Update: A state parole panel today unanimously denied “compassionate release” for terminally-ill Manson follower Susan Atkins after hearing emotional testimony both for and against her release.

The 12-member State Board of Parole Hearing, as is customary, did not release any explanation for its decision. 

Anyone that was around in 1969 would remember the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others during the Manson deranged killing spree.

Susan Atkins admitted to cutting Sharon Tate’s throat while Tate begged her not to hurt her unborn child. Now Atkins has requested a release from prison. She is reportedly dying from brain cancer and it has been determined that she may only have less than six months left to live. Apparently her request has already been approved by the prison where she is currently been held in Chino. 

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley thinks that Susan Atkins, now 60 years old and convicted of eight murders, should not be granted compassionate release. He says she should stay in prison.  “To grant Atkins a release would be an affront to the people of the state, the California criminal justice system and the next of kin of many murder victims,” said Cooley, who strongly opposes her release.

“Her horrific crimes alone warrant a denial of her release,” Cooley said. He added, “Atkins failed to demonstrate genuine remorse and understanding of the gravity of her crimes.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that the parole board had received around 100 letters concerning Atkins possible release, most stating that she should remain in prison.

Manson, Atkins and the other followers were initially give the death penalties for their crimes but the sentences were overturned to life in prison after the US Supreme Courts established new requirements for capital cases.

Cooley says Atkins can get the medical care she needs while in prison. “She can’t care for herself, she can’t feed herself or even sit up in bed by herself,” said Eric P. Lampel, Atkins’s attorney. Not only does she have brain cancer but she also has had one leg amputated. “The reality is, even if she gets this compassionate release, she won’t leave her hospital room.” He claims his client is no a threat to society and has been a role model prisoner for nearly four decades.

She has been in state prison for 37 years which is longer than any other female prisoner in California. Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi said that he has provided a declaration for today’s hearing supporting Atkins’s release largely because of her health problems. He says not only has she lost one leg, but the other leg is paralyzed. He sent an email to Atkins’s attorney in support of her release. He wrote that the notion that “just because Susan Atkins showed no mercy to her victims, we therefore are duty-bound to follow her inhumanity and show no mercy to her” was wrong.

“Mercy is already built in California statutory law, because if it weren’t, we would automatically give the death penalty for every murder case, which we don’t,” Bugliosi said. “My point is, what mercy are we giving her? It’s not like she had six months to live and we’re letting her go home and she’s going to have fun with her family.”

“My view is that anyone who opposes her request, other than relatives of the seven Tae- La Bianca victims, is either being robotic or extremely cautious,” Bugliosi said. “The mercy being requested now is almost too minuscule to speak of because she’s in bed and she’s going to die.”

Terry Thornton, the Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said the hearing would be public and speakers will be limited to five minutes for comments. After the board hears those cases as well as other they will retire to closed session and then they are expected to post its decision later today.

Jan Barrett

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