Monday 21 October 2013

Charlie  Manson:  The  lunatic  they  followed  (Part 4)

This is the fourth and final installment about this lunatic who brought about nine murders in California. I suggest that you really should read the previous three articles first before you read this one so that you will have a better concept of what motivated Manson and his followers to murder people. Part 1 was published on October 11th and Part 2 was published on October 15th and Part 3 was published on October 18th.  

The sentences and how they were applied.                

Charles Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Van Houten, Tex Watson, Bobby Beausoleil and Steve Dennis ‘Clem’ Grogan were all involved in the nine murders in one way or another. 

Charlie Manson was sentenced to death in 1971. A sentence of death is carried out at the San Quentin State Prison just north of San Francisco.  

In 1972, I was invited by the California Department of Corrections to tour all of California`s State Prisons and jails. I toured the San Quentin State Prison for four hours and when I was taken to the unit where all the condemned men were held, I passed the cell that Charlie Manson was in. I was told not to talk to Manson so when I passed his cell, he called out, “Hey Man. Come and talk to me.” I just ignored him and instead, I talked with a man several cells from him.

I was also invited to sit in one of the two metal chairs the condemned men and women were strapped in when they were seated in the gas chamber. As many as 196 prisoners each sat in one of those chairs and died in that gas chamber.

The deputy warden explained to me the procedures of executing the condemned by gas. The prisoner is strapped to a chair inside a sealed gas chamber. The executioner (standing outside of the chamber) pulls a lever dropping potassium cyanide pellets into a vat of sulfuric acid that is unseen behind the chair that condemned is sitting in, flooding the chamber with lethal hydrogen cyanide gas. The condemned person slowly suffocates to death. Death can be extremely slow and painful, as demonstrated in several high-profile executions in the 1980s and 1990s. One of the more infamous was that of Jimmy Lee Gray in 1983, who frantically gasped, moaned, and slammed his head into a steel pipe for ten minutes as the cyanide slowly took effect. In 1995, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the use of gas for execution was ruled “cruel and unusual punishment” which then led to executions inside the gas chamber by lethal injection.

Capital punishment was suspended in the United States from 1972 through 1976 primarily as a result of the Supreme Court's decision in Furman v. Georgia. In that case, the court found that the death penalty was being imposed in an unconstitutional manner, on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court never actually ruled that the death penalty per se was unconstitutional. The court was concerned on how the sentence of death was awarded by the courts.

Since everyone sitting on death row between those years could not be executed even after 1976 unless they committed more murders, they were given life sentences and that is what Manson and his other condemned to death family members got.

Manson was transferred from San Quentin State Prison to the California Corcoran State Prison which is between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  He was placed in the protective custody unit which is one of the units in the high security units in the prison.

He was not a model prisoner but how do you punish a prisoner who is already sealed in a maximum prison for life? Manson, who is now 78, refused to participate in his last parole hearing, in 2007. Describing himself as a ‘prisoner of the political system’ he declined to participate in any psychological evaluations that were part of that process. In 2007 at his last parole hearing, the board concluded that Manson “continues to pose an unreasonable danger to others and may still bring harm to anyone he would come in contact with.” Manson has stated that he will not apply for parole anymore. Even if he did, he wouldn’t get it since he is still acting crazy in the prison he is in.  So far, he has been incarcerated for 44 years. 

Bobby Beausoleil is serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of music teacher and associate Gary Hinman on July 27, 1969. Beausoleil has been imprisoned since his arrest for that crime. He was originally sentenced to death but his death sentence was commuted to life in prison. He is currently serving his sentence in Oregon State Penitentiary—a maximum security prison. Beausoleil's 2010 parole bid was denied, with the next scheduled hearing in 2015.  He has so far been incarcerated 44 years.   
Steve Dennis ‘Clem’ Grogan This man helped Manson, Watson and Bruce Davis kill Spahn ranch hand Donald ‘Shorty’ Shea. The jury returned verdicts of life imprisonment for Manson and Davis, but death for Grogan. However, on December 23, 1971, Judge James Kolts stated that Grogan was too stupid and too hopped on drugs to decide anything on his own and that it was really Manson who decided who lived or died and subsequently he reduced Grogan's sentence to life imprisonment. Grogan later assisted the authorities and drew a map to where Shea's body was buried. In prison he was head of the prison's program to deter juveniles from a life of crime and kept away from fellow inmate, Manson. He was released from prison in 1985 and remains the only Manson family member who has been convicted of murder and released from prison.

