A recent change in California law, which allows people who committed crimes while under the age of 23 a chance to discuss age factors at their parole hearings, is giving one of Charles Manson’s followers, Leslie Van Houten, a possible chance of getting out of prison.
ABC7 reports that on Thursday, Van Houten’s lawyers appeared in the Los Angeles Superior Court to discuss the new law and how it will affect an upcoming parole hearing scheduled for next week. Van Houten was 19 years old when, under the direction of Manson, helped murder Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in 1969. The couple was found stabbed to death inside the California home.
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Van Houten was originally sentenced to death for her part in the killings, but a California law later reversed the sentence to life in prison. Van Houten’s lawyer, Rich Pfeiffer, wants the parole board to understand that his client was under the influence of a deranged cult leader at the time, which played a huge part in the stabbings Van Houten carried out.
Another woman, Catherine Share, who was once also a Manson follower, said in court on Thursday that Manson beat her during the late 1960s and told her if the tried to leave, his cult would find her and kill her.
“Some people could not leave. I was one of them that could not leave. I don’t think (Van Houten) felt like she was free to leave.”
Share wasn’t part of the group that killed the La Bianca couple in 1969 and she admitted that some people did leave Manson’s cult without being harmed, but she indicated that fear of the cult leader made people follow his orders without question.
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Van Houten recently hurt her knee cap and was not present at Thursday’s court, but she’s expected to be at her parole hearing next week. This will be her 20th parole hearing since being sentenced to prison in 1971. California’s new law provides her a solid chance of making parole on her 21st attempt.
“I don’t let myself off the hook. I don’t find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself,” Van Houten said a parole hearing last year, explaining her feelings towards her crimes.
Leno LaBianca’s daughter, Corey La Bianca, said that it doesn’t matter if Van Houten is considered a model prisoner. The family still grieves for their lost loved ones that Van Houten took away from them, even if it’s been more than 40 years.
“We all need to be held responsible for our behavior. The least we can do, for someone who commits a crime against another human being, is to keep them in jail,” La Bianca told the Los Angeles Times last year. “Maybe Leslie Van Houten has been a model prisoner. But you know what, we still suffer our loss.”
Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details on Van Houten’s upcoming hearing become available.
[Feature Photo: AP/Nick Ut, File]