Obviously, almost all of them have been unsuccessful, with the exception of three (one for Grogan and two for Davis). The three member panel have also almost always voted in agreement to oppose parole with at least only two exceptions (once each for Van Houten and Davis).
In California between 1901 and 1978 seven years was the minimum amount of time to be served before an inmate became eligible for parole. It appears most of those convicted became eligible for parole around October 1976, and at least Atkins, if not the others as well, had been appearing annually in front of the parole board since the early 1970s.
The first parole hearings proper appear to have begun in 1978. At that time California passed the Determinate Sentencing law.
All of those convicted were serving life sentences with parole, these are indeterminate sentences. Apart from Grogan who may have received a base sentence of 19 years, the rest had no specific minimum term to serve before being released automatically.
Van Houten, although only re-convicted in 1978 was also eligible for parole as her time served was taken into account (eight years and 120 days).
Under the Determinate Sentencing law, those serving indeterminate sentences were entitled to annual parole hearings.
Their suitability for release was decided solely by the parole board, however, since 1988 the Governor of California has the power to reverse the parole boards decisions (Proposition 89). This is currently why Davis remains in prison having had two consecutive successful hearings.
The period of annual parole hearings came to an end for most of the group in 1981 when the law was amended. Anyone serving a multiple murder conviction was excluded and could now receive a three year denial.
Watson challenged this law when he received a three year denial in 1983. He was initially successful but the decision in his favour was overturned in the early 1990s. The law was further amended to increase the denial period to five years.
In 2008 Marsy’s Law was introduced (Proposition 9). This further increased denial periods to a maximum of 15 years. The current denial periods are 1, 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15 years.
Both Davis and Van Houten legally challenged being named in the bill as examples of inmates who force taxpayers to “spend millions of dollars on hearings for dangerous criminals that have virtually no chance of release”. They lost.
Davis has almost continuously received one year denials and has had almost 30 hearings. Beausoleil until recent hearings was in the same situation usually receiving a one year denial between 1979 and 1997.
Van Houten has faired better than either Atkins or Krenwinkel in terms of one year denials. But all three of them have seen their denial terms steadily increase. Atkins from mandatory 1 year to 3 and 4 years, Krenwinkel from mandatory 1 year to 3, 5 and most recently 7 years. Van Houten has spent the past 35 years being regarded as most likely to be paroled , receiving a 2-1 vote in 1980, and in 1985 being told by the board that she was “much closer to going home than she realised”, her denial terms are also increasing, most recently from 3 years increased to 5 years.
In 1981 Grogan was given a parole date of 6 years or less. In 1984 his parole date was advanced from 1988 to 1986. In 1986 he was quietly paroled.
Atkins had an unsuccessful compassionate release hearing in 2008, an equally unsuccessful parole hearing the following year. Dying a little over twenty days later of brain cancer in September 2009.
Manson has had only 12 parole hearings, He has declined to attend half of them. He has had the least hearings and generally receives the longer denial periods.
Watson has waived three of his hearings, each time declaring himself unsuitable for a one year period.
Krenwinkel has waived one of her hearings, declaring herself unsuitable for a two year period. This period coincided with her long term attorney and friend retiring as well as Van Houten’s appeal regarding her legal disagreement with the parole board.
Van Houten around 2000 challenged a denial period she had received. She was initially successful and the parole board was instructed to give her a hearing, but then this judgement itself was reversed on appeal.
In addition she walked out of her 1999 hearing, complaining about Bill Nelson using her appearances as a profiteering exercise. Krenwinkel similarly refused to attend her 1982 hearing, the first year still and TV cameras were allowed to attend parole hearings.
In 2003 Atkins sued everyone from the person who wrote her psychiatric reports, the prison governor, the parole board, up to the Governor of California. Almost everything was thrown out of court. Interestingly the Parole Board cannot be sued, and various state authorities can only be sued if they agree to allow themselves to be sued.
Relatives of victims have been allowed to attend since 1982, and in 2008 the scope of this was broadened to include people designated by relatives of victims, hence why Barbara Hoyt now attends.
Media interest follows all of those convicted, but obviously Manson is always deemed newsworthy. Doris Tate and Steven Kay encouraged media interest mostly for those convicted of killing Sharon Tate.
Steven Kay an original assistant prosecutor in the 1970-71 trial stated in 1989 that he had attended over 42 hearings for those convicted. He was the first District Attorney to attend a parole hearing, this took place in 1978 for Krenwinkel. He continued to regularly take part speaking against the granting of parole until his retirement.
