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For the third time, Leslie Van Houten, a former follower of the infamous cult leader Charles Manson, was denied parole by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Van Houten was ordered to serve a sentence ranging from seven years to life for the 1969 murders of Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. Initially, in 1971, Van Houten was to receive the death penalty until the death penalty was overturned in a 1972 Supreme Court of California decision. Van Houten's death sentence was one of many to be converted to life in prison — Charles Manson's was another.
In January, CNN reported that Van Houten was being recommended to be released on parole by the California parole board. First, however, she had to undergo a 150-day review process before Newsom could take action.The parole board has noted a substantial change and rehabilitation in Van Houten, alongside her good behavior, according to an Associated Press report.
Newsom said that Van Houten could still pose a threat to society. “While I commend Ms. Van Houten for her efforts at rehabilitation and acknowledge her youth at the time of the crimes, I am concerned about her role in these killings and her potential for future violence,” Newsom wrote in his review, according to ABC News. “Ms. Van Houten was an eager participant in the killings of LaBiancas, and played a significant role.”
Former criminal prosecutor and Oxygen contributor Loni Coombs believes that if the factors were different, Van Houten may have been paroled, she explained to Oxygen digital correspondent Stephanie Gomulka at CrimeCon 2019, held in New Orleans in early June.
“I just think that there was so much attention on that case,” she said. “It is so famous, so infamous and what they did was so heinous. I think if it didn’t have so much attention and it wasn’t such a heinous crime at this point with all the mitigating factors in her favor she might have been paroled and the parole board actually said they would be okay with it but the governor said, ‘no way.’”
Former Gov. Jerry Brown denied Van Houten release the two previous times that she was recommended for parole. “Nobody wants to put their name on her release, but when they’re speaking honestly or off the record, everyone wants her to go home,” Rich Pfeiffer, Van Houten’s attorney, said to the Associated Press.
“No governor’s ever going to let her out,” Pfeiffer added. “They are bound by law to enforce the law independently. They have to do it whether or not it’s popular with the public … and the law is that she should be released.
Charles Manson died in 2017 while serving his life sentence.
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