California Gov. Jerry Brown once again denied parole Friday for Leslie Van Houten, the youngest follower of murderous cult leader Charles Manson who blamed herself at her parole hearing for letting him control her life. Brown said in his decision that Van Houten still lays too much of the blame on Manson, who died two months ago at 83. Brown acknowledged that Van Houten's youth at the time of the crime, her more than four decades as a model prisoner, and her abuse at the hands of Manson make it worth considering her release. "However," he wrote "these factors are outweighed by negative factors that demonstrate she remains unsuitable for parole." The 68-year-old Van Houten is serving life for the murders of wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, when Van Houten was 19. They were stabbed a day after other Manson followers killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four other people in Los Angeles.
Van Houten's attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, said Brown's decision shows an unprecedented and unlawful reliance to deny parole based on the circumstances of the crime, rather than the inmate's fitness. "We're going to challenge this in court," Pfeiffer said. "I expect the courts to uphold the law and allow her to be released." Pfeiffer added that he has "dozens of clients who have done much worse deeds than Leslie ... and they're out leading productive lives." Van Houten has long been considered among the most likely candidates among Manson "family" members to be paroled, notes the AP. It's the second time Brown has blocked parole for Van Houten after a state parole panel recommended that she be freed. Although she said at her September parole hearing that she accepts full responsibility for her role, Brown wrote that Van Houten "still shifted blame for her own actions onto Manson to some extent."