By Michele Hanisee
On Aug. 10, 1969, Leslie Van Houten held down Rosemary LaBianca so fellow Manson-follower Tex Watson could skewer her with a bayonet. Then, she took a knife and stabbed the helpless woman 14 more times in the back.
Nineteen times since she participated in the infamous slaughter, Van Houten applied for parole. Nineteen times, the state parole board turned her down.
Until last week, when a two-member panel inexplicably recommended to grant her parole.
The ADDA vehemently opposes this mind-boggling decision, as does District Attorney Jackie Lacey. There was a very good reason the parole board denied her 19 times. How was her 20th petition any different?
Van Houten’s attorneys have painted her as a model prisoner. They said she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and ran self-help groups for incarcerated women.
Maybe so. But let’s not forget the facts.
Van Houten brutally murdered an innocent woman while her cohorts carved up her victim’s husband, wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca. She was sentenced to death; her sentence was commuted to life in prison only because the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty.
Even if she has been a model prisoner, her behavior behind bars doesn’t mitigate the savagery of her crime. And time does not erase the fact that she willfully committed the crime.
“We still suffer our loss,” Leno LaBianca’s daughter, Cory LaBianca, told the Los Angeles Times. “My father will never be paroled. My stepmother will never get her life back.”
Van Houten’s parole is not a done deal.
The parole board’s legal team has to review the recommendation. If they uphold it, Gov. Jerry Brown will decide whether she goes free or remains in prison.
Sometimes justice means compassion, and compassion means justice. But not in this situation.
The ADDA will keep you updated on the status of Van Houten’s case. If it ends up on Gov. Brown’s desk, we will provide you with information on how to express your opposition to freeing this brutal murderer.
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.