A California appeals court said Tuesday that Leslie Van Houten, a Charles Manson follower, should be freed on parole. File Photo by Damian Dovarganes/EPA
May 31 (UPI) -- Charles Manson follower and convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten could be released from California prison this week unless Gov. Gavin Newsom challenges a ruling by a state appeals court that said she should be freed.
The 2nd District Court of Appeals for the first time on Tuesday rejected Newsom's recommendation that she remain behind bars, overruling his decision in favor of the original parole board's decision.
The state parole board in 2022 recommended Van Houten, 73, for release after decades of therapy and showing remorse. Gavin, though, rejected the recommendation, saying that she continued to pose an "unreasonable danger" to the public.
"Van Houten had a nearly spotless disciplinary record while in prison, having been written up only once in 1981 for 'verbally communicating with women,'" the court said in its decision. "Since her last parole hearing, Van Houten had remained free of discipline and continued to participate in self-help programs and to work as assigned.
"The evaluator reviewed Van Houten's prior psychological and risk assessments from 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016, all of which indicated she presented a low risk for future violence."
Newsom now has the option of asking California's Attorney General Rob Bonta to appeal to the state's Supreme Court. Without an appeal, Van Houten's attorney Rich Pfeiffer said she could be released as early as Wednesday, but it normally would take five days to get through all the release protocols.
"[Gavin's] in a really bad spot," Pfeiffer said. "He was given the power to reverse or grant parole. There's a lot of people [who] don't even know facts of the case that well and they want Leslie to stay in for the rest of her life. He could lose a lot of votes over that."
Van Houten was 19 when she joined other Manson family members in the murders of supermarket executives Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in1969. She was sentenced to death in 1971 but California overturned the death penalty one year later.
Her conviction was overturned but in 1978, she was convicted again of murder and sentenced to life in prison.