Leslie Van Houten's Controversial Prison Release Is A Done Deal, Former Prosecutor Says - Exclusive

News of the release of Charles Manson follower and convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten has come as a shock to many — but as former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers Neama Rahmani exclusively told Nicki Swift, there isn't much that can be done about it. 

Van Houten's sentence has gone through several changes over the years, to say the least. For starters, CNN notes that she was initially sentenced to death for her part in the brutal murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. However, when the death penalty changed, that became a life sentence. Since then, she's been up for parole several times — although her legal efforts have been denied by California Governor Gavin Newsom three times and twice by his predecessor. Most recently, in 2020, Newsom described her reasoning for committing the crimes as "unsatisfying." Nevertheless, Reuters reported that she was released on July 11.

Given Newsom's (and, previously, Brown's) repeated denials, speaking exclusively to Nicki Swift, Rahmani pointed out, "This situation is not common." Even so, the former prosecutor added that this time, there's not much that can be done to change the outcome. 

An appeal is unlikely

Uncommon or not, West Coast Trial Lawyers president Neama Rahmani told Nicki Swift exclusively that a further appeal from Gavin Newsom is unlikely. 

"He could appeal to the California Supreme Court, but they only accept a limited number of cases, and the chances of a successful appeal are hugely slim," he explained. What's more, Rahmani added that while there would be political merit in a further appeal, from a legal standpoint, "He's out of options." Reason being? "This was a fact-specific determination by the parole commission, and not a clear legal error." Sure enough, as was reported by CNN ahead of Leslie Van Houten's release, the governor's office announced that it had no further plans to appeal for that exact reasoning. That's not to say loved ones of the Manson family's victims are happy with the decision, though. Anthony DiMaria — whose uncle Jay Sebring was also murdered by the Manson family — told CNN, "I certainly have respect for Governor Newsom and the attorney general. But our families strongly, vehemently, disagree with their decision not to file an appeal."

As for Van Houten's legal team, they're confident that she's a changed woman. Speaking to The Guardian, the former Manson follower's attorney, Nancy Tetreault, claimed, "I've never had a client who has dedicated herself to reform like she has." Here's hoping that's the case.