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Understanding the Manson Follower Parole Hearing
Patricia Krenwinkel is a former Charles Manson follower back in the 1960’s. Ms. Krenwinkel is looking to be paroled this week. Her hearing has been set and will be underway. This will be the 13th time Ms. Krenwinkel has faced the parole board and it has not been granted any of the times. On Aug. 9, 1969, Ms. Krenwinkel joined the band of Manson acolytes who stormed the Benedict Canyon home shared by pregnant actress Sharon Tate, 26, and her movie director husband, Roman Polanski. Tate and four others were stabbed and shot. Ms. Krenwinkel testified to chasing the coffee heiress, Abigail Folger, with a knife and stabbing her 28 times. The next night, Krenwinkel and others killed Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their Los Feliz home. Krenwinkel and fellow family member Leslie Van Houten held down Rosemary LaBianca as Charles “Tex” Watson stabbed Leno LaBianca. After the murder, Ms. Krenwinkle wrote “Death to Pigs” on the walls of the house using blood. The next night, Krenwinkel and others killed Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their Los Feliz home. Krenwinkel and fellow family member Leslie Van Houten held down Rosemary LaBianca as Charles “Tex” Watson stabbed Leno LaBianca.
Ms. Krenwinkel was sent to death row in 1971 after a Los Angeles jury convicted her of killing Tate and six others in the two-day rampage. After the state’s highest court in 1972 ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, Ms. Krenwinkel’s sentence, along with those of other Manson family members was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Ms. Krenwinkel has sought parole more than a dozen times. At a 2011 hearing, the panel recognized Ms. Krenwinkel’s efforts, commending her for a clean disciplinary record, having earned a bachelor’s degree, and her work training service dogs and counseling fellow inmates. But Commissioner Susan Melanson said the barbarity of the crimes coupled with Ms. Krenwinkel’s failure to fully grasp the global effects of the Manson killings warranted more time in prison.
A possible decision by the parole panel to release Krenwinkel could be blocked by Gov. Jerry Brown. State law could favor Krenwinkel, the longest serving female inmate in California. It creates a greater presumption that she could be freed because she is considered legally elderly now and was legally youthful and thus less culpable at the time of the slayings, when she was 21.
We will look at what is associated with a parole hearing. First off to define parole it is when, it is the period immediately following one’s release from the state prison. When an inmate is released on parole, they agree to abide by certain parole terms and conditions. For example no drinking or doing drugs. Or they have to find a job. Things in that nature are typical parole terms.
When is one able to receive parole? This depends greatly in their original sentence. If the person has determinate sentence they can usually be paroled at the end of the sentence. There are some variations on this a big factor would be if the person completed any work time credit or good time credit. It is the intent of the Legislature that persons convicted of a crime and sentenced to the state prison under Section 1170 serve the entire sentence imposed by the court, except for a reduction in the time served in the custody of the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation pursuant to this section and Section 2933.05. (b) For every six months of continuous incarceration, a prisoner shall be awarded credit reductions from his or her term of confinement of six months. A lesser amount of credit based on this ratio shall be awarded for any lesser period of continuous incarceration. Credit should be awarded pursuant to regulations adopted by the secretary. Prisoners who are denied the opportunity to earn credits towards their California parole pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 2932 shall be awarded no credit reduction pursuant to this section. Under no circumstances shall any prisoner receive more than six months’ credit reduction for any six-month period under this section. California Penal Code 2933. For all the extra credit one receives their sentence can be reduced up to 50%. This is not applicable to murders or second time felons though.
Then there are indeterminate sentences. This is like when one has a “15 years to life” or “25 years to life” sentence. When inmates are sentenced to indeterminate sentences, they are eligible for parole once they serve the determinate part of the sentence. This is the first time one can possibly be released on parole.
Sometimes a Judge will sentence a defendant to “life with the possibility of parole”. This is what Ms. Krenwinkel was sentenced. Which is really an older method of sentencing, and Ms. Krenwinkel was sentenced in 1971 so it makes sense. But, there is no determinate part of the sentence. Under these circumstances, the minimum eligible parole date is typically seven years into the sentence. Ms. Krenwinkel has gone way longer than that as we know.
The next part is the California Parole Board Suitability Hearing. This is when an inmate comes up for parole, they attend a California Board of Parole Hearing. These “lifer” hearings are automatically set one year prior to an inmate’s minimum eligible parole date. It bears repeating that an inmate’s “minimum eligible parole date” depends on the different sentencing factors outlined above and there is not exact answer when anything will actually take place. This board is filled with people selected by the Governor of the State, Jerry Brown. There are 17 members on this board. As alluded to above the Governor, Jerry Brown, can override the Parole Board’s decision.
The next step is the actual hearing. One can have an attorney present and sometimes, the district attorney will be there to give their thoughts on whether or not they should be granted parole. The main concern at the hearing public safety. And whether paroling this individual would be a threat to the public safety. In Ms. Krenwinkel case, because she killed six people it may be a public concern. But on the other end she is now in her 70’s, they will ask how much of a risk she is if she is free on the streets. It is important to note that they look at prison behavior so two people could commit the same crime and not get the same grant on parole because of different behavior while in prison.
Next thing we will look at us the suitability factors. The Board’s regulations set forth nine factors tending to show suitability for release on parole which will be evaluated during a California parole “lifer” hearing: (1) the absence of a juvenile record; (2) a history of reasonably stable social relationships with others; (3) tangible signs of remorse; (4) the commission of the crime resulted from significant stress, especially if the stress had built over a long period of time; (5) battered woman syndrome; (6) a lack of a history of violent crime; (7) increased age, which reduces the probability of recidivism; (8) marketable skills and reasonable plans for the future; and (9) responsible institutional behavior factors that are all taken into consideration during a California parole suitability hearing. The panel will weigh all of these factors before they make their decision on whether or not to parole the individual in the hearing. It is important that the individual was proactive during their prison sentence. This could be by taking extra work opportunities, or any extra volunteer activities. In addition, to this, continuing education like Ms. Krenwinkel did. All of these things add up and show that one is ready and suitable to be a part of society.
Just like there are suitability factors there are also dome factors that show that one is not suitable for parole. These are According to the applicable regulation, circumstances tending to establish unsuitability for parole are that the prisoner (1) committed the offense in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner; (2) possesses a previous record of violence; (3) has an unstable social history; (4) previously have sexually assaulted another individual in a sadistic manner; (5) has a lengthy history of severe mental problems related to the offense; and (6) has engaged in serious misconduct while in prison. In re Rosenkrantz (2002) 29 Cal.4th 616, 658. These would be in disfavor of parole, though we do not know much about Ms. Krenwinkel, we do there has been talks that she might be mentally unstable. But this is all the things the parole board will look at. In addition, it will be difficult to make a decision on social behavior.
If you have questions about the criminal process here in San Diego, feel free to contact San Diego Criminal Attorney Vik Monder at 619-405-0063 or visit San Diego Criminal Attorney