Thursday, July 28, 2016

California: Saunders on Van Houten

Gov. Jerry Brown has reversed a parole board recommendation to parole 66-year old Leslie Van Houten for her role in double murders committed by the so-called Manson Family in 1969. The board notes she is remorseful, has accepted responsibility, and poses no danger to society. Gov. Brown, however says,
“As our Supreme Court has acknowledged, in rare circumstances a crime is so atrocious that it provides evidence of current dangerousness by itself.” 
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders thinks the Governor is on to something. She reminds us that Manson is "best remembered" for leading his "followers to kill five people in "brutal, premeditated acts of terrorism designed to spark Manson’s envisioned race war between black and white."

Van Houten was sentenced her to death in 1971, but her sentence was commuted to life by the California Supreme Court. After a retrial, she received a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. Looking over Van Houten's prison record and experience, Saunders agrees that she "fits the very model of redemption" but adds:
I believe that if Van Houten is truly remorseful, then she should accept that her punishment is to spend her days repenting in a correctional facility. I don’t make light of prison and the loss of autonomy. But life behind bars is a fitting sentence for torture/murder. Manson’s design was to terrorize civil society. Van Houten tried to burn down that house. She doesn’t get to come back into the house. 
See full column here.

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