Susan Atkins Hopes For Freedom
May 30, 2003
By MIKE KATAOKA
Atkins In 1970
RIVERSIDE - Susan Atkins, a former Manson family member serving life for murdering actress Sharon Tate and others in 1969, is pinning her hopes for freedom on a federal suit that claims she is a political prisoner who has been denied her civil rights.
Filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside, the suit contends that Atkins is a victim of Gov. Davis' hard-line policy of denying parole to murderers. Atkins, 55, has been denied parole 10 times.
"Over the course of her incarceration, Ms. Atkins has been transformed into a political prisoner," the suit said.
The federal civil-rights suit, filed by Irvine lawyer Eric P. Lampel, seeks to advance Atkins' next parole hearing -- scheduled in 2004 -- to this year. The suit also seeks $1 million in punitive damages and unspecified general, special and compensatory damages.
The suit called Atkins a model prisoner whom psychiatrists do not consider a threat to society.
A psychiatric report prepared for the woman's most recent parole hearing, which was in 2000, said Atkins "is a far different person than at the time of the commitment offense," the suit said.
Davis, parole board members and state prison officials are defendants in the suit, which accuses them of ignoring the Constitution and parole rules to keep Atkins behind bars.
The state attorney general's office last week filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which was filed in April, arguing that Atkins is the one not following the rules. The motion asserts that the suit is premature because Atkins did not exhaust administrative appeals before she took her case to federal court.
Even if Atkins had followed proper procedure, the people she has sued are immune from such civil actions, Deputy Attorney General Barbara C. Spiegel said in court papers.
Atkins' suit said her imprisonment amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is barred by the Constitution.
"The seriousness of deprivations contemplated by Eighth Amendment law would be trivialized if applied to (Atkins') complaints," the prosecutor said in court papers.
1970 - 1971 Trial Antics
June 30 hearing set
U.S. District Judge Robert Timlin has set a June 30 hearing date for the dismissal motion. The judge said he plans to rule on submitted papers and not to hear oral arguments.
Atkins and other members of Charles Manson's infamous cult were convicted of the Aug. 8, 1969, murders of Tate, the pregnant wife of film director Roman Polanski, and four of Tate's friends in Beverly Hills. She also was found guilty of killing Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in the wealthy couple's Los Angeles home the next night.
Atkins is serving her life term at the California Institution for Women near Chino. A Board of Prison Terms panel last turned down her parole bid in 2000, and her next hearing is scheduled for 2004.
"She paid her dues," Lapel said in a phone interview. "Thirty-three years later, it's time (for parole)."
If Atkins wins any damages, she will donate the money to victims of crimes, he said.
"She's not out seeking a monetary windfall from this horrible incident," he said.
Last year, another Manson family member, Leslie Van Houten, raised similar complaints about the parole board in a state lawsuit.
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Bob Krug, who considered Van Houten's parole appeal, criticized the board for repeatedly denying Van Houten's bid for freedom without telling her what was expected of her.
He ordered the parole board to hold a hearing and to consider her positive prison reports. The board denied her parole for the 14th time in June 2002.
Twenty-one years later, Atkins told parole officials that she was present during the murders but did not participate.
Atkins contended in her suit that she had not received a psychiatric evaluation before the 2000 parole hearing because she had insisted that the session be tape-recorded to protect her and the psychiatrist.
Her suit also alleged that prison officials improperly revoked visiting privileges for her husband, James Whitehouse, who is a San Juan Capistrano lawyer. That deprived her of access to counsel, the suit said.
1969 Booking Photo
Governor's powers upheld
Last December, the California Supreme Court upheld the governor's broad powers to block the parole of convicted murderers.
Since he has taken office, Davis has freed only two prisoners, both women who had been suffering from battered women's syndrome when they killed. He has vetoed more than 150 other releases recommended by parole officials.
The state Supreme Court decision rejected assertions made by lower courts and defense lawyers -- and echoed in Atkins' federal suit -- that Davis has an arbitrary and unlawful "blanket" policy to veto parole for convicted murderers.
In a Riverside County case, Davis attempted to deny parole to a former physician convicted of conspiring to murder his estranged wife, who was not harmed.
But in July 2001, the state attorney general's office ruled that Davis' power did not extend to murder conspiracies. Dr. Donald Miller was paroled in 2002 after serving 20 years in prison.
Reach Mike Kataoka at (909) 368-9411 or email@example.com
Susan Atkins In 2001
Note: Almost thirty-five years later, her eyes still have that same chilling and heartless expression. Don't let her pleas fool you! The only thing she regrets is that she got caught.
*NOW, thirty some years later she claims that 'she was there' but only watched; never hurting or killing anyone. Um Hmmm...
If a vicious killer like Susan Atkins is granted parole; God help us all!
"THE FAMILY" and THE VICTIMS, NOW - What is the quality of, and what does LIFE as "The Family" members know it now, in 2004, consist of? And the victims...? WARNING!!! EXTREMELY GRAPHIC PHOTOS!!!
Please make no mistake, these inmates are NOT heros or icons, or someone to emulate; they are low-life, cold-blooded convicted murderers!
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