Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cult Follower Seeks Parole after Serving Time for Murder

Leslie Van Houten parole hearingLeslie Van Houten is seeking parole for the 21st time since her conviction for the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. She was a follower of the cult leader Charles Mason. These murders took place in 1969 the day after the same cult murdered the pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four other people. Van Houten did not participate in those killings. Van Houten was retried twice for her crimes of murder and conspiracy. No other members of the Manson cult have been given parole.

The Board of Parole Hearings will consider her case and if they approve it, Governor Jerry Brown will ultimately decide if Van Houten will be awarded parole.

While Van Houten has been in prison, she obtained a college degree and has been cited as a model prisoner. It has been claimed that Van Houten was under Manson's influence because of her parents' divorce and the abortion her mother had her have at the age of fourteen. Otherwise, she was portrayed as a homecoming queen who came from a good family.

At the time of the murders, Van Houten was nineteen years old and the youngest member of the cult. She held down the victim, Rosemary LaBianca while another cult member stabbed her, and then she herself stabbed the victim at least 14 times after she was dead.

Van Houten's attorney said, "The only violent thing she has ever done in her entire life was this crime and that was under the control of Charles Manson...She is just not a public safety risk, and when you are not a public safety risk, the law says you shall be released." Moreover, her attorney stated, "Since 1980, there were 18 different doctors who did psychiatric evaluations of her. Every single one found she was suitable for parole."

Sharon Tate's sister, Debra, opposes Van Houten's parole, saying "she failed to show remorse for years after the crimes and can't be trusted."

Based on what I have read so far, I do not think that Van Houten should be released on parole. She was an adult at the time of the murders and should be responsible for her actions, even if she was in a cult. While she may not have been the first one to stab Rosemary LaBianca and kill her, she did stab her many times after and participated in the killings. I do not think that her good behavior in prison should absolve her from serving more time in prison. I do not believe that she is not dangerous as she participated in such vicious murders.

Do you think that Van Houten should be paroled? If so, why her and none of the other followers who have been denied parole?
Would you consider someone in a cult less guilty of murder than someone who acted alone? Should being under a cult's influence be considered in a inmate's sentencing, similar to pleading insanity?


Anonymous said...

I do not think that this woman should be allowed on parole. There are many crimes where I think people should be given the opportunity to obtain parole, however murder is not one of them. Even if they were in a very impressionable state and under the influence of another deranged psychopath, murder is still murder. Also I find it weird that she had not participated in the murder even though she held the victim down while one of her accomplices stabbed her to death, and then afterwards continued to stabbed the victim fourteen times.

Depending on the type of crime, I would consider the cult's influence on the defendant's sentencing. If it is an extreme crime like murder, I would not consider it though. Would I consider the person less guilty? I do not think so, unless that person was clinically proven to be under lawful terms insane. I will say the fact, these groups are meant to control people. They purposefully go out, and try to exploit a person's weakness,(say depression) and use that to control them. However, it is still conspiracy. Anyone involved in the group should be punished.(forgive me if this is a little extreme) Take the nazis for example, hitler used all kinds of controlling tactics and propaganda, and through it he convinced his party to murder millions of people with the intent of eradication. There were many people in Germany who did not literally take part in these atrocities, yet they still supported it, and in returned were labeled nazis and shamed under the same name.
Van Houten's case is like saying she stood by and did nothing as another person was brutally murdered. Which in today's terms is still being a part of the crime, even though they did not physically do anything, if though she did. In conclusion, she (and many people like her) should be held accountable for her group's actions.

Daniel Jun said...

This woman committed murder and served her sentence. And now, the question is whether to trust in the parole system to keep that woman in check or keep her in prison where we know she'll be kept from killing innocent people.
Being in a cult irks me (and I assume many other people) thus making her crime somehow worse. I mean, the word "cult" itself gives ideas of sacrificing goats or conducting blood rituals to Satan. But does that make what Houten did any worse? I'm seriously asking because I don't know.
Murderers are scary, that's just fact, but Houten is an old woman who, most likely under the brainwashing of a charismatic and/or handsome leader, assisted in the murder of several people.
We don't want her in the streets walking free (albeit within the confines of her parole) because it makes us feel unsafe. She makes us feel unsafe. But is an old woman likely to commit more murderer? Are we allowing our fears of the 1% chance of danger to block out the 99% chance of nothing going wrong? I think so. And as long as you're not Houten, this line of thinking is totally rational.
I believe Houten should be given parole under the strictest conditions possible of a parole board. I dislike the idea of a murderer being released from prison in any manner, but again, an old woman who was part of a cult some five decades ago isn't likely to commit murderer again.

