6/01/02 - Debra Tate appeared on the Fox News program Judith Regan Tonight to discuss the possibility of Leslie Van Houten being released from prison. The segment was originally taped on 5/31/02. Below is a transcript of the interview.
Judith Regan: As the Summer of 1969 began, Sharon Tate, seemed to have the world at Her fingertips. She was a rising film star, and easily one of Hollywoods great Beauties. She was married to the acclaimed film director, Roman Polanski and she was several months pregnant with the couples first child.
But on August 9th of that fateful summer, while hosting a dinner party, she and her unborn child, as well as several others, were brutally murdered in the infamous Helter Skelter killing spree unleashed upon a Los Angeles community by Charles Manson and his followers
The following day Leno and Rosemary Labianca became the Manson familys next victims. Among those involved in the Labianca slayings was 19 year old Leslie Van Houten. A high school cheerleader and honor student who later admitted to stabbing Mrs. Labianca 14 times.
Leslie Van Houten is currently serving a life sentence in a CA prison, but a state judge could very well change that. Judge Bob Krug will decide within the next 30 days whether Van Houten should be free.
Sound outrageous? My next guest certainly thinks so. And as Sharon Tates sister she has a very personal stake in Judge Krugs decision.
Joining us now from the Fox news bureau in Los Angeles, is Debra Tate. And Ive asked Fox news Legal analyst Susan Estrich to stay with us to discuss the legal ramifications of this case.
Thank you both for being here.
And well start with you Debra. Take us back to that day.
JR: This was a very, very gruesome murder?
DT: Very gruesome.
JR: And you were supposed to be there that night, correct?
DT: Yes I was. I was supposed to go up and pick up a saddle that Sharon had brought back from Europe, and she wasnt feeling quite up to the company. I was going to be driven by a friend it was an extremely hot and humid night and we decided that it would just be better to postpone it.
JR: And what happened to you and your family in the aftermath of that horrible event?
DT: It was unbelievable. My Mother was not herself for many, many years. My family basically never returned to a normal capacity again.
JR: And your Mother died of cancer? Is that right?
DT: Yes she did
JR: And your Sister as well?
DT: My little Sister as well.
JR: Leslie Van Houten is currently serving a life sentence, and shes been up for parole and denied parole, I believe, 13 times, is that correct?
DT: Thats correct.
JR: And what is your position on her current request for parole?
DT: Im mortified. I cannot believe that the CA judicial system would even consider such a thing. These people were all condemned to death. Through a overturned sentence by the CA Supreme Court it was converted to life in prison, however
JR: She was originally sentenced to death?
JR: And then it was overturned?
DT: Yes, and at that time, the verbiage.. the wording on the law there was no such thing as life in prison without the possibility of parole so it automatically became with the possibility of parole. Key word here, POSSIBILITY.
JR: And you believe she should stay in prison until she dies?
DT: Absolutely. She was handpicked.. this group of people were handpicked, by Charles Manson as the ones most likely to kill and kill in brutal fashion. She knew exactly what had transpired the night before and was basically .begging to go. She wanted to participate.
JR: OK Susan, Van Houtens defense claims that the parole
officials are prejudiced that shes been a model prisoner and that given
her sentence, given the fact that her sentence was a sentence with the
possibility of parole that they should let her out. what do you think of
Susan Estrich: Well, theres two issues, really Judith, the first one is, did the parole board simply rubber stamp the denial or did they actually consider her claim? Thats the first issue. And then the second issue becomes on what basis do you decide parole? Is it simply whether shes been a good prisoner? And theres substantial evidence on the record here that shes been a model prisoner , she earned her bachelors degree, she tutors, she does all kinds of good things in prison.
Or does the fact that this truly was, a grisly bone chilling crime, mean that this woman should stay in prison for life? And so the Judge is required initially, to make the decision as to whether they gave adequate consideration, and secondly, to decide on what standard should govern.
JR: So the Judges really do have discretion in this case?
SE: Well, they do have some discretion. I mean really its up to the parole board and the parole board has made absolutely clear that they dont want to give let this woman out, or let any of the Manson killers out.
But you have this other question, on what basis should we decide? And so
If she wins in court what she will actually win is not really her freedom, but the right to put the parole board through another hearing, under potentially, a different standard of judgment
JR: And could they then still reject her?
SE: They could still reject her. And all the political forces are lined up against her. Her claim though is, look if this werent such a celebrated case, if this were, as it were, a garden variety murder, without the name Manson attached to it, chances are she would have been out of prison years ago. And thats actually true
JR: Alright, and if you were on the parole board what would your decision be Susan?
SE: I couldnt let this woman out. You know I mean, I do think it was particularly grisly and heinous crime and that should count.
JR: Alright, we are sadly out of time. Debra Tate and Susan Estrich, thank you both for being here.
DT: Thank you
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