California Supreme Court Delays Van Houten Decision

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020


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.

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27 Responses to California Supreme Court Delays Van Houten Decision

  1. Cybele Moon says:

    I have to confess, these Tex Tapes are intriguing. They may contain nothing new but I think they should be public.

    As for LVH, I’m sure everything is going to be held till the last moment and then it will still go round and round. How old is she now, 71 or 72? Although I would have preferred 100 years for all of them or whatever it would have taken to keep them in for a lifetime, as things go she has served close to a life term- all her youth and the endless possibilities of an era are over for her. I can’t imagine what life would even be like for her now if she emerges into the chaos of today’s political and social upheaval in America plus the Covid virus. She would need to be isolated. Life outside might still be a prison. I say that with sadness and not in glee. We are all held accountable for our actions in varying degrees. She chose a horrific path that demanded a huge price. That doesn’t end just by being released from an institution however the outcome of all these petitions and court proceedings. Lawyers might win a legal battle but no one has won in this tragic and horrifying story of lost lives on every level.

  2. Nicole says:

    She didn’t kill anybody. Secondly had the crime not involved celebrity they’d all would’ve been released years ago aside from Charlie and Tex. You obviously have read false accounts on the crimes if you even read anything besides a headline

  3. Cybele Moon says:

    Hey Nicole,
    have you been following any of the threads here? False accounts?
    Really!! I guess going on a murder mission ( she knew) and or holding someone down for some one else to stab isn’t murder?” oh and..

    “And I took one of the knives, and Patricia had one a knife, and we started stabbing and cutting up the lady,” Van Houten testified in 1971

    yes this has been a famous story. unfortunate for Leslie I guess.

  4. Michael says:

    Even if Leslie had not stabbed Mrs. LaBianca, she surely would have been guilty of murder, both legally and morally. Both nights were cases of murder in concert, and everyone played their part and shares culpability.

    I think Leslie herself would agree with that.

    And Cybele, you’re right about winning. In this miserable story the word can’t apply to anyone.

  5. Cybele Moon says:

    exactly Michael. I agree and thank you for reading as I don’t think Nicole did judging from her response which didn’t relate to anything I mentioned.

  6. Michael says:

    You know, reading these comments over again, I get tired of the argument that these killers are doing longer sentences just because one of their victims was a celebrity. (Actually, there were two celebrities killed – Sebring and Tate – and a third prominent figure – Folger.)

    Sharon Tate’s celebrity status plays into it, I’m sure. But it’s also the perverse celebrity status of the killers themselves that works against them.

    Manson, especially, became an icon, and his followers share second billing. Their bizarre motive, method of killing, lifestyle prior to the crimes, and well publicized antics during the trial, all combined to make them famous in their own right, a fame they would have earned no matter who they killed. They’re not where they are just because of the celebrity status of a victim. They’re where they are because they made themselves into celebrities.

  7. JNL says:

    Michael – They reveled in their infamy during the court proceedings. I think Van Houten’s actions during and immediately after the court and sentence phases have definitely impacted the public’s perceptions of her. It come across as duplicitous when LVH, and the others, claim it is only the name Manson that has added to her incarceration.

    Cybele Moon – I think Leslie hit 71 yesterday (Sunday). Seventy one going on 100. Her face shows a double burden. Knowing that her name will always be associated as a murderess. Knowing that she turned her back on her family and chose Manson and his gang as her new ‘Family.” She ended up sacrificing her adult life for Charles Manson. What an astonishingly awful decision.

  8. Legion says:

    Its curious why those Tex Watson tapes haven’t been released for over 50 years, “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”. Someone has a vested interest in keeping that information suppressed. Also, the research Tom O’Neil has uncovered over the last 20 years, all factually based evidenced information, speaks to some incredible things that from a Legal standing could implicate Bugliosi’s prosecution, the state, and essentially have all imprisoned “Manson followers” released, immediately, as they should’ve been decades ago. Outside the reality the Plutocracy feeds this world lives truths that can only be known by one seeking them. Everything else is provided for you to believe. Wake up dear…, it’s time to RISE.

  9. Cybele Moon says:

    Legion? – a strange name lol. “my name is Legion for we are many?”