Anonymous said...

Although she may have been heavily influenced by the cult leader Charles Mason and may have been a young and impressionable teenager during the time of the murder, I strongly believe that an individual has the ability to make a choice in every situation. She chose to partake in murder and stab someone fourteen times and no matter what anyone told her to do she always could have chose not to do it. She made a mistake and should atone for her crime by staying in jail.

Caroline Mameesh said...

I like Alex's line of reasoning. The fact of the matter is...Van Houten stood by and let people do as they did. What's more, she actively participated in a heinous act, an act that is hard to forgive, even if Van Houten has been a model prisoner.
Once a murderer, always capable of being a murderer. Once you stab someone fourteen times, even after their death, it's hard not to be at least somewhat antisocial and sociopathic. I doubt anybody who isn't antisocial or suffering from something of the sort would be capable of acting this way. Sure, cult influence does have an impact (cult's are known for being as such), but that doesn't excuse Van Houten's actions. Anyone with the capacity to act how Van Houten did must be kept in jail, stowed away from the public. I think the fact that she has been denied parole 20 other times speaks to that.

Anonymous said...

Houten has a very dark and dangerous past, but she's old now, and poses significantly less risk to the public. If the psychiatrists that examined her believe she is ready for parole, then perhaps she is ready, even if she didn't show any remorse in her murder acts. Besides, it's time she saw the outside world and see all that she missed over the last decades because of what she did, and with luck, she'll be forever haunted by her realization.

Nicholas Tong1 said...

Though her actions may be unforgivable to some, we should not judge whether we punish Van Houten based on "forgivable-ness," as this is a highly subjective requisite to be met. Punishments should be dealt with the intention of correcting illegal and wrong behavior, and to protect the rest of the general public. Punishment should not be dealt on "an eye for an eye basis." In other words, is it fair to deal punishment because we FEEL wronged? At that point, wouldn't we simply be dealing punishment on a neurotic need? To take it one step further, what do we achieve when we deny parole for Leslie on the basis that her crime is unforgivable?

On a different note, Van Houten has clearly shown that she has changed - she has been able to attain a college degree, and she has been a model prisoner. This shows that she has the ability to be a productive citizen of society; her punishment has apparently successfully changed her. Denying her parole is essentially a preemptive punishment for a hypothetical crime that she may not even commit. I suppose you could argue that this preemptive punishment could be considered a preemptive safety measure for the rest of the public, and that would be a fair point.

The argument against granting Leslie parole is that she shows no signs of remorse. If she really did have antisocial personality disorder or another disorder associated with her lack of remorse, it would be highly likely that at least one of the eighteen doctors that saw her would probably have diagnosed her accordingly. Furthermore, Debra's testimony that Leslie hasn't shown any remorse for her crimes may not be the most convincing piece of evidence out there. There are a myriad of possible reasons why Debra's testimony could be not so credible, and "signs of remorse" is quite open to interpretation.

I agree that Van Houten should be accountable for her crimes. However, I also feel that she has shown some promising change, and I believe that she should be granted parole.

Nicholas Tong1 said...

Firstly, it is hard to assign punishment based on moral grounds, as we all have different morals. It is a subjective matter. Secondly, the sense of the word "justice" is also highly convoluted. Is "an eye for an eye" truly justice? And even if it is, what does punching me in the mouth because I punched you in the stomach achieve? More indignation? Issuing punishment therefore should not be on the grounds of "because Leslie Van Houten deserves it." It should be on the grounds of how helpful the punishment would be. In Leslie's case, how would denying her parole and keeping her in jail change her behavior for the better, and how would it keep the rest of the general public safe?

In terms of changed behavior, Van Houten has already displayed "model prisoner behavior." She has attained a college degree, and has apparently shown that she could be a productive member of society. While Leslie's sister has stated that she has shown no signs of remorse, it is questionable as to how credible the sister's testimony is. Perhaps the sister simply did not pick up on any signs of remorse Leslie has displayed. Furthermore, if Leslie were to show no signs of remorse, we would expect her to have some signs of antisocial personality disorder, or some other types of disorder (it would clearly be unnatural to harbor no such feeling after committing such a crime). But according to the eighteen medical professionals Leslie has seen, she is fine.

In terms of keeping the public safe, Leslie would be (I'm assuming) under the supervision of parole officers. Letting her out to be a productive member of society is worth the unlikely risk.

All in all, I find that further punishment for Leslie Van Houten is unnecessary, given that it is no longer as productive for the cause of our society.