Parole panel denies compassionate release for Manson follower Susan Atkins

com·pas·sion

Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

[Middle English compassioun, from Late Latin compassio-, compassio-n-, from compassus, past participle of compati-, to sympathize : Latin com-, com- + Latin pati-, to suffer.]
– Source: Answers.com

mer·cy

  1. Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power; clemency.
  2. A disposition to be kind and forgiving: a heart full of mercy.
  3. Something for which to be thankful; a blessing: It was a mercy that no one was hurt.
  4. Alleviation of distress; relief: Taking in the refugees was an act of mercy.

[Middle English, from Old French merci, from Medieval Latin merce-s, from Latin, reward.]


Manson Family killer denied parole

SACRAMENTO, California: Nearly 40 years ago, Susan Atkins was a leading character in one of the most horrific chapters in California history.

On Tuesday, the former follower of Charles Manson sought to end her story on her own terms: by being allowed to go home. The state parole board denied that request.

Atkins, convicted in the slayings of the actress Sharon Tate and others in 1969, is dying of brain cancer and asked that she be granted compassionate release from prison. She wants to spend her final months surrounded by family and friends, not prison guards.

“Susan has served a life sentence,” Virginia Seals, Atkins’s sister-in-law, said in arguing that the state’s longest-serving female inmate be freed. “This is about her death.”

In a unanimous decision, the California Board of Parole Hearings denied the request Tuesday. Her lawyer said he has filed a separate motion in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking his client’s release.

The Los Angeles County prosecutor, Patrick Sequeira, said the board made the right decision. He informed Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra Tate, and two other relatives of the victims.

“They are both relieved and pleased with the decision,” Sequeira said. “It obviously doesn’t take away the pain for them.”

Through 90 minutes of testimony in a packed hearing room, the two sides of California justice played out against the backdrop of one of America’s most infamous crimes.

Atkins has been serving her punishment for the slayings, but did she – a 60-year-old woman who has spent nearly her entire adult life in prison – deserve a brief, final show of compassion from the state?

Prosecutors and surviving members of the victims’ families were emphatic that she did not.

– Source: Manson Family killer denied parole, AP, via the International Herald Tribune, July 16, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

For more than 90 minutes, supporters of Manson family killer Susan Atkins had the floor, painting for parole board members a picture of a remorseful, changed woman who should be released on compassionate grounds.

They spoke Tuesday of her imminent death but also about her “incredibly superhuman” record in prison, about how the young woman who had killed so wantonly decades ago had become a loving aunt and friend.

A social worker who flew in from New York, an independent filmmaker, a brother and nieces all stood up to assert that Atkins had more than paid her debt to society.

Then the tall woman with the long, blond hair stood at the podium. She spoke on behalf of the sister of one of those murdered by Atkins and the Manson gang.

“I will start out by saying that Susan Atkins is a coldblooded murderer,” Lynn Matthews said as the audience looked on, captivated.

Though supporters of Atkins’ release outnumbered them at the hearing, Matthews and others who opposed it carried the day.

The 12-member California Board of Parole voted unanimously to deny Atkins’ request for a court hearing that could have released her to die outside prison. Tellingly, opponents of Atkins’ release spoke for only about 20 minutes. But that seemed long enough.

In those minutes, relatives and friends of the eight people killed by the Manson gang brought back the horror of that summer in 1969.

Atkins, 60, played a central role in the slayings of Tate and others in a bloody two-night rampage in the Los Angeles area.

She has served 37 years in prison, longer than any other woman currently a prisoner in California, officials say.

Now ill with brain cancer, with one leg amputated and the other paralyzed, Atkins has only months to live, doctors have said.

The petition for Atkins’ release ignited debate about what mercy is appropriate, particularly considering the grisly crimes for which she was convicted. With the rejection by the panel, the process is effectively over, making it highly likely that she will die in custody.

– Source: Parole panel denies compassionate release for Manson follower Susan Atkins, Hector Becerra and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

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July 17, 2008 News Summary
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This post was last updated: Jul. 17, 2008