But on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Second District Court of Appeals, in a two-to-one opinion, said there was no “evidence to support the governor’s conclusion” that Van Houten failed to meet parole requirements.
“While Van Houten provided extensive accounts of his involvement with Manson and the factors leading to the murder, the record does not support the conclusion that there were hidden factors that Van Houten was unable to explain.” the opinion said. “The governor’s refusal to accept Mr. Van Houten’s explanation amounts to an unsubstantiated gut feeling.”
In an interview with The Washington Post, Van Houten’s attorney, Nancy Tetlow, said her client, now 73, was thrilled and deeply grateful for the court’s ruling.Van Houten has undergone years of therapy and rehabilitation at the California Institute of Corrections for Women. She embraced crime and Manson’s influence there. It was her, said Mr. Tetrow.
“The crime was like that,” Tetrow said. “They were terrible people, but now she’s a really great person.”
Newsom has 10 days to petition the state Supreme Court to stop California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s release, Tetro said. Tetlow said that if the state Supreme Court denies this, the appeals court’s decision to pardon Van Houten will take effect and it could be weeks before she is released on parole.
Newsom’s office did not respond to a Post message asking whether the governor would appeal the appeals court’s decision. Mr. Bonta’s office referred the Post to the governor’s office.
Van Houten spent more than half of his life in prison for his involvement in the murders of supermarket executives Rosemary and Reno La Bianca.
In August 1969, Manson drove around Los Angeles with Van Houten and other members of a commune he founded at Spahn Ranch in Chatsworth, California called “Family.” Manson, who would later be convicted of murder, believed that a violent race war would end civilization before his group won.
After “following Manson’s seemingly random instructions for about four hours to select and destroy potential victims,” court record Van Houten, then 19, eventually moved into the La Bianca family home with other members of the family, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles “Tex” Watson.
Inside the house, Watson tells Van Houten and Krenwinkel to take Rosemary La Bianca. Break into her bedroom and kill her.
Van Houten told a parole board in 2016 how Watson held La Bianca down with a pillow and a lamp cord when he stabbed her. He then hands her the knife and Van Houten continues to stab Rosemary 14 times before writing a message on the wall of her house using the blood of the murdered La Bianca. The body of Reno La Bianca was found with the letters “WAR” carved into her abdomen.
In 1971, a jury found Van Houten guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to murder. She was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of her parole. Since 2016, she has been recommended for parole five times. All of these recommendations were rejected by Newsom or his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown (Democrat).