In a subsequent piece I intend to cover parole hearing procedures, and a more in-depth review of individual hearings.
PAROLE HEARINGS REFERENCE LIST
Under the Determinate Sentencing law all of those convicted were eligible for parole hearings annually between 1978-1981. If it is not listed I could not find the date but it probably took place.
Sometimes parole hearings are postponed for various reasons, but they may have been listed on the parole hearings schedule before postponement. Beausoleil has several postponed hearings mostly during the 1990s. Davis missed one in the late 1990s because of a backlog.
Page numbers of transcripts where known are listed in brackets, the number of pages may vary slightly from what I have listed as it’s a rough guide, except for Watson 2001 which I found listed as both 97pg or 174pg.
The days given for hearings may be out slightly here and there by one day, as information comes from various sources. The months and years are much more accurate and hopefully the majority are included.
If the transcript is available to read on the internet it is indicated. There are around 40 representing a cross section of all those convicted.
Denial periods where known are in square brackets.
JUL 17 KRENWINKEL (90pg)
JUL 20 ATKINS (157p)
AUG 22 GROGAN (80pg)
OCT 19 DAVIS (75pg) (available on internet)
OCT 27 WATSON
NOV 16 MANSON
JUL 06 ATKINS (111p)
??? ?? BEAUSOLEIL (91pg)
JAN ?? VAN HOUTEN (126pg)
JUL 03 KRENWINKEL (121pg)
OCT 17 GROGAN (125pg)
OCT 22 WATSON
NOV 28 MANSON (no show)
JAN 31 VAN HOUTEN (125pg)
MAR 27 DAVIS (50pg) (available on internet)
JUL 02 ATKINS (63 pgs)
JUL 30 KRENWINKEL
OCT 08 WATSON
OCT 21 GROGAN (80pg) (available on internet incomplete)
OCT 29 BEAUSOLEIL
NOV 04 MANSON
??? ?? DAVIS
??? ?? VAN HOUTEN(108pg)
JUL 10 (or SEP 15) KRENWINKEL (50pg)
SEP 16 ATKINS (115 pgs) (available on internet incomplete)
OCT 20 GROGAN (125pg) (available on internet)
OCT 22 WATSON (90pg) (available on internet) [1yr]
NOV 05 MANSON
MAR 09 ßDAVIS (87pg) [2yrs]
MAR 16 or APR 22 VAN HOUTEN (102pg) [3yr]
AUG 08 KRENWINKEL [3yr] (no show)
SEP 16 BEAUSOLEIL
DEC 01 MANSON (no show)
DEC 16 ATKINS (100 pgs) [3yr]
JAN 13 WATSON [3yr overturned]
OCT 27 BEAUSIOLEIL
???? ?? VAN HOUTEN
APR 24 DAVIS [1yr]
MAY 01 WATSON (won court challenge to have denial moved forward two years)
OCT 16 GROGAN (parole advanced from 1988 to 1986)
DEC 13 BEAUSOLEIL [1yr]
MAY 01 DAVIS
MAY 17 WATSON (107pg) [3yr]
APR 11 or MAY 15 VAN HOUTEN [1yr]
SEP 04 KRENWINKEL (65pg)
DEC 04 BEAUSOLEIL (160pg) (available on internet, incomplete)
DEC 31 ATKINS (225 pgs) (available on internet) [3yr]
FEB 04 MANSON (available for on internet)
MAY 08 WATSON [1yr]
MAY 27 DAVIS
JUL 11 VAN HOUTEN (255pg) (available on internet incomplete) (delayed from May)
DEC 02 BEAUSOLEIL
APR 02 WATSON
MAY 13 DAVIS
JUL 30 VAN HOUTEN (273pg) [3yr]
DEC 09 BEAUSOLEIL [1yr]
MAY 11 DAVIS
NOV 07 KRENWINKEL (80pg) (available on internet incomplete) [1yr]
DEC 01 BEAUSOLEIL (postponed)
DEC 16 ATKINS (150 pgs) (available on internet) [1yr denial limited by recent court decision by Watson]
FEB 08 MANSON (no show)
MAY 25 DAVIS
NOV 22 KRENWINKEL (94pg)
DEC ?? BEAUSOLEIL
DEC 20 ATKINS (125 pgs) [3yr] (available on internet)