    I read Chaos but was not as enamoured of it as you, it still remains theories and not factual at all. O’Neil’s interviews with a bunch of rather dubious characters were bizarre. However, he had some interesting points too. I doubt that the Tex tapes will get them all released! Why? Because they did what they did. No one else killed the victims. I believe it’s possible though that the tapes might refer to other murders by the Manson family. Tex requested that they not be released apparently a long time ago for what reason who knows. Oh and he was the one who smiled when he described the victims running around in panic like chickens. Now he’s a born again Christian.

    There was an interesting documentary recently, about two young women stabbed to death at that time in the same area. The tapes were mentioned during the episode and the murders have never been solved.

    JNL I agree.

    Michael, very good point. The murderers became famous or infamous. We still are talking about them to this day!!

  10. Michael says:

    Legion, to hear someone advocating for LVH’s release also call for people to “rise” is pretty disturbing, whether you meant it to be or not. You are aware, aren’t you, that Pat used the LaBianca’s blood to write “Arise” in on their walls after they were butchered, and that Leslie helped in the butchering?

  11. Christy says:

    Legion you sure that “someone “ isn’t Tex himself? He is still eligible for parole so are you referring to him with the group that would be released immediately? Or could it be he doesn’t want any more murders to come to light since it won’t help his cause?

    Just because it’s common belief he will never be paroled, and he probably knows this, doesn’t mean he no longer has hopes and/or doesn’t want any other crimes to hurt this or clobber the reputation he’s tried to build as a reformed person.

  12. Daniel Mulcahy says:

    My guess, for what it is worth, is that the Supreme Court will privately be aware that the governor is, to say the least, highly selective in his reasoning but that he has done nothing unlawful. I suspect it is very unlikely that it will rule in favor LVH. The US establishment appears to be playing the long game here, and LVH will likely die in prison with the probation process ongoing.

    In parallel with this, there seems to have been an intervening parole board recommendation for release which awaits a decision from the governor of California. So, LVH appears to have two bites at the cherry this time. Or an illusion of a cherry.

    On the latter, I expect there is going to be a repeat of the parole board recommendation to release being overturned by the governor. Whether or not you agree that LVH should be freed, this in indicative of a system in bad shape. There is expense involved in the parole hearing, renewed distress for the relatives of the victims and false hope raised for the offender. Moreover, parole board members must feel over time that their efforts are pointless as the outcome if effectively determined before they begin. So, a vicious circle arises whereby LVH has a legal right to a parole hearing, the governor overrules the board, then people ask why bother having a parole review, the response being it is a legal requirement.

    The decisions made the governor are likely of a political nature. And he surely doesn’t inwardly believe his own reasoning, based as it is on cherry picking elements of the testimony and spinning these into a predetermined conclusion. However, it simply isn’t feasible for him to openly say he will always veto any proposal to release LVH. He knows, with 100% certainty, that the Supreme Court would find this a denial of due process. He is therefore “forced” to go through the motions of this bogus process.

    But, is this a bad thing or, as others have legitimately argued, a good example of democracy in action? Should the decision not rest with the accountable governor rather than the unelected parole board? Decisions to release violent offenders are never popularly welcomed, particularly in an emotive case such as this. The governor is doing what he thinks (and the is surely correct in this) the majority of the California electorate want – in effect the decision is being made by the people, for the people, by the governor acting as their proxy. Decisions to deny parole are never controversial, and the governor is making an easy decision that is what the public want and therefore best for his career (win-win).

    There are several counterpoints to this, which have been rehearsed on this website. For instance, LVH treatment is unfair in comparison to worse killers who have been released because their cases have lower media profile, LVH has good prison record and, for all the horror of her crimes, it is almost inconceivable she would if released got on to commit another violent offence. Jerry and Gavin get round this latter (and crucial) point by dubiously asserting that even if she is unlikely to pose a threat on her own initiative, she could be manipulated into bad deeds by another evil guru.

    Perhaps underlying all of this is the way the USA parole system works. Here in the UK, we are faced with the same basic issue, ie parole for violent criminals is never welcomed and occasionally causes public outcry, whipped up by the media. Refusal of parole passes without comment, except from relatives of the offender and they are easily ignored. The political line of least resistance is always to deny parole. However, a key difference in the UK is that the parole board DECIDES rather than RECOMMENDS. Their decision can be contested by government minister (with responsibility in this respect comparable to state governor), but only in very rare cases where the decision is considered unlawful, not on the basis of spurious opinions such as those offered by Jerry and Gavin. There are maybe advantages to the UK model: the parole board is independent of govt and able to make consistent decisions over time unfettered by changing political climate; the parole board are trained in these matters and are able to review cases in great detail; the board is not beholden to media pressure; and the govt can blame the parole board for extremely unpopular decisions.

