This past week, Patricia Krenwinkel, a follower of murderer and cult leader Charles Manson, was once again denied parole by the California parole board.
Krenwinkel, 69, had previously been denied parole 13 times for the slayings of the pregnant actress, Sharon Tate, and four others, as well as her participation the following night in the murders of grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary.
Following my successful efforts to have the paroles of Robert Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, and the infamous “Onion Field” murderer, Gregory Ulas Powell, rescinded in 1982, I was contacted by Doris Tate, mother of slain actress Sharon Tate, asking me to help keep Krenwinkel and the rest of the Manson wholesale killers in prison.
At the time Mrs. Tate contacted me, some 900 people had signed a petition supporting the release of fellow Manson follower, Leslie Van Houten. Mrs. Tate was worried that she might be released, thereby igniting further efforts to have more Manson followers released.
Mrs. Tate asked me and my non-profit organization, Citizens for Truth in Justice, to launch a petition drive in this effort.
Within two months, we collectively gathered an initial 80,000 petition signatures and several thousand letters demanding that Krenwinkel remain incarcerated. By the end of the decade, that number rose to 2.4 million signatures and more than 100,000 letters.
Mrs. Tate and I traveled to the prisons to personally deliver the petitions and letters and Mrs. Tate was allowed to testify at the parole hearings against the release of these heinous murderers, reminding the parole panels of the danger to society if they were released.
In news conference after news conference, I continued to stress the point that Mrs. Tate should not have been forced to do the work of government. After all, government’s most important function is that of protecting its citizens. And when we began our volunteer work in criminal justice in 1982, the parole board was finding suitable for release 37 percent of the lifers each year. Within two years of our initial efforts, that number dropped to 3%.
Each year Mrs. Tate, followed by her daughters, Patty and Debra, following Mrs. Tate’s death, traveled to the various Manson family parole hearings determined to keep them in prison.
At a cost of literally millions of taxpayer dollars each year, the parole board holds parole hearings required by law: a law passed by liberal legislators who are in the pockets of the defense attorneys before the bar.
There was a time when lifers were granted parole hearings each and every year. With our efforts and the efforts of others, we were able to extend the time between parole hearings to three years for a single murder and five years for a multiple murderer.
It took a decade to pass that legislation, however. In 1984 we were able to get the state Senate to pass such legislation in a 37 to nothing vote. Yet, that bill died in the infamous Assembly Criminal Justice Committee, controlled by cohorts of then-Assembly Speaker, Willie Brown on the committee.
Now, some 33 years later, we are watching violent crime skyrocket again. Cities like Chicago have had more murders than in all of Iraq and Afghanistan combined. We have seen successful “stop and frisk” programs ended by the liberal Democrats that control most of the major cities in the country, leading to more violent crime. We see organizations like Black Lives Matter attack the very police that go into their dangerous neighborhoods to protect innocent life.
And now, more parole hearings for those of the worst kind of murderers that the members of the parole board would probably admit they would never release anyway.
If we are to finally see safe streets and neighborhoods it will likely come by way of public involvement, public outcry. The kind of outcry that we led in the 1980’s and 1990’s that helped keep such violent offenders where they belong: separated from the rest of us.
“Life in Prison” should mean just that, life in prison. But it doesn’t. In fact, “life without the possibility of parole" doesn’t really mean that either. Depending on the time of the crime, each “lifer” can petition the Governor and/or State Supreme Court for a commutation to life with parole, making the sentence ambiguous, something both the state and federal constitutions prohibit.
I intend to continue writing about these issues and hope that my fellow citizens will do the same if they truly want to see safe streets and neighborhoods.
Spero News columnist John Mancino is a security professional and founder of Citizens for Truth in Justice.
Here follows victim statement by Doris Tate concerning the parole request Tex Watson tendered to the California parole board: