LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Charles Manson follower who once bragged of cutting a man’s head off lost another bid for freedom for two murders that have kept him behind bars 45 years.
Bruce Davis’ record shows there is “some evidence” he is dangerous and shouldn’t be freed, Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan wrote Wednesday in upholding the governor’s reversal of a parole board decision to free him.
Davis, 72, was sentenced to life in prison in the 1969 slayings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea.
Davis claimed he turned his life around in prison, earning a doctoral degree, becoming religious and ministering to other inmates. The parole board cited those accomplishments, along with his age and good behavior as reasons to grant him parole in March last year.
Gov. Jerry Brown rejected that decision in August, saying factors in his favor were outweighed by the brutality of the killings and Davis’ lack of insight into his crimes, which he didn’t admit until 2012 after claiming for years to be an innocent bystander.
The Manson family planned to rob Hinman, a friend, but killed him after holding him two days because he said he didn’t have money. Davis held Hinman at gunpoint while Manson sliced his face open with a sword.
About a month later, Davis stabbed Shea at Spahn Ranch where the family lived. Davis boasted he decapitated the ranch hand. Shea’s body was found buried on the property years later.
“Both victims were abused, defiled and mutilated,” Ryan wrote. “These actions demonstrate the utmost callous disregard for human suffering.”
Davis’ lawyer hadn’t seen the decision, but said he would appeal to a higher court.
“I’m stunned. I can’t believe he would do that,” attorney Michael Evan Beckman said. “The judge is wrong.”
The judge said he gave broad deference to Brown’s discretion and that the governor’s decision in August didn’t amount to cruel or unusual punishment.
The parole board has found Davis suitable for release three times, but Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed the decision each time.
Davis was not involved in the notorious killings of actress Sharon Tate and six others and was considered a more likely candidate for release.
Manson and three followers, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles “Tex” Watson, remain in prison for life in the Tate killings. Co-defendant Susan Atkins died of cancer behind bars in 2009.
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