    I don’t know what the answer is. But the California parole system, with its inbuilt flaws, is a strange beast. Rarely, in a country as advanced as USA, do we come across an official system that is deliberately, by design, so dysfunctional.

    Of a matter of interest – and I know some will say this is irrelevant and others not – does anyone know how LVH came to be involved on the night of the murders of Mr and Mrs LaBianca? I have seen two conflicting versions, 1) that she enthusiastically volunteered to go to prove her “worth” or 2) that Manson thought she was flakey and a risk of informing on the Tate atrocities; he therefore insisted she be actively involved in the LaBianca muders to bind her to the crimes. Thanks.

  13. Cybele Moon says:

    Hey Daniel ( I also lived in the UK and Ireland before coming to Canada). Interesting points. I know a few people died in jail over there like Myra Hindley.
    This has been a passionate debate and I pop by to see if there is anything new so wanted to acknowledge your post.

    There have been a few trials of the century in America in the 1900’s, Leopold and Loeb, the Lindburgh baby kidnapping, The Manson family and OJ Simpson.

    As for your last question, I was one of those who thought she volunteered but was told that was incorrect and I can’t find anything to verify it. However, I do believe she admitted she felt “left out” after the Tate murders and was only too happy to go along on the second night whether chosen or not.
    What actual justice is who can say. I am not unhappy she is still in jail at 71 and has paid a hefty (some think undeserved) price. Whether others have been released or not who may have committed gruesome crimes this definitely was a gruesome crime, and whether she did or did not strike a fatal blow ( thus not as culpable as the rest?) she was an active participant and a life sentence is not unwarranted – but the meaning of a life sentence seems to vary from state to state and court to court.

  14. Stephen Craig says:

    Over the years I have watched numerous interviews with LVH, and do remember her stating on more than one occasion that although (after learning from PK about the carnage that had transpired at the Polanski house the night before) she never specifically stated that she wanted to participate if more murder was to occur, she did, however, “let it be known” through certain actions and comments that she was eager to participate if the opportunity to kill again arose (which obviously it did). She also stated that she had felt it was her duty to participate; that the others (those sent out to kill) were doing what they believed should be done (ignite Helter Skelter) and that if she shared their “vision”, she should be willing to do so as well.

  15. Cybele Moon says:

    Stephen, I’m not sure what your point is except maybe to try to mitigate again by saying “well, she never specifically stated” but “however she let it be known”…. The fact remains that she did endorse Charly’s vision of murder and mayhem on society and she did go voluntarily and she did participate.
    I have since watched a documentary about Patty Hearst’s involvement with the radical SLA (netflix or Prime) – very interesting – and she got off ( a pardon) because of wealth and fame for sure. She was totally guilty and committed to that group for a time until it came to it’s tragic end!!
    and also about the Weathermen, a radical group that blew things up in protest with the difference being that they tried to make sure no one was around to get hurt when they did it.

    If you have a chance do watch the Patty Hearst story.

  16. Michael says:

    Leslie has stated repeatedly over the years that she wanted to go, felt the need to prove she was a “good soldier” and had even felt left out by not being asked to go the first night.

    Once she got onto the “battlefield” (inside the LaBianca home) where she faced the enormity of what they were about to do, it seems she became less enthusiastic. But that hardly negates her zeal for joining in on the murders and her brazen lack of empathy after the fact. (Not true of her now, I believe, but that was certainly true of her during the trial.)

  17. Stephen Craig says:

    Cybele:

    I guess the point I was trying to make(perhaps awkwardly) was to reiterate that LVH was a willing participant in the murders she was convicted of, and that in her own way did “volunteer” to accompany the others on the second night of killings. She knew what the Families intent was as the left Spahn Ranch that evening, and she was prepared to kill. This she has said herself. so, for those who may contend LVH didn’t “know what she was getting into” that night, according to her, she did.

  18. Cybele Moon says:

    fair enough Stephen! I think I read on the fb site that the court denied the request for a review of the 2019 reversal so now once again it’s in the Governor’s hands.
    She has a tough lawyer this time around who will leave no stone unturned but whether that will be enough, remains to be seen.
    It seems that a majority of public opinion ( though not all) is still for the most part against her and the Governor is well aware of that. – something about the will of the people? Who knows, everything is in upheaval now. I’m sure this tale will go down in the historic annals of the American experience and sociology.

