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The Region

State Must Reexamine Manson Follower

June 04, 2002|VIRGINIA ELLIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO -- Former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten won a legal victory when a Superior Court judge ordered the state late Monday to reconsider her parole denial and take into account her model behavior during more than 30 years in prison for the LaBianca murders.

Judge Bob N. Krug of San Bernardino County directed the state Board of Prison Terms to grant Van Houten, 52, a new hearing during which, he said, it needed to explore in greater depth her behavior in prison and provide further guidance on what else she could do to win her freedom.

As he did in the courtroom last month, Krug lectured the board on its failure to be more specific about the reasons for denying her parole after a June 2000 hearing.

He said it wasn't enough merely to claim that she was unsuitable for release because of the gravity of the crime.

A spokesman for the state prison system said Monday evening that the board had already scheduled Van Houten for another parole review this month.

"She will remain in custody until then," he said. Van Houten is being housed at the California Institution for Women in Chino.

The spokesman said officials had been told about the ruling but they haven't seen it in writing yet and don't know what specific instructions the judge has given them.

Van Houten's lawyer, Christie Webb, declined to comment, saying she wanted to discuss the decision with her client first.

Van Houten, the youngest member of the Manson family, was convicted in 1969 of the stabbing murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their Los Feliz home. The murders were committed one day after other Manson followers killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four friends who were visiting her at her rented home in Benedict Canyon.

Since her conviction, Van Houten has made 13 appearances at parole hearings, but each time thas been denied because of the severity of the crime.

At an hourlong hearing before Krug, her lawyer argued that the state board failed to consider her exemplary behavior in prison, where she obtained a bachelor's degree, tutored other inmates, made quilts for homeless women and served as a leader of anti-drug program.

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