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Manson follower denied parole for 19th time

July 6, 2010 12:01:55 AM PDT
She was convicted in one of the most notorious murder cases in Los Angeles history, and on Tuesday, former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten faced her 19th parole hearing. It was considered her best chance yet for release. She was denied parole at approximately 5 p.m. Tuesday.The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Board of Parole Hearings returned a three-year consideration period.

At the conclusion of the emotional three-hour hearing, the chairman of the parole board, Robert Doyle, said Van Houten was not yet suitable for parole because she had failed to gain complete insight into her crime and its motivation.

While commending her for her adjustment to prison and her work on behalf of other prisoners, Doyle and deputy commissioner Carol Bentley said the crimes involved were so atrocious and heinous that they must be considered in the decision.

She was just 19 when she joined members of the Manson Family cult in the killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. The LaBiancas were stabbed to death in 1969, just one night after the murders of actress Sharon Tate and four others.

Van Houten did not participate in the Tate killings but went along the next night when the LaBiancas were slain in their home. During the penalty phase of her trial she confessed to joining in stabbing Rosemary LaBianca after she was dead.

Van Houten, who is now 60, has long been seen as the Manson follower most likely to win freedom some day. She was most recently denied parole in 2007. She remains incarcerated at the California Institution for Women at Frontera.

In past parole hearings she has expressed remorse for her actions, and for this hearing, Van Houten had a new lawyer, Brandie Devall, who referred to recent rulings by the Supreme Court that affects standards for parole.

Most significant is the case of Sandra Lawrence, a convicted murderer who was paroled after 23 years in prison after the court held that to refuse parole there must be evidence that a prisoner is currently a danger to public safety. The court said the board could not base a refusal only on the details of the crime committed by the inmate long ago.

Devall said the finding has also been upheld in federal court.

Another recent case, she said, deals with inmates who are between 16 and 20 years old at the time of their crimes and holds that they are more likely to be rehabilitated.

Devall also cited Van Houten's youth at the time of the killings and her extreme remorse.

Van Houten's attorney brought up the fact that Van Houten had earned a bachelor's degree and was even working on a master's degree.

Van Houten exercised her right not to answer questions Tuesday, but she did read a short statement Tuesday: "As a rehabilitated woman, I would like to state that the insight I have gained is not meant to excuse any of my acts. Insight is understanding the 'whys' of behavior so it won't be repeated."

Van Houten also did not want to be shown on camera, as is her right.

She will be eligible for parole again in three years. Prison officials said Van Houten is in good health.

Even if a finding of suitability for parole at the hearing had been found, freedom would not have been immediate. The entire state parole board would review the decision within 120 days and it would then be submitted to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for a final ruling.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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