Last Prison Hearing of Manson Follower Susan Atkins

The LA Weekly recently took a peek at last month’s state Board of Parole Hearings transcript in which Manson follower and convicted murderer Susan Atkins was denied “compassionate release.” In May, Atkins’ husband asked for “compassionate release” for his wife because she is dying from brain cancer and has less than three months to live.

In the summer of 1969, Atkins stabbed pregnant actress Sharon Tate a gruesome 16 times at Tate’s Benedict Canyon mansion. After killing Tate, prosecutors said Atkins tasted the actress' blood and used it to scrawl “PIG” on her front door. On that dreadful August 9 night, the Manson Family also killed Abigail Ann Folger, Voytek Frykowski, Steven R. Parent, and Jay Sebring.

The following day, members of the Manson family bludgeoned to death Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary at their home in the Los Feliz hills. Atkins, then 22, was convicted of killing Tate and music teacher Gary Hinman. Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten were soon charged with the other grisly murders.

The 90-minute hearing included testimony from a crowd of Atkins’ supporters including her niece, younger brother, husband/attorney James Whitehouse as well as a Los Angeles filmmaker, a licensed social worker and a former inmate.

The July 15 hearing highlighted the extremely frail condition of the former topless dancer who was transferred to a Southern California hospital last March, and the astronomical cost to taxpayers who are paying for her medical expenses.

Whitehouse told the commissioners that Atkins was so debilitated that she could barely put two or three sentences together a day.

“They tell me that if we’re lucky we have three months and it’s not going to be fun,” he said. “Susan didn’t ask for this release. I’m asking for this release. I promised her when I married her that I’d take care of her…I want to be there for her. The fact that this is going to save the state of California millions to guard someone who can’t sit up should be in our favor as well.”

Micki Dickoff, a Los Angeles filmmaker, told the commissioners that she met Atkins in 1993 when she was researching a film about mind control. The film never panned out but the two women became friends. Dickoff said Atkins, 60, was paralyzed on her right side and unable to get out of bed, had lost her left leg, and could barely speak. “She has an exemplary prison record,” she said. “She meets all the requirements for compassionate release.”

Adding: “She is not a threat to society. And to say that would really be disingenuous.”

Atkins’ attorney Eric Lampel chastised the California prison system for allowing taxpayers to pay for Atkins medical expenses that have totaled $1,153,276. Her medical guarding costs alone are approximately $3,000 a day.

“Taxpayers of the State of California shouldn’t have to pay for guards to guard the disabled,” argued Lampel.

Not everyone was there to support Atkins including Anthony Di Maria, the nephew of murder victim Jay Sebring. Di Maria argued, “to sum up these murders in terms of cost efficiency trivializes the victim’s lives, the crimes and the lifelong impact on the victims’ families.”

Pam Turner, a cousin of actress Sharon Tate, told the commissioners that Atkins “didn’t murder by accident.”

“She tasted Sharon’s blood. She bragged about that. She called Sharon names and she denied her any mercy,” said Turner.

The California Board of Parole voted unanimously in July to deny Atkins' request for a court hearing in Los Angeles that could have allowed her to die outside the custody of the California prison system.

Atkins was originally sentenced to death in 1971. She was resentenced to life in prison in 1972 when the California Supreme Court ruled the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Manson had preached of an apocalyptic race war he said was predicted in the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.” His followers including Atkins believed they would eventually control the United States — if they performed heinous crimes for Manson.

Atkins was housed in the California Institution for Women for 37 years.

Click here to download a copy of the document. (94 pages, 167 kb)

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