A Los Angeles judge Friday denied a petition challenging Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to reverse a state parole board’s recommendation of parole for former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted of the 1969 murders of grocers Leno and Rosemary La Bianca at their Los Feliz home.
“While petitioner may someday be suitable for parole, when her commitment offense is no longer predictive of current dangerousness, it is not yet that day,” Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan wrote in a 16-page ruling, in which he called the crimes “among the most abominable committed in California in the second half of the 20th century.”
The judge wrote that he had concluded that there was “`some evidence” to support the governor’s determination that petitioner poses an unreasonable risk of danger to society, and that all of petitioner’s due process rights were met” and found that the petition challenging the governor’s reversal of parole “must be denied.”
Van Houten’s appellate attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, has vowed to continue to fight for Van Houten’s release. He said he plans to ask a panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal to intervene.
Van Houten, now 68, was convicted of murder and conspiracy for participating with fellow Manson family members Charles “Tex” Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel in the Aug. 9, 1969, killings of Leno La Bianca, 44, and his 38-year-old wife, who were each stabbed multiple times.
The former Monrovia High School cheerleader and homecoming princess did not participate in the Manson family’s killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in a Benedict Canyon mansion the night before.
A state parole board panel had initially recommended parole for Van Houten in April 2016 after she had been denied parole 19 times between 1979 and 2013. But the governor subsequently reversed that decision, finding in July 2016 that “the evidence shows that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison.”
At a hearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom last summer, a woman who once lived at a ranch with Manson testified that Van Houten was “extremely docile” before the killings and that she believed Van Houten would have done anything the cult leader asked. Catherine Share’s testimony came during an Aug. 31 hearing to present mitigating evidence now allowed under state law because Van Houten was 19 at the time of the killings.
Last September, a parole board panel again recommended that Van Houten be granted parole. But the governor reversed the recommendation, finding in January that she “has not wholly accepted responsibility for her role in the violent and brutal deaths” of the La Biancas.
Manson — who died last November — and many of his other former followers have repeatedly been denied parole.
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