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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.

Van Houten Granted Parole

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020


Jul. 23 – Leslie Van Houten was found suitable for parole at a hearing held today by the California Board of Parole Hearings. This was Van Houten’s fourth consecutive parole suitability recommendation.

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 during the trial.

Van Houten was retried in 1977, resulting in a hung jury. She was retried the following year and that time, convicted and sentenced to seven years to life. Because of time served on her original sentence, Van Houten was already eligible for parole when she returned to prison in August of 1978.

Van Houten, now 70, has been denied parole 19 times since becoming eligible in 1978. She was recommended for parole at her 2016, 2017 and 2019 hearings. Each grant however, was reversed by the governor.

Due to COVID-19, today’s decision will undergo an expedited review 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.

Van Houten is also waiting on a California Supreme Court ruling regarding Governor Gavin Newsom’s reversal of her 2019 parole recommendation. Earlier this month, Van Houten petitioned the state’s high court to weigh in on the decision. The court gave the attorney general until Monday to file in opposition.

Van Houten Petitions State Supreme Court

Friday, July 10th, 2020


Jul. 10 – Attorneys representing Leslie Van Houten are asking the California Supreme Court to review Gavin Newsom’s reversal of her 2019 parole grant.

On Tuesday, Van Houten’s attorney, Richard Pfeiffer, filed a 38-page brief petitioning the state’s high court to weigh in on the decision which has been upheld in the superior and appellate courts.

In January, the California Supreme Court granted review of former governor Jerry Brown’s reversal of Van Houten’s 2017 parole grant. But the case was dismissed and remanded to the appellate court, who made no changes to their previous ruling.

Court of Appeal Upholds Van Houten Parole Reversal; Denies her Tex Tapes

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Jul. 3 – California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal has denied Leslie Van Houten’s writ of habeas corpus which challenged Governor Gavin Newsom’s reversal of her 2019 parole grant. The court, which ruled 2-to-1 against Van Houten, also denied her access to the Tex Watson tapes.

Justice Virginia Chaney was the lone dissenter, as was the case last year when the 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’s next parole hearing will be held on Thursday, July 23rd and will be conducted via Skype due to COVID19.

Beausoleil Denied Parole

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

Jul. 1 – Bobby Beausoleil was found unsuitable for parole at a hearing held today by the California Board of Parole Hearings.

Beausoleil, currently housed in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, is serving a term of 7-years-to-life, for the 1969 murder of musician Gary Hinman. He was tried twice; first in November of 1969 resulting in a hung jury. He was then tried in April of 1970, resulting in a conviction of first degree murder. He was sentenced to death on April 15, 1970. In 1972, his death sentence was commuted to life when the death penalty was briefly outlawed.

Beausoleil has now been denied parole 19 times since becoming eligible on August 4th, 1976. He was recommended for parole at his last hearing, held on January 3, 2019. On April 26, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom reversed the decision, stating, “While Mr. Beausoleil reports to have accepted responsibility for his crime, I am troubled by his lack of insight into his underlying motives for committing such extraordinary violence. I am also concerned that Mr. Beausoleil will relapse into substance abuse if released. Given the heinous nature of this crime and Mr. Beausoleil’s limited insight into his violence and substance abuse, I do not believe he can be safely released at this time.”

Beausoleil will not be eligible for parole until 2023.