Tex Watson is serving a life sentence at Mule Creek Prison in California for his part in the Sharon Tate-LaBianca killings 44 years ago. He was 22 years of age then. In 1969, Watson was convicted by a Los Angeles County court on seven counts of murder—crimes masterminded by one-time cult leader Charles Manson. Watson, who fathered four children behind bars with his ex-wife via conjugal visits, did not attend his last parole hearing in 2006. He received a maximum five-year denial. According to Watson's website,, he converted to Christianity in 1975 and became an ordained minister in 1983. In 2009, Watson graduated from California Coast University with a B.S. in business management.

He applied for parole 16 times and each time he applied, he was turned down. The prison panel found that they could not measure his true remorse or his measure of understanding of what caused him to become involved in those gruesome murders. Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Patrick  Sequeira, said. “I think he lacks insight and understanding, I think he lacks true remorse. I think he has remorse for his being in prison all these years.” His next parole application date will be in 2016.

About ten years ago, I wrote this man after I learned that he expressed a wish that some day in the future he would be released from prison. In my letter, I told him that no parole Board member would risk the fury he would undergo from the many millions of people who would condemn him for recommending that Tex Watson should be released from prison. I told Tex Watson that he should accept the fact that he will never ever be released from prison and that he should continue with his ministry in prison. I received a letter from his now divorced wife who said that he can receive letters from outside the prison but cannot personally write back to those who wrote him. She said in her letter to me that her husband told her that he agreed with me that it was highly unlikely that he would ever be released from prison. In his current website, he says he will be released from prison only when Jesus Christ returns to claim his church—which if that were to happen, it would be long after Tex Watson dies of old age in prison. He is currently 68 years of age. He has been incarcerated for 44 years.

Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten

These three women were all condemned to death. Their death sentences were automatically commuted to life in prison the next year following the California Supreme Court's People v. Anderson decision that invalidated all death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972.

They were sent to the California Institution for Women east of Los Angeles. I visited that prison and was amazed at the layout of it. There were two-story dormatories which the women lived in and the grounds were like what you find in parks.  However, these three women were placed in a very small tightly secured one-story building that was specifically built for them. I didn’t get to go inside that building.

Susan Atkins was later transferred to the Central California Women's Facility. From what I have learned, she was a model prisoner. From 1974 onwards, Atkins stated she was a born-again Christian after seeing a vision of Jesus Christ in her cell. She became active in prison programs, teaching classes and received two commendations for assisting in emergency health interventions with other inmates, one of which was a suicide attempt.

Atkins married twice while in prison. Her first marriage was to Donald Lee Laisure in 198. Atkins became the mercurial Laisure’s 35th wife, but the two divorced after he sought to marry yet again. She married a second time, in 1987, to James W. Whitehouse, a man fifteen years her junior, who earned a degree from Harvard Law School and represented Atkins at her 2000 and 2005 parole hearings. He failed to win her release both times.

During Atkins' 2000 parole hearing, Sharon Tate's sister, Debra, read a statement written by their father, Paul, that said in part, “Thirty-one years ago I sat in a courtroom with a jury and watched [her] with others. I saw a young woman who giggled, snickered and shouted out insults. Even while testifying about my daughter's last breath, she laughed. My family was ripped apart.”

In 2002, Atkins filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that she was a political prisoner due to the repeated denials of her parole requests regardless of her suitability. On June 1, 2005, Susan Atkins had her 17th parole hearing. This hearing was attended by various family members of the victims, such as Debra Tate and members of the Sebring family, and they requested that her parole be denied. She received a four-year denial.

