Leslie Van Houten, one of Charles Manson's groupie killers, is up for parole -- for the 19th time. Should she be released?
Van Houten, 60, was just 19 when she joined other members of the Manson cult in the 1969 killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, wealthy California grocers. The couple was stabbed to death the night after Manson's followers killed the pregnant actress Sharon Tate, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, filmmaker Voytek Frykowski, and Steven Parent, a friend of the Tate estate's caretaker. Van Houten did not participate in the Tate killings.
But she went along "for the ride" the next night and admitted to joining other cult members in stabbing Rosemary LaBianca after she was dead. Van Houten was convicted of murder and conspiracy.
This is her in 1975:
And while this is Van Houten's 19th time before the parole board, this time, things are different. She has a new lawyer and there are new California Supreme Court rulings that could work in her favor. The new case law says that a parole board can't base a refusal only on the details of the crime committed by the inmate long ago -- there must be evidence that a prisoner is currently a danger to public safety.
In plain English, if the prisoner is rehabilitated, you've got to let her go.
Based on Van Houten's "stellar" prison record, she might have a shot at release: She's been a "good girl" since her incarceration, her psychological reports have been positive, and she's been active in self-help groups at the prison including "Golden Girls," a group for elderly women inmates.
Do you think she's served her time or do you think she deserves to stay in prison forever?
Image via Damian Dovargane/Getty