was, the tapes only contained information already well known.
“Watson does talk about in several places how Charles Manson had a powerful influence over him and other members of the Manson family, but that information is also very well know, and to which Van Houten can testify,” wrote Ryan in his denial. “Releasing the transcript would therefore add nothing to the record that is not already well known.”
Yesterday, Van Houten’s attorney, Richard Pfeiffer, filed a motion to reconsider. In an eleven page brief, Pfeiffer, along with attorney Nancy Tetreault, reiterated the importance of the tapes, as well as Van Houten’s rights to access.
Pfeiffer feels the tapes are further evidence of Manson’s control over the family and wants to use them to impeach statements made by former Manson family member Barbara Hoyt. In Van Houten’s 2013 parole hearing, Hoyt minimized Manson’s control when she stated that family members came and went on their own free will, while Van Houten chose to stay. Governor Jerry Brown relied heavily on Hoyt’s statements in his reversal of Van Houten’s 2016 parole grant.
“When only one witness makes statements that contradict other statements relied upon by the Governor to reverse a grant of parole, the Governor can arguably rely on whichever statements he chooses,” Pfeiffer argues. “However, when multiple credible witnesses make the same statements that contradict a single witness, the Governor will have a difficult time relying on the statements of a single witness. That is what is at issue here. Ms. Van Houten and Hoyt’s statements contradict each other and the Governor chose to rely on Hoyt’s statements.”
Pfeiffer and Tetreault also delve into Van Houten’s rights to due process under the fourteenth amendment. The motion argues that the District Attorney’s withholding of the Tex tapes meets the criteria of Brady v. Maryland, which mandates the disclosure of evidence favorable to the accused, which is suppressed by the state, resulting in prejudice.
The Board of Parole Hearings found Van Houten suitable for parole on September 6 and following a review period, Governor Brown will have until February 3, 2018 to weigh in on the decision.
“All other factors in weighing Ms. Van Houten’s parole suitability are favorable,” argues Pfeiffer. “Therefore, any evidence that mitigates the commitment offense is essential. Denying access to that evidence is prejudicial.”