After spending over 50 years in prison, several of Charles Manson’s followers may be released on parole under Los Angeles County District Attorney’s new policy to stop opposing parole of those convicted in connection with the Manson “Family” murders.
Many of Mason’s followers have been routinely denied parole over the last 40 years as Los Angeles County prosecutors typically accompany victims’ families and argue against their release. However, ever since Los Angeles District Attorney George Gasćon’s recent election, victims’ relatives are finding that they are no longer supported by prosecutors. As a result, there is genuine fear that some of Manson’s followers will succeed in being released on parole.
Such is the case of Kay Martley, who joined a California Board of Parole Hearings video conference for Bruce Davis on January 22 and found that she was left to to argue against Davis’ release on her own. Her cousin, Gary Hinman, was tortured and killed by Davis and Manson on July 27, 1969 and she has been advocating for Hinman’s case since 2012.
“I had no one to speak for me,” Martley, 81, said. “I felt like no one cares about the victims’ families anymore. We are totally forgotten.”
Before he was elected, Gasćon’s campaign ran on a platform that promised a reduction in the number of people in prison during his term. Gasćon has now mandated that prosecutors no longer attend hearings to oppose the parole of inmates sentenced to life who have already served their mandatory minimum period of incarceration. This policy shift serves as the embodiment of Gasćon’s greater directive to consider victims’ rights before, during and after criminal trials.
However, there are certain cases that will likely not be affected by the DA’s new policy. For example, California governor Gavin Newsom is expected to deny Davis’ early release, despite the fact that the state board has recommended parole for the convicted murderer six times.
It is currently unclear whether or not other followers of Charles Manson will experience a similar opportunity as Davis, but Gasćon’s special adviser, Alex Bastian, believes that many of these individuals inherently pose less of a threat to their communities in their old age than they did when they were in their 30s.
“In any case where an individual has spent nearly half a century in prison, the parole board has likely reviewed generations of behavioral health evaluations and has determined that a nearly 80-year-old elderly man is not the same person he was when he was 30 years of age,” Bastian said. “The people’s interest in continued incarceration, at extraordinary cost to taxpayers, is likely to have informed their release decision.”
Bastian also claims that the DA’s office will continue to provide support for the families of victims, but Martley stated that she received no such support during her hearing. Overall, it appears that the early release of Manson’s followers may continue to be determined on a case by case basis rather than follow the DA’s new blanket policy as the mandate grows out of its infancy.