DEC 21 VAN HOUTEN (130pg) (postponed from FEB) [2yr]
MAY 02 BEAUSOLEIL [2yr]
MAY 04 WATSON (90pg)
JUNE 12 DAVIS
NOV 05 KRENWINKEL
??? ?? KRENWINKEL (filmed complete)
APR 23 DAVIS
DEC 30 VAN HOUTEN (filmed complete) [2yr]
JUN 02 DAVIS
JUN 03 BEAUSOLEIL
APR 21 MANSON (filmed complete) (available on internet) [5yr]
JAN 04 WATSON (waives right to parole hearing for 1yr)
JAN 20 ATKINS (filmed complete) (115p) [3yr]
JUN 22 DAVIS (150pg) (available on internet incomplete) [1yr]
DEC 29 VAN HOUTEN (filmed complete) (90pg) (available on internet incomplete) [2yr]
DEC 29 KRENWINKEL (filmed complete) (115pg) [3yr] (available on internet incomplete)
APR 01 BEAUSOLEIL (postponed)
JUN 21 DAVIS (105pg) (filmed)
MAR 16 BEAUSOLEIL
MAY 10 WATSON [5yr]
AUG 02 DAVIS
AUG 29 DAVIS
APR 30 VAN HOUTEN (filmed complete) [2yr]
JUN 25 ATKINS (100 pgs) (available on internet) [4yr]
MAR 19 KRENWINKEL (filmed complete) [5yr]
MAR 28 MANSON [5yr]
SEP 04 DAVIS (filmed)
OCT 24 BEAUSOLEIL (postponed from MAR 21) [2yr]
MAY 28 VAN HOUTEN (filmed complete) [1yr]
SEP 24 DAVIS (filmed) [1yr]
(DAVIS should have had one but it could not be scheduled due to back-log of hearings)
JUN 07 VAN HOUTEN (filmed complete) (walkout-postponed) (available on internet)
NOV 04 VAN HOUTEN (postponed from JUL 08)
FEB 23 BEAUSOLEIL (31pg)
??? ?? WATSON (waives right to parole hearing for 1yr)
JUN 13 VAN HOUTEN (filmed complete)
JUL 19 DAVIS (75pg) [1yr]
DEC 28 ATKINS [4yr]
JAN 29 DAVIS [1yr]
OCT 10 WATSON (97pg or 174pg) [4yr]
??? ?? KRENWINKEL (waives right to parole hearing for 2yr)
APR 24 MANSON (available on internet) (no show) [5yrs]
JUN 28 VAN HOUTEN (filmed complete) (CNN rush transcript available on internet) [2yr]
??? ?? BEAUSOLEIL (102pg)
JAN 29 DAVIS
APR 09 DAVIS [1yr]
JUL 07 KRENWINKEL (available on internet) [3yr]
AUG 25 VAN HOUTEN (105pg) (available on internet) [2yr]
JUN 01 ATKINS (175pg) (available on internet) (postponed from MAR) [4yr]
SEP 23 or 29 DAVIS [1yr]
OCT 04 WATSON (waives right to parole hearing for 1yr)
DEC 07 BEAUSOLEIL(140pg) (available on internet) postponed from JUN 24 [3yr]
AUG 31 DAVIS (150pg) (available on internet) (no show) [1yr]
SEP 07 VAN HOUTEN (filmed complete) (90pg) (available on internet) [1yr]
NOV 27 WATSON (available on internet) (no show) [5yr]
MAY 23 MANSON (no show) (available on internet) [5yrl]
JUL ?? KRENWINKEL (postponed for six months)
AUG 30 VAN HOUTEN (filmed complete) (184pg) (available on internet) [2yr]
SEP 15 DAVIS [1yr]
JAN ?? KRENWINKEL (probably postponed)
JUL 15 ATKINS ompassionate release hearing
DEC 22 BEAUSOLEIL (available on internet) [5yr]
SEP 02 ATKINS (available on internet) final dies on 29 SEP 18th
JAN 28 DAVIS (available on internet) Approved, over-ruled by Governor of California
JUL 06 VAN HOUTEN (available on internet) (postponed from AUG 09) [3yr]
DEC 13 BEAUSOLEIL (available on internet) [5yr] [next parole DEC 2015]
JAN 20 KRENWINKEL (available on internet) [7yr] [next parole JAN 2018]
NOV 16 WATSON (available for on internet) [5yr] [next parole NOV 2016]
APR 11 MANSON (no show) [15yr] [next parole APR 2027]
OCT 04 DAVIS (available on internet) Approved, over-ruled by Governor of California [ Next parole Oct 2014]
JUN 05 VAN HOUTEN (available on internet) [next parole JUN 2018] [5yr]