R.I.P. Susan Atkins

Susan Atkins, 61, has died of brain cancer in a California prison hospital.

Atkins was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008 as she neared her fourth decade of incarceration at the California Institute for Women in Corona. The cancer caused paralysis and the loss of one leg.

Convicted of eight murders, Atkins served 38 years of a life sentence, which made her the longest-serving prisoner among women currently held in the state's penitentiaries, said Thornton. That distinction now falls to Patrcia Krenwinkle, who was convicted along with Atkins for the Tate-LaBianca murders

Atkins was serving a sentence of life, not life without parole. She was denied parole for the final time early this month. My view: [More...]

Parole boards have a duty to consider more than just the severity of the offense. Susan Atkins has had a model record of behavior while in prison. By only considering the heinousness of the crime, the parole board has usurped the power of the court and nullified her sentence, unilaterally changing it to life without parole.

That our society could not show mercy to a paralyzed, dying prisoner with one leg, who was no longer a threat to society, shows we still have not recognized, as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King tried to teach us, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."

R.I.P. Ms. Atkins.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Sad all around (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by sj on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 10:31:14 AM EST

    May she rest in peace. (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by scribe on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 10:52:21 AM EST
    She deserved better than this.

    I hope this satisfies the people who screamed and lobbied to keep her in prison.  And I hope it brings back the people they lost.

    She did not deserve better (none / 0) (#7)
    by nyjets on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 11:06:34 AM EST
    You are right that you can not bring back her victims. Therefore, she got exactly what she deserved: life in prison.
    I also must add that and 'eye for an eye' does not apply in this case. She was not executed (or murdered by the state). Her serving a sentence of life in prison, IMO, was justice and exactly what she deserved.

    Who knows who (none / 0) (#20)
    by jondee on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 12:21:55 PM EST
    "deserves" what? Everybody in this country apparently.

    medical treatment (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Oceandweller on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 11:23:07 AM EST
    was she denied medical treatment ?
    was she denied morphine ?
    was she denied TLC ?
    were her family/friends denied easy access to bring her consolation ?

    if the answers are no...

    She died in hospice care (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by oculus on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 11:25:26 AM EST

    hospice at the prison hospital (none / 0) (#32)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 06:50:43 PM EST
    "Atkins was diagnosed in 2008 with brain cancer and was receiving medical treatment at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, where she died at 11:46 p.m. Thursday, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation."

    Yes. (none / 0) (#34)
    by oculus on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 07:23:24 PM EST
    for the past 4 decades, considering.

    Now that she's gone, may she RIP.

    An eye for an eye (none / 0) (#2)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 10:50:47 AM EST
    My religous training was very weak but I thought the end of that statement was:

    "vengence is mine sayth the lord"

    That seems to be forgotten by the righteous.

    We've had our say (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Fabian on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 11:40:20 AM EST
    and the Lord will have his now.

    I think the point of the whole Manson saga is just how thoroughly a charismatic cult leader can screw up the lives of others.  To put it bluntly, if people aren't mentally ill before they join up, they probably are afterward.  The sad thing is that the leaders rarely get held accountable unless they commit crimes that can't be explained away.  For every Manson, there's dozens of others doing permanent damage whether it's a man (and his wife) holding people prisoner for years or polygamous clans doing the same thing on a larger scale.

    I'll mourn Atkins twice, once for what Manson did to her and once what the justice system did.  Then I'll think of all the modern day Mansons walking around victimizing people every single day and most of those victims are women.  Such a shame those SOBs aren't locked up.


    Large doses of acid (none / 0) (#15)
    by jondee on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 11:46:57 AM EST
    and very confused young people who dont know who they are yet definatly dont mix.

    Leary & co, for all thier utopian intentions, couldnt have been more wrong on that score, IMO.


    Leary (none / 0) (#25)
    by Fabian on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 01:21:52 PM EST
    was one of those people who figure that if it works for them, it works for everybody!  

    [Bows head, says a few prayers for those who found out the hard way that it didn't work for them.]

    Someone who spent a while studying people would know that to be very much in error.  Current advances, especially in genetics and neurochemistry, can verify and to some extent quantify that.  Here's hoping we can figure out exactly what works for whom in the near future.


    Uh, (none / 0) (#3)
    by bocajeff on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 10:52:17 AM EST
    You know I'm a busy guy. I run a business, have 3 kids, involved in community activities, support one charity (smile train since all of my kids have cleft palettes) and don't have time to have sympathy for everyone. Therefore, I give my sympathy to those who deserve it - not mass murderers. But that's just my opinion...

    You need not have sympathy sir... (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by kdog on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 10:57:07 AM EST
    hate her for all eternity if it floats your boat, or don't think of her at all...but if compassion is in such short supply that a one-legged, paralyzed woman on her death bed can't get some, we need to call our compassion connect and re-up pronto.

    Odd, though (none / 0) (#6)
    by sj on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 10:57:11 AM EST
    that you have time to NOT have sympathy or compassion.

    Yes, but (none / 0) (#12)
    by bocajeff on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 11:37:40 AM EST
    My point is that with all the crap that is going on in our country - people being murdered, homelessness, etc...to stop and take time to have sympathy for a mass murderer instead of using the time constructively toward helping those who need help is, in my view, wrong. Sure it only takes a moment to think. However, I would rather we, as  a society, take care of innocents who are suffering before we take care of mass murderers who are suffering...

    I didn't realize (none / 0) (#17)
    by sj on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 12:02:38 PM EST
    that compassion was bound by time and space.

    you've made your point twice (none / 0) (#31)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 06:48:08 PM EST
    now please move on.

    Bottom line: not a good strategy to (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 11:37:10 AM EST
    threaten the judge and his or her family at sentencing hrg.

    Did she? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Fabian on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 11:41:37 AM EST
    Apparently didn't decide to go with "throwing herself on the mercy of the court".

    Long live free will!


    Yes, per LAT obit link. (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by oculus on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 11:56:44 AM EST
    Or (none / 0) (#21)
    by jbindc on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 12:29:51 PM EST
    to kill people.

    That too. (none / 0) (#22)
    by oculus on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 12:35:21 PM EST
    we do not speak ill of the dead here (none / 0) (#33)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 06:53:31 PM EST
    and bringing up these kind of tidbits is not welcome.

    I think it's hard to discuss her life... (none / 0) (#35)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 07:43:52 PM EST
    ... without mentioning the people she helped to brutally murder. God can know if she truly repented and changed, but it's hard for man to know. Given her condition, I wouldn't have strongly objected if she'd been paroled, but it doesn't bother me that she wasn't. I do think there are some things you should die in prison for.

    Atkins had a son... (none / 0) (#23)
    by desertswine on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 12:53:25 PM EST
    "... when she became pregnant by a "family" member, he (Manson) helped deliver the baby boy, naming it Zezozoze Zadfrack. His whereabouts are unknown."

    Ah, I didn't know that (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by sj on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 01:08:39 PM EST
    That poor boy (now man).  I hope he never knows.

    Sigh. (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Fabian on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 01:25:29 PM EST
    Why am I not surprised?   I wonder if there are any cults that advocate contraception?  

    Cults, whether orthodox as in organized religions, (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by hairspray on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 01:33:34 PM EST
    or unorthodox, as in unorganized religions seem to like lots of pregnant women to produce warriors or followers, take your pick.

    it also (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by ColumbiaDuck on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 02:37:04 PM EST
    keeps many members in a vulnerable state.  one is less like to lead a rebellion or leave the "support system" of the cult if pregnant or caring for small children.

    I have less sympathy (none / 0) (#36)
    by weltec2 on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 09:06:59 PM EST
    for her than say Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme who should have been put in a mental hospital and never sent to prison in the first place. Susan was always very spooky even years later.

    From a John Waters memoir about Leslie Van Houten (none / 0) (#37)
    by lcdrrek on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 01:30:26 AM EST
    "Leslie Van Houten has served more time than any Nazi war criminal who was not sentenced to death at Nuremberg. She has served more time that any of the Nazi defendants who were sentenced to life in prison except for Hitler's deputy, Rudolph Hess, who died in his fortieth year in prison (the exact amount of time Leslie has now served). She's served more time than Lt. William Calley who was originally sentenced to life in prison for the My Lai massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians. She has served longer than the surviving female member of the Baader Meinhoff Gang, a German terrorist group who murdered thirty-four people for left-wing "politics" and "revolution."

    You can substitute Susan Atkins name for Ms. Van Houten's in this quote.  From what I have read about Ms. Atkins she did express remorse for her crimes.  We seem to have a short supply of compassion around here today.

    Remorse is to late (none / 0) (#38)
    by nyjets on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 05:03:26 AM EST
    It is all well and good and that Susan Atkins and Leslie Van Houten are remorseful for there crimes. The simple fact,however, it is to late. THey are murders and nothing changes that.For that reason, life in prison should be there fate.

    A couple of things (none / 0) (#39)
    by jbindc on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 06:49:20 AM EST
    Atkins/Van Houten served more time than Nazi war criminals, et al because they were younger when they committed and were convicted of their crimes.

    You must also remember that Atkins got 25-30 years of life that she should not have had, as she was sentenced to death. It is not speaking ill of the dead to point out why we're talking about them in the first place.  Had Atkins not been a participant in 8 horrific murders, her death would not even be a subject of a blog post. Now, it's up to her Maker to decide what her fate is for eternity.


    In some cases, the person should deserve mercy (none / 0) (#41)
    by nyjets on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 08:33:21 AM EST
    At one level, I do understand what people are saying, mercy is not 'earned.'
    But I am of the opinion that in some cases (and for some people) the person should deserve mercy.
    In the case of murders, there has to be some mitigating factor that can allow a person to say: 'This person should be shown mercy for what he or she did.'

    Susan Atkins crimes were just too heinous. She helped slaughter 8 people. She can never make up for what she did and further, provide no valid mitigating factor to explain what she did. She fits in the category of people who did not deserve mercy. She deserved to die in prison.


    This point does annoy me (none / 0) (#43)
    by nyjets on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 09:04:32 AM EST
    I am slightly annoyed by this notion that by not wanting to show mercy to a murder, this makes a person 'bad' for lack of a better word.
    Having a person die in prison for murder and not wanting her to get out does not say anything bad about society or people in general. Nor does it put 'us' as in society at her level.
    Now if she was executed, you would be right. If she was tortured throughout her entire prison sentence you would be right. If she was made  to live in filth and squalor for the rest of her days you would be right. However, all that happened was she was made to spend the rest of her life in prison. That does not put society at her level.

    Minor Point (none / 0) (#45)
    by nyjets on Sat Sep 26, 2009 at 09:30:35 AM EST
    When I said 'slightly annoyed' I did not mean to be nasty or anything or to accuse you of anything. It that came out, I am sorry, that was not my intent. I merely meant to state I do not like point of view.
    Again, it what I typed was offense, I am sorry, that was not my intent.

    Last point, you and I will probable never agree on this point. In my opinion, wanting to her to die in prison does not put me on her level nor does it smack of hypocrisy. It is merely a desire to punish a murder.

    Susan Atkins (none / 0) (#46)
    by CFS5748 on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 11:46:40 PM EST
    Completely by accident, I recently discovered that Susan Atkins had passed away in 2009. I was 10 years old in 1969: didn't care much about it then. Since my discovery, I have done extensive research regarding the events of August 1969, because, like a lot of people, I became fascinated with it. I have learned a few things:
    First and foremost, above all else, I have pity and sorrow for Miss Atkins. I look at the photos of her in her youth, and I do not see what a lot of people have seemed to see: a murderous monster.
    I see a beautiful young girl who was lost. A girl that was hurting from the loss of her mother, a girl that was missing out on the fun life that young teen girls ought to be living. Seemingly little to no parental guidance at an age when she needed it the most. A weak gullible girl that set out on her own, brave in itself, to find something better, and thought she found something better, when that sadistic son-of-a-bitch sank it's claws into her. She represented any teen girl of that era in her situation. There was nothing different about her. It could have been your very own daughter, or sister, or cousin, or friend. Maybe I feel the way I do because I am a parent. I cannot help it: I cry for her.
    From information that is available, she turned her life around during her many years of incarceration, and became a true model of strength and courage. She worked hard, accomplished much, and showed everyone the good person she really was deep down. She helped others. She was loved. She spent the better part of her life doing good, but society will not recognize it.
    I do not believe that Miss Atkins changed while in prison. I believe the real Susan Atkins, after being gone for so long, emerged again.
    I know nothing of the legal system, I am just an average middle class working man. But I do not believe the parole board denied Miss Atkins' compassionate release for their officially stated reasons. Society didn't want Miss Atkins back. The parole board knew that, so that's the card they played. Imagine the fallout from society, and more so, the victims families, had Miss Atkins been released. It's mind-boggling. While it's very possible that at least one of them had the compassion, as a human being, to at least consider it behind closed doors, they chose the easy way out. Most people in that position probably would have as well. It can be very difficult to stand up for what you believe, especially when it's you against society. So based on the fame of her actions, they didn't do the right thing, or the moral thing, or the humane thing, or the compassionate thing. They did the convenient thing, and that would be the end of it. Having compassion, and forgiveness, when it's convenient, is not what God meant.
    Miss Atkins may be gone, but her story is far from over.
    Those who judged Miss Atkins will one day be judged by God themselves. And when he asks them, "Why didn't you have compassion and mercy for Susan Atkins when she asked for it?", they had better have a better answer than, "We didn't feel like dealing with it."
    Peace and love, Miss Atkins.