LOS ANGELES (APCBS) — A former Charles Manson follower who was on the brink of release from prison two years ago before then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger intervened went before another parole board panel Wednesday.
Bruce Davis is serving life sentences for two 1969 slayings, although he was not involved in the infamous murders by Manson followers of actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles. Wednesday’s hearing at the California Men’s Colony at San Luis Obispo will be his 27th parole hearing.
Davis’ hearing began Wednesday morning, but he became ill, forcing it to be rescheduled on an unknown date.
While incarcerated, he earned a master’s degree in religion and a doctorate in philosophy of religion, became a born-again Christian in prison and ministered to other inmates. He also married a woman he met through the prison ministry and has a grown daughter.
But the Los Angeles prosecutor who has argued repeatedly to keep all Manson Family members behind bars has said that Davis, who has been in prison for 40 years, still isn’t ready for release.
“We feel he is not fully rehabilitated,” Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequeira said. “He has not shown true remorse or understanding of his crime.”
Davis long maintained that he was just a bystander in the killings of stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea and musician Gary Hinman. But at his last parole hearing in 2010, he acknowledged: “I was as responsible as everyone there.”
The state parole board determined that Davis was ready to be released. But Schwarzenegger later reversed the decision, saying the murders were “especially heinous” and arguing that Davis’ release would pose an “unreasonable risk of danger to society.”
Davis’ lawyer, Michael Beckman, said in an interview Tuesday that his client is willing to take responsibility not just for his crimes but for other murderous actions by the Manson Family.
“He says that maybe because he was one of the older members of the group he should have led by example,” Beckman said. “He now thinks that If he had said ‘no’ to the Hinman killing, maybe the Tate-La Bianca killings wouldn’t have happened.”
A former Manson family member, Barbara Hoyt, who has become a crusader against the imprisoned cult members, was planning to speak for the Shea family, Sequeira said. Tate’s sister, Debra, planned to attend the hearing to argue on behalf of the Hinman family.
Beckman said he would strongly oppose their participation.
Should the new parole panel eventually grant Davis a release date, the decision would be just the first step in a process that also requires approval by Gov. Jerry Brown and other parole board members. The process could take five more months.
Davis and his wife recently divorced. If released, the 69-year-old would go to transitional housing in Los Angeles County and would try to pursue a career in the ministry.
The only other Manson family member convicted of murder to be paroled was Steve Grogan. He was released in 1985 after leading authorities to the site where Shea’s body was buried.
Manson follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was released from federal prison in 2009 after serving time for the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.
Manson and two of his followers, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, remain in prison for life in the Tate killings. Their co-defendant, Susan Atkins, died in prison last year.
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