  19. Daniel Mulcahy says:

    for Cybele and Stephen:

    Thank you very much for your advice on how LVH came to be involved on that terrible night all those years ago.

    Everyone here has of course heard of the OJ Simpson case. I’m also aware of the Lindburgh case and the legal change it gave rise to. I googled Leopold and Loeb, so thanks for that.

    Myra Hindley was a symbol of evil in the national psych, at least until her death, in a similar way to Charles Manson in USA. Parents stopped calling their baby daughters Myra and the name is now almost obsolete here.

  20. louis says:

    I wouldn’t say Leslie was a willing participant. More like, Kren made her do it. Big Patty had a very “strong” personality. It was she who would put a stop to anyone talking about leaving.

  21. Michael says:

    Louis, the account I read by Watson paints her as sweet, and Lake’s book, as I remember, describes her more as “motherly” than “bossy.” Susan and Gypsy have both been described at different times as more bossy towards the other women, but not Patricia.

    Even if she was, though, Leslie has gone on record as saying she was eager, not just willing, to go. Her words: “I wanted to be a good soldier.”

    I’m interested in what you said about Kren “putting a stop to anyone talking about leaving.” I’ve always been very interested in the way the women related to each other, so could you tell us who said that, and where they said it? I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

  22. louis says:

    Michael, seems to me, evidence of this can be found here and there, in tidbits, in the literature and video. But perhaps, the best proof of this comes from Kren herself. She admits as much in “A&E Biography-The Manson Women (2002)”. She says something like, if someone had doubts about staying, then you could take them to her, and she would get them to stay.

  23. Andrew says:

    I do hope they let her out this time. She’s paid her dues and behaved exceptionally in prison. Vastly more culpable felons have served much shorter sentences. Her continued incarceration is only due to association with Manson.

  24. Michael says:

    Louis, I think I remember hearing that comment from PK myself. But it seemed to me she was a “motherly” figure to the other girls, not a dominant one, and if she persuaded people to stay she did from more of a gentle than a strong posture.

    But talking people into staying at the ranch is a far cry from talking someone into murder. Here are Leslie’s words from the transcript which is a part of this post:

    “I wanted to be a part of the revolution and the murders that were going to spark it. There’s no part of me that says it was his [Manson’s] fault that I did all that. I willingly sat and listened. I let myself let go of who I had been . . . . I don’t minimize. I feel like if I minimized, I would find easy ways to live with the guilt of what happened because I’m passing the buck onto somebody else so my conscience doesn’t have to deal with it. But that’s not who I am and it’s not what I do with my life.”

    She never, to my knowledge, even hinted that Pat influenced or manipulated her before or during the killings. And to Leslie’s credit, she is claiming full responsibility her. I have always been against her release, but I respect her willingness to own these crimes.

  25. louis says:

    Michael, I see your points, and I think your right, for the most part.

    But…when you bring drugs like speed into the mix, people can/will become whole different animals. Did Kren use meth? Dunno. Was her mind messed up? Yes. Big yes…in multiple ways.

    Brian mentioned on his show some weeks ago…how someone claimed that as Tex was approaching Sharon, Kren was behind him , hissing “Kill her..kill her”. I don’t know if right, and I don’t remember when Brian said he was getting it from. But he got it from somewhere, he doesn’t make stuff up.

    There’s also always the “mob factor”. or “gang mentality” When people are in groups, they will act out in ways, they would never do on their on. This is what I think really happened with PK. She may have been motherly on The Ranch, but on those two nights, she really was something else.

  26. Gina says:

    California is not an easy state to be granted parole for murder. There are lots and lots of inmates whose sentencing offers the POSSIBILITY for parole that will never get released but will die trying. There really isn’t any set rules that get an inmate out either. Some will do everything possible to get out. They’ll take part in tons of programs, be the model inmate and that could actually be held against them by a board member who thinks that are not rehabilitated but are just doing what they think they have to do to get out. I used to think Leslie and Bruce were being treated unfairly because of their association with Manson but they aren’t being treated any different then most of the inmates with the possibility of parole.

  27. Wolfs Stare says:

    Happy Birthday Leslie, should have been released years ago.

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