In April parole was approved for Leslie Van Houten. The decision will now undergo administrative review by the Board of Parole Hearings. If upheld it goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has the final word on whether the now-66-year-old Van Houten is released. But what possible effect could this have on the rest of the imprisoned killers - Patricia Krenwinkel, Charles Watson, Bobby Beausoleil, Bruce Davis and even Charles Manson?
One school of thought is that while Leslie Van Houten wasn't convicted of Sharon Tate’s murder she was part of a collective trial (Tate/LaBianca). Because she was part of a collective trial the ramifications of Van Houten getting a recommendation for parole could have a snowball effect of every victim and next of kin from the collective TLB trials. Why? Because apparently there's a law that opens the doors to all co-defendants. What is sure to happen is that Krenwinkel, Watson and even Manson can now ask for advanced hearings based on "new evidence". The new evidence being that Van Houten was deemed a non-threat to society - if she's a non-threat, then the others are entitled to that as well. In essence they will all probably get a new hearing if Gov. Brown doesn't veto the recommendation of Van Houten’s parole.
We spoke with an attorney versed in California criminal law who gave a differing and multi-faceted view. He said this:
While LVH was initially tried, and convicted, in a trial of which multiple defendants were held, the "collective" crime was also part known as a conspiracy, for which there is no what goes for one, goes for all rule. Remember, LVH's conviction was overturned, she was retried, for which a mistrial was granted, and then convicted in a third trial, for a crime that the others were not charged with. The applicable theory of law was the Felony Murder Rule, for which a murder occurred during the commission of another felony, that being robbery. That was a different charge than all of the others, so this claim could be countered with that fact. Different crimes, different defendants, different results.Which way will Governor Brown go? Will he block Van Houten's parole, or will he allow it to stand? If he stands aside and allows her to go free - the question remains - what ripple effect could it have?
While this is a novel concept, I do not see it being successful. I am not aware of any case law directly on point, but it would not prevent someone from attempting to make the claim in a motion. However, I do not see the courts accepting such a claim. The remaining inmates would be better off arguing the cost of incarcerating aged inmates versus the cost of being released into society with supervised parole. As screwed up as that is, sadly many in society would be more willing to accept that argument.
There is no clear indication of what Jerry Brown may do. He is walking a fine line of political philosophy versus his legacy. While he denied Bruce Davis, he did not oppose both Schoenfeld Brothers for their role in the infamous Chowchilla kidnappings. Most Californians opposed those rulings, but he did not hesitate. These two men, though no one died, were not, and still are not, any less dangerous than convicted members of the Manson family. However, the third co-conspirator, Fredrick Woods, was denied parole, partly due to his minimizing his responsibility in the crimes, as well as disciplinary problems. My point here is that even in parole, no two considerations are the same, so much as on stands alone for their crime, they stand alone for parole as well.