To the editor: Leslie Van Houten had no defense at her 1971 trial because Charles Manson obstructed her attorney. Her conviction and sentence were reversed because her attorney died, not only because capital punishment was abolished. (“Leslie Van Houten committed an act of terrorism. She should stay behind bars,” editorial, Sept. 7)
In her second trial, psychiatric testimony proved for the first time that she was of diminished mental capacity and could not form the “intent” to commit murder or plan to “commit an act of terrorism.” The jury understood and hung, with almost half believing she should not be convicted. Van Houten was out on bail for six months without harming anyone.
When would you parole Van Houten? At 80? She meets the legal criteria for release: She is not a danger to the public and hasn’t been for years.
Your opinion is more about Manson’s twisted plan to destabilize society and less about Van Houten individually. Your conclusion encourages disregard of the law and lacks understanding of the reasons for the board’s decision.
Christie E. Webb, Los Angeles
The writer was Leslie Van Houten’s attorney from 1999-2010.