• Gov. Gavin Newsom denied parole for Van Houten in 2020
  • Newsom expressed concerns about Van Houten's potential danger to society
  • Van Houten, who is currently in her 70s, is serving a life sentence

A California appeals court ruled Tuesday that Leslie Van Houten, who was involved in two murders under the influence of cult leader Charles Manson in 1969, should be granted parole and released from prison.

The ruling by the appellate court overturned the previous decision made by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who denied parole for Van Houten in 2020. Despite being recommended for parole five times since 2016, all requests were dismissed by either Newsom or former Gov. Jerry Brown.

However, the ruling does not guarantee that Van Houten will be immediately released from prison on parole. There is a possibility that Newsom could ask California Attorney General Rob Bonta to file a petition with the state Supreme Court to halt Van Houten's release. According to the Associated Press, Newsom's office has not responded to questions about any potential future actions in the case.

Van Houten, who is currently in her 70s, is serving a life sentence for her involvement in the murders of Leno LaBianca, a grocer in Los Angeles, and his wife, Rosemary. Other followers of cult leader Manson were also in prison in connection to the killings.

In 2020, Newsom expressed concerns about Van Houten's potential danger to society. While rejecting her parole, he cited her inconsistent and insufficient explanation for her role in Manson's activities during the time of the murders.

However, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles wrote in its ruling Tuesday, there is "no evidence to support the Governor's conclusions" about Van Houten's fitness for parole.

"Van Houten has shown extraordinary rehabilitative efforts, insight, remorse, realistic parole plans, support from family and friends, favorable institutional reports, and, at the time of the Governor's decision, had received four successive grants of parole," the judges wrote, according to reports. "Although the Governor states Van Houten's historical factors 'remain salient,' he identifies nothing in the record indicating Van Houten has not successfully addressed those factors through many years of therapy, substance abuse programming, and other efforts."

Meanwhile, Nancy Tetreault, an attorney for Van Houten, said in case Newsom tried to get the lower court's decision reviewed, then the process could take years. Tetreault also said Bonta was expected to seek a stay of the appellate court's decision.

"I will, of course, vigorously oppose any stay," Tetreault said. "And they could let her out during that process."

Van Houten, at the age of 19, was involved in the brutal stabbing of the LaBiancas, along with other members of the cult, in August 1969.

The killings of the LaBiancas occurred a day after another group of Manson followers, excluding Van Houten, committed the heinous murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others.

Charles Manson follower
Leslie Van Houten listens during her parole hearing in Corona, California, June 28, 2002. Reuters