In April 2008, Atkins was hospitalized for more than a month with an undisclosed illness that was subsequently reported to be terminal brain cancer. One leg had been amputated. Atkins was given less than six months to live and subsequently she requested a "compassionate release" from prison. In June, Atkins' attorney, Eric P. Lampel, stated that Atkins’ condition had deteriorated to the point that she was paralyzed on one side, could only talk a little bit and could not sit up in bed without assistance. Her request for release was denied. Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Atkins, said he was not opposed to her release given her current condition, adding that she had paid substantially, though not completely, for her horrendous crimes. Paying completely would mean imposing the death penalty. She still was not released. However, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley stated that he was strongly opposed to the release, saying in a letter to the board it would be “an affront to people of this state, the California criminal justice system and the next of kin of many murder victims.” I am in agreement with Cooley’s view.

The cost for Atkins' medical care since she was hospitalized on March 18, 2008, had reportedly surpassed $1.15 million with additional cost of over $300,000 to guard her hospital room. She died on September 24, 2009, at the Central California Women's facility.

Patricia Krenwinkel was born in Los Angeles, to an insurance-salesman father and a homemaker mother. She attended University High School and then Westchester High School, both in the Los Angeles area. She was often bullied at school by other students, suffered from low self-esteem, and was frequently teased for being overweight and for an excessive growth of body hair caused by an endocrine condition. For a time she taught Catechism (Roman Catholic religious instruction) and considered becoming a nun. She decided to attend the Jesuit college, Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. Within one semester, however, Krenwinkel dropped out and moved back to California. Moving into her half-sister's apartment in Manhattan Beach, California where she found an office job as a processing clerk.

She met Charles Manson in Manhattan Beach, California in 1967, along with Lynette Fromme (the woman who later tried to shoot President Ford) and Mary Brunner, who were already known as ‘Charlie's Girls’. In later interviews, Krenwinkel stated that she had slept with Manson the first night they met, and that he was the first person who told her she was beautiful. Mesmerized by Manson's charisma and starved for attention, she decided to go to San Francisco with him and the other two girls, leaving behind her apartment, car, and last paycheck.

Patricia Krenwinkel was a participant in the infamous murders on August 9th 1969 at 10050 Cielo Drive, home of actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski. On Manson's orders, Krenwinkel participated willingly in more killing the following night. Along with Manson, Watson, Atkins, Steve Grogan, Leslie Van Houten, and Linda Kasabian, Krenwinkel went to the home of Southern California grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary and helped in murdering them.

After the trial, the death sentence was imposed on Krenwinkel but the sentence was commuted to life in prison. She is still incarcerated, at the California Institution for Women in Chino, California. She is active with prison programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. She has also taught illiterate prisoners how to read.

During a 2004 parole hearing, when asked who she would place at the top of the list of people she has harmed, Patricia Krenwinkel responded, "Myself." She was denied parole following that hearing because, according to the panel, Krenwinkel still posed an “unacceptable risk to public safety.” In total, Krenwinkel has been denied parole thirteen times; her last hearing was in January 2011. The two-member parole board said after the hearing in Los Angeles that the 63-year-old Krenwinkel would not be eligible for parole again for seven years. The panel said they were swayed by the memory of the crimes, along with 80 letters which came from all over the world urging Patricia Krenwinkel's continued incarceration. This 66-year-old woman has been incarcerated for 44 years.

Leslie Van Houten was born on August 23, 1949. She met Catherine Share and Bobby Beausoleil in San Francisco in the summer of 1968. It was through them that she heard of Charles Manson and his community. When she met Manson, she was immediately captivated by him and the people associated with him. His way of life intrigued her so she joined his group in September 1968, and moved to the Spahn Ranch to be part of the Manson family at that ranch.

On the night of August 9th, 1969, Manson drove Van Houten, Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Steve Grogan, and Linda Kasabian to 3301 Waverly Drive in Los Feliz, the home of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. Manson entered the house with Watson and handed him the leather thongs from around his neck telling the LaBiancas that it was a robbery and no harm would come to them and after he left the house, he instructed Krenwinkel and Van Houten to go inside and join Watson.

