California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Opinion Summaries Blog

CA Supreme Court Rejects Manson Follower Leslie Van Houten's Petition for Parole

The California Supreme Court has rejected a petition to release Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted in the infamous Manson murders half a century ago.

Van Houten, 67, was a follower of Charles Manson in the 1969 slaughter of seven people in the Los Angeles area. She participated in the stabbing deaths of Leo and Rosemary LaBianca, but not the killings of actress Sharon Tate and four of her friends. Tate, who was pregnant, was stabbed 16 times.

The supreme court refused to hear Van Houten's petition, which sought to overturn Governor Jerry Brown's decision to reject a parole board recommendation for her release in July. A judge upheld the governor's decision in October, leading to the petition to the high court.

Unreasonable Danger

"When considered as a whole, I find the evidence shows that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison," the governor wrote in rejecting the board's recommendation.

Van Houten's lawyer said the governor denied her due process because there was no evidence she was a danger to society. Rich Pfeiffer said the governor made his decision based on a crime committed by a youthful offender almost 47 years ago, and a factor that can never change regardless of any amount of rehabilitation that is accomplished."

"Ms. Van Houten has a personal due process issue in that the governor did not have some evidence to support his finding that Ms. Van Houten remains an unreasonable risk to public safety if placed on supervised parole," Pfeiffer wrote in his petition. The state Attorney General's Office responded that the governor considered the "aggravated nature" of the crimes in assessing Van Houten's danger to society.

Infamous Crimes

"Van Houten eagerly carried out some of the most infamous crimes in history with her fellow Manson Family members and she continues to downplay her participation in the murders," the opposition said.

A former high school cheerleader a homecoming princess, Van Houten met Manson when she was 19 and became the youngest member of the Manson family. Manson led the group, comprised mostly of young women, in using drugs and committing various crimes before he orchestrated the murders.

Van Houten put a pillow over Rosemary LaBianca's head, wrapped a cord around her neck and stabbed her 16 times in the back. After stabbing the LaBiancas, she and the other killers used the victims' blood to write "Death to Pigs" and "Healter-Skelter," in reference to a Beatles song, on the walls and a refrigerator door. They left a fork sticking out of Leo LaBianca's stomach.

Related Resources: