Dying, Paralyzed Amputee Susan Atkins Denied Parole

California's parole board yesterday denied parole for Susan Atkins. Atkins has served more than 40 years in prison for her role in the Sharon Tate/LaBianca murders. She has served more time than any other female inmate in California history.

She is dying of cancer, paralyzed and several years ago had a leg amputated. She's no threat to society. Susan Atkins was sentenced to life with parole -- not life without parole. They are not the same thing. [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.

I know it's too late, but as I've been saying for years, Free Susan Atkins. She wasn't sentenced to die in prison. And, while I'm at it, Leslie Van Houten should be freed too.

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    Just asking (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Jen M on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 06:33:51 AM EST
    but what would happen to her if she were released? How would she get care? (and who would protect her)

    I've often wondered what happens to inmates released after a long life in prison.

    That same question came to mind when (none / 0) (#11)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 09:21:38 AM EST
    I saw the photo in this post. The state is managing her care. If she leaves now, she can't get medical insurance, so who takes care of her?

    Having not been invited into the parole hearings, I have no idea why the board is choosing to deny her parole. She carries something of an incredible combination of situations. Longest serving woman in prison/California, severely ill, eligible for parole, model prisoner, not a danger to society, so what is it that is standing in the way of her release? Everything really points to there being no question she should be released.

    Maybe someday one of the members of the board will tell what was behind their decision.


    Add to your list: (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Carolyn in Baltimore on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 09:33:05 AM EST
    California has been ordered to release non-violent prisoners because of overcrowding.

    I would think (none / 0) (#14)
    by Jen M on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 09:56:11 AM EST
    this would be an easy way to drop 1 from the rolls.

    quite simply it was the crime itself (5.00 / 0) (#13)
    by nyjets on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 09:37:35 AM EST
    Most likly, it was the crime itself that keeps her in prison. SHe commited several brutal murders. They probable feel that if anyone should die in prison, she should.
    They probable also feel that the fact that she is dying or was 'reformed' does not change anything.
    Finally, unless she is wealthy, the government will be paying for her medical bills one way or another. As long as that is the case, we may as well keep her in prison.

    Institutionalized collective... (5.00 / 4) (#6)
    by kdog on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 08:19:09 AM EST
    cruelty is so much harder to stomach than individual acts of cruelty.  The latter is unavoidable part of the deal on earth, the former I can't figure out the reason for, for the life of me I can't.

    Parole is not forgiveness (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Peter G on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 08:48:59 AM EST
    "I guess some crimes are [thought to be] simply too traumatic and ghastly for the public to ever collectively forgive."  But parole does not reflect forgiveness.  She has served 40 years' imprisonment, an impossibly long time and an extraordinary punishment.  Her entire adult life was taken from her, as punishment for a heinous crime.  I haven't looked up the California statute, but I'm willing to assume the criteria for parole include consideration of the seriousness of the offense.  Even so, if the judge imposing sentence (even on resentencing, after her death sentence was vacated) made her eligible for parole, then to deny parole forever on the basis of the nature of the offense is inconsistent with the decision the judge made, which became final long ago, and thus out of line for a parole board.

    Not really (2.00 / 0) (#16)
    by jbindc on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 10:28:11 AM EST
    Her entire adult life was taken from her, as punishment for a heinous crime.

    Her entire adult life was not "taken from her," as if she was some poor pathetic victim here.  She voluntarily surrendered when she chose to commit a heinous crime.

    And you well know, that just because a judge said she was elegible for parole, does not mean that she should ever deserve parole.

    Give it to her when Sharon Tate et all get the lives that were "taken from them" back.


    jb (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by jondee on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 01:42:15 PM EST
    So, you're all o.k with being punished with being punished for every single one of your transgressions?

    I bet.


    No (none / 0) (#44)
    by MrConservative on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 04:42:59 PM EST
    It's philosophically incorrect to say that people who are punished voluntarily had that punishment put upon them.  A failure to a respond to a threat of force may be foolish, but it's not the same thing as consent.

    I would totally give Sharon Tate back her life if I had the ability.  Unfortunately, I can't.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't release Susan.  Being cruel to Susan isn't being kind to Sharon.  It shows her death no respect.  That is foolishness.


    My understanding is that she was originally (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Exeter on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 09:05:07 AM EST
    sentenced to death, but was saved by the USSC's (temporary) death penalty ban. I know it was changed to life with parole, but didn't everyone on death row get their sentances changed to "life with parole"?

    Her crimes were particularly heinous. I don't like to see anyone die in prison, but I think that should be part of the punishment of a death sentence that was automatically commuted to a life sentence.

    California (none / 0) (#45)
    by MrConservative on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 04:46:06 PM EST
    Probably didn't have LWOP back then.  LWOP is a new invention, mainly put into place because anti-death penalty advocates thought it would decrease the amount of executions ordered.  Of course, it didn't.

    It's not that simple (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by NYShooter on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 10:30:54 AM EST
    "The heinous nature of the crime," or "she didn't show mercy, why should we?"

    What should be taken into account, as any lawyer or member of the justice system knows, is a person's state of mind at the time of the "incident." We have such a low regard for psychological factors as to simply ignore them.
    It's been only recently that a beaten/battered wife could use her experience as a defense when arrested for taking action to stop her abuser.

    Who could say that Susan Atkins was of "sound mind" when she committed those awful murders? Susan's "sound mind" was plucked from her skull and replaced by a Manson-induced zombie-blob that rendered her a submissive, robotic, automon, existing solely to carry out Manson's orders.

    A similar situation occurred when Patty Hearst, a young girl who would never have harmed a flea, was arrested and convicted for crimes committed while she was a "member" of The Symbiones Liberation Army. The fact that she was kidnapped, shackled, raped, and beaten, and kept in darkened closets until she "joined" wasn't enough for a jury to show any understanding of the psychological impact these kind of things have on normal human beings.

    40 years is enough time for us to have figured this out.

    I could go for "mandatory rehab" (none / 0) (#21)
    by Fabian on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 11:18:13 AM EST
    which is pretty much what you are arguing for here.

    A man in Ohio was sentenced for biting his girlfrind's toddler son to teach him not to bite.  (The child had adult sized bite marks all over - including his genital area.)  The man's argued that his own father had done the same to him.  

    Ideally, we'd send this person somewhere until he could demonstrate appropriate, nonviolent methods of child rearing and discipline - however long it took.  It's a results oriented approach - don't punish, teach.  If the student does not wish to learn, don't let them rejoin society.

    However, according to our judicial system this is "unfair" because two people who committed the same crime could end up serving vastly different sentences.  I'd be happy to use the penal system teach people how to be the best, most functional, most productive members of society that they can be.  What we have now doesn't really care if they are better or worse than they went in, so long as they are "punished".


    I will admit (none / 0) (#24)
    by nyjets on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 11:46:41 AM EST
    I will admit I do not put much stock to psychology.
    That being said, when will it stop. For almost any crime, include murder, a person can use psychology to explain why they commited there crime. Using this logic, every criminal and murder would being able to get off with a light sentence.
    The fact is Susan Atkins commited the crimes on her own. She knew what she was doing was wrong but did not care. Also, there was no real evidence of abuse or brain washing on Susan Atkins. Susan Atkins is resonsible for her own actions. Was she reformed at the end. Maybe. BUt it is to late. She can never make up for what she did.

    not taking stock in psychology (5.00 / 3) (#26)
    by Jen M on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 12:02:31 PM EST
    is a national attitude that keeps people who need help from seeking and or getting it if they can't afford it.  How many heinous crimes might have been prevented by timely treatment?

    None (none / 0) (#30)
    by nyjets on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 12:36:19 PM EST
    Honestly, I think it would have very little effect on the number of heinous crimes commited. For many (most?) criminals, criminals use psychology to justify there crimes after the fact. They would have commited there crimes regardless as to whether or not they have gotten help.

    I think you are referring to sociopaths (none / 0) (#43)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 04:06:44 PM EST
    and psychopaths and that is a very small part of society.  It isn't as if we don't have solid evidence that violence begets violence.  When people have been abused, even the most functioning among us tend to preform some kind of reenactment to attempt to "change" the trauma done to us.  If we were powerless sometimes we do things trying to feel powerful, hurt someone the way we were hurt.  I think there are many ways in which someone who has been hurt or harmed can transform serious traumas that were visited upon them, but most people do not get to those places alone and on their own steam. Doesn't it strike a chord in you that convicted child molesters are targeted for death in prison because so many prisoners were molested as children?

    To a certain extent I agree (none / 0) (#46)
    by nyjets on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 05:31:17 PM EST
    If someone is abused strikes back at the person commiting the abuse, that is one thing. A wife killing her husband who beats her.  A kid killing someone who has been abusing him/her for years I can buy.
    However, there has to be a limit. Just because someone is abused does not mean he/ she should be giving a free pass to commit crimes with impunity. I stand what I said before, for most people they would have commited there crimes with or without treatment. I would imagine that there are plenty of people who have been abused who have never commited a crime or gotten treatment.
    Furthermore, even if Atkins had been abused, that is no excuse for the crimes that she had commited. It should not allow her to escape punishment.

    Yet we have documented evidence (5.00 / 0) (#57)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Sep 04, 2009 at 12:40:12 PM EST
    that those who have suffered serious pain and trauma can and will strike out at those who were not involved in abusing them and it is on a subconscious level that in some can be almost impossible to control.  Healing is difficult from serious pain and traumas and the longer it is not found the more the injury embeds into many persons actual psychology.  When society does not want to become a part of such healing or denies individuals the opportunity and resources to attain such healing people can become angered at society in general too and strike out at society in general.  I don't know if Atkins was abused.  I wasn't singling her out in this discussion because it seemed to me that you had made a blanket statement about incarcerated people guilty of commiting crimes and how they were not rehabable.  That was the statement I was addressing.

    For some crimes, rehab is irrelevant (none / 0) (#60)
    by nyjets on Fri Sep 04, 2009 at 09:36:07 PM EST
    My point is that suffering trauma should not be an excuse to commit crimes. THey know what they are doing is wrong. THey simply do not care. For most of these people, getting help will do no good. Furthermore, many people who suffer trauma do not try to help themselves. They blame everyone but themselves IMO.
    To a certain extent, I think people are what they are. People can not change there basic nature. FOr many criminals, rehabilitation is impossible.

    FOr other criminals, rehabis irrelevant. There crimes are to heinous to merit rehab. They should die in prison.


    Question (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Natal on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 10:35:38 AM EST
    What is the purpose of imprisonment - to punish, to rehabilitate, to protect society, to seek revenge? I would guess most Americans would say punish first. But whatever the answer is, it reflects the consciousness of the country. And the overall penal system is just an instrument to carry out the will of the people IMO.

    Recidivism: (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 12:00:30 PM EST
    the least likely category for recidivism upon release? Murderers.
    Most likely? Car thieves. Yet car thieves get out a lot quicker.

    Good (4.67 / 3) (#1)
    by DaveOinSF on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 12:34:03 AM EST

    It is not simple. (2.00 / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 08:57:35 AM EST
    One of the earliest justifications for laws and state punishment was to prevent blood feuds by having the state punish.

    There is no doubt of her guilt. She was cut a lot of slack when she was not executed. I see no need to give her more.

    I have reluctantly went from a believer in capital punishment to LWOP. The public will not understand that she had LWP, they will just see a killer who escaped the death penalty and who eventually "got out." That would greatly damage the LWOP position.

    If the public would open their eyes... (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by kdog on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 09:12:33 AM EST
    they would see us paroling an old lady... paralyzed and amputated...as an act of mercy.

    We're not talking about Willie Horton here...I mean just look at her picture.

    To hell with damaging positions and using human life as a pawn in a political debate...to heaven with mercy and compassion becoming societal value, for the good of society and no other reason.


    Well said Kdog. (5.00 / 0) (#58)
    by Chuck0 on Fri Sep 04, 2009 at 01:55:42 PM EST
    "One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishment that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

    She (none / 0) (#19)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 10:55:41 AM EST
    forfeited her life when she took the lives of others. She should not be released to harm a LWOP position that can, possibly, save innocent lives.

    Sometimes (none / 0) (#20)
    by CST on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 11:04:56 AM EST
    It's important to see people as people, not as political fights.

    I also don't see how this would effect LWOP arguments since that is not what she was sentanced to.


    The public will (2.00 / 0) (#27)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 12:21:06 PM EST
    see her as just another example of killers sentenced to life and then released for one reason or the other.  That damages the LWOP position because the argument becomes.... "See? They won't keep'em locked up...."

    Perception is everything.


    Look at her pal... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 11:41:37 AM EST
    her life has already been forfeited, the only part that matters anyway.

    I am not concerned with (2.00 / 0) (#28)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 12:22:13 PM EST
    her... but the bad effect she can have.

    What happened to all that (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by jondee on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 01:59:53 PM EST
    red state Christian forgiveness?

    Not that it ever existed.


    She was able to wake up each morning (none / 0) (#32)
    by Cards In 4 on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 01:32:59 PM EST
    for 40 more years than Sharon Tate or the child she killed.

    I would say Atkins has already gotten the better of that deal, especially since she was originally sentenced to death.


    She has no "slack" left (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by jondee on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 01:39:08 PM EST
    as it is.

    The question is, whats the proper way to treat a human being; which includes Susan Atkins.

    Btw, Does anyone know whatever became of those home movies confiscated at the crime scene, one of which, according to researcher Paul Krassner, starred Susan Atkins?


    The state wanted to prevent (5.00 / 0) (#35)
    by jondee on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 01:46:36 PM EST
    blood feuds. That must be why it took such strong stance in enforcing anti-lynching laws (sic)

    The mere fact that she (2.00 / 0) (#29)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 12:30:17 PM EST
    feels she deserves to be released, after full knowledge of her actions and the mind-numbing heinousness of those acts, and after full knowledge that but for the inordinate amount of mercy the state has already freely bestowed upon her she would have been put to death decades ago, makes me think she should stay right where she is.

    Too bad. (none / 0) (#5)
    by Sweet Sue on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 07:18:41 AM EST
    Too bad that Atkins didn't have some oil contracts to sell.

    What's the Difference? (none / 0) (#15)
    by kcole on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 10:05:36 AM EST
    I fail to see why it matters whether she is paroled or not.  "Mercy" connotes some alleviation of pain or suffering, and since the only difference Atkins will experience is a change from a hospital bed inside prison walls to a hospital bed outside prison walls, what possible difference can it make to her?

    The Mercy End Game (none / 0) (#31)
    by kcole on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 01:17:26 PM EST
    I can't speak to the LWOP argument because it wasn't mine, but to your first point, that parole would allow us to demonstrate that we are a merciful society...what's the end game?  What does this demonstration of our so-called mercy prove or accomplish?  Does it help Atkins?  No.  Does it help her victims' families?  No.  Does it help her own family?  Perhaps.  Does it impact society's comings and goings and laws and compacts?  No.  

    So the only possible beneficiaries of this "mercy" are Atkins' relatives.  Then we have to ask whether the state's mercy, which provides solace to Atkins' family, doesn't prove hurtful and overly lenient to the family of the victims.  Which way would you prefer that scale to tip?


    Mercy for its own sake (none / 0) (#47)
    by kcole on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 09:58:20 PM EST
    Mercy for its own sake is pointless.  Unless an action has a result, there is no reason for the action.  If you see a dog in the road that was hit by a car and is near death, to say, "I will grant mercy and not run over that dog again" is a pretty pointless act of grace.  The only thing it can possibly accomplish is to somehow make you feel magnanimous, but trust me, neither the dying dog nor Susan Atkins is really in any position to give a damn when or where or how they die.

    Just out of curiosity, are you for giving Dick Cheney some of that mercy re: his complicity in our torture programs?  In for a penny, in for a pound.


    Now it's just geography (none / 0) (#49)
    by kcole on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 11:56:13 PM EST
    Well, we've come full circle back to my original point which I assume you don't buy, and that is that Susan Atkins, in all probability, doesn't really care where her hospital bed is parked.  And most of the time probably doesn't even know.  Mercy lost its impact a long time ago as far as she is concerned...now, parole is just a question of the latitude and longitude of the bed she dies in.

    Re:  Dick Cheney...he has heart trouble, you know.  Wouldn't it be merciful to spare him any kind of investigation into the torture allegations?


    you've made your point (none / 0) (#50)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 11:59:28 PM EST
    four times. Enough thank you.

    Wow. (none / 0) (#53)
    by kcole on Fri Sep 04, 2009 at 12:26:47 AM EST
    That was helpful and added meaning and insight to the argument.  Weigh in often!

    It's all opinion (none / 0) (#52)
    by kcole on Fri Sep 04, 2009 at 12:24:21 AM EST
    I think her husband is her attorney and is doing what he thinks is necessary and within her legal rights.  But unless one of the two of us has chatted with them recently, we're both basing our beliefs on opinion.

    And while I generally think that anyone who formulates an argument on a dictionary definition has already lost the argument, I'll succumb this once and point out that the dictionary does not support your version of what mercy means.


    Revelation (none / 0) (#55)
    by kcole on Fri Sep 04, 2009 at 09:06:11 AM EST
    And here I thought conservative teabagger Republicans were the only jerks on the Internet.  

    Dumb question (none / 0) (#36)
    by NealB on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 01:55:44 PM EST
    If they were to release her, where does she go?

    Opens up another question (none / 0) (#42)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 03:31:43 PM EST
    The country today is vastly different than what it was 40 years ago. After how many years living in prison does that become a persons way of life? Would releasing her be more stressful than allowing her to continue where she is most accustomed to being?

    Perhaps it is her family that is wanting her release and she's preventing the parole board from letting her go.


    Parole (none / 0) (#38)
    by Pat Johnson on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 02:00:32 PM EST
    Had he been allowed birth, Sharon Tate's son would be 40 years old this month.   He never had a chance at a life.  

    Any pity I had was spent for the child that never was.

    Maybe people should try (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by jondee on Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 02:13:44 PM EST
    channeling that festering, easy-access outrage by volunteering to help save the life of some disadvantaged child.

    A light a candle rather than curse the darkness kind of thing.


    Good (none / 0) (#59)
    by catmandu on Fri Sep 04, 2009 at 05:10:37 PM EST
    Has anyone here read her book?  It was posted on her web site.  Her victims ( I believe she was involved in killing 8 people) are not even shown to be persons. She doesn't even name them. She blames/idolizes Manson.
    He was not proven to have actually killed anyone, yet he is in for life as well.
    She has served less than five years for each murder she committed.  Thats not very long.
    She should stay in prison, its best for the victim's families, society and for Atkins herself.