Krenwinkel and Van Houten found Rosemary LaBianca in a bedroom, to which she had retired while her husband had fallen asleep while reading in the living room. Watson put a pillowcase over Leno and Rosemary LaBianca’s heads, and then tied the electrical cord from a lamp around their necks. Rosemary LaBianca started struggling; meanwhile, her husband, who had been tied up in the living room, started screaming as Watson began stabbing him. Rosemary grabbed the lamp and swung it at Van Houten, who fought with her and knocked the lamp away. Van Houten then held LaBianca down while Krenwinkel tried to stab her in the chest, but the blade bent on LaBianca's clavicle. Watson then stabbed Rosemary LaBianca several times, found Van Houten, handed her the knife, and told her to “do something” since Manson had instructed Watson to make sure everyone got their hands dirty. Van Houten proceeded to stab Rosemary 16 times in the lower torso. The autopsy showed that several of the wounds had been inflicted post-mortem. Van Houten then wiped the premises down for fingerprints, changed into clothes from Mrs. LaBianca's closet, and took food from the refrigerator before leaving the house.

She also was sentenced to death but that sentence was commuted to life in prison. She won a retrial in 1977 on the grounds that her counsel had not effectively represented her at the original trial. The lawyer at her first trial, Ronald Hughes, had disappeared during the trial and was later found dead. It was alleged that members of the Manson Family killed Hughes, but this has never been proven. Van Houten's second trial ended in a hung jury. She was tried a third time, during which she was free on bond. This time, she was found guilty of felony robbery, murder, and conspiracy to commit murder. Once again, she was sentenced to life in prison. She was returned to the California Institution for Women in Chino, California.

In 2002, Leslie Van Houten filed an appeal of her 2000 parole rejection, which received a hearing in Superior Court.  Judge Bob Krug ordered a new parole hearing pointing out that at the 1977 retrial, Van Houten was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, and by having served eight years in prison, she was already eligible for parole by 1978. Krug's ruling which was favourable for Van Houten was overturned on appeal in 2004.

Van Houten was denied parole on August 25, 2004. She was again denied parole on September 7, 2006, her 16th unsuccessful application. At this hearing, she was informed she might apply again one year later as opposed to the usual two years.  She was once again denied parole on August 30, 2007, but would be allowed to have a hearing again in two years. Van Houten's August 2009 scheduled parole hearing was postponed until August 2010 after she requested a postponement due to then current legal issues being pursued in court. The legal issues concerned her challenge of the 2004 parole denial in federal court. Van Houten appeared before the parole board for a 19th time on July 6, 2010 and was denied. Van Houten told a parole board on June 5, 2013, during her 20th parole hearing, she has changed and is trying to live a life for healing, however she was once again denied parole. Van Houten will next be eligible to apply for parole in 2018.

My opinion re the sentencing of these criminals.

I have always been in favour of the death penalty if there is no nagging doubt that the condemned may be innocent. This is why I vigorously advocated the abolishment of capital punishment. However, with regards to the six murderers I have written about in this article, I have no qualms that justice would have been better served if they were put down like the animals they were.

It has been said that death is easier to accept than life in prison. I asked a condemned man that question while he was on death row in the Florida State Prison in Starke, Florida. He said he would prefer to be executed and get it over with. It is easy to see why he felt that way since he was locked in a cell for years. But in reality, once their sentences are commuted to life in prison, they are placed with the general population of the prison and enjoy all the perks that they would normally get with their fellow prisoners.  To them, life in prison is better than being put to death. There is one exception however. I am speaking of Charlie Manson. That horrible man is serving his sentence in solitary confinement.  He is simply too dangerous to be placed with the general prison population. Life in prison for this man must be pure Hell for him. Let me see if I can squeeze a tear from my eyes. Sorry, Charlie. My tear ducts are as dry as the Sahara Desert.

No comments: