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CNN Larry King Weekend

Encore Presentation: Interview With Leslie Van Houten

Aired June 29, 2002 - 21:00   ET



LESLIE VAN HOUTEN: And so I went in, and Mrs. LaBianca was laying on the floor, and I stabbed her.


VAN HOUTEN: In lower back, around 16 times.


KING: Tonight, parole denied. Former Manson family member, convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten. Should she have been set free? You decide. She's next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. Yesterday, ex-Manson family member Leslie Van Houten was denied parole for the 14th time. She's currently serving a life sentence for the 1969 murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. They were killed in a horribly brutal fashion.

In all, the Manson family was responsible for seven murders. The most well known victim: Actress Sharon Tate.

While Manson's parole hearings are mainly theater, many other family members claim they are truly sorry, and believe they've paid their debt to society. One of those is Leslie Van Houten. She spoke with us on the 25th anniversary of the murder.

Later in the show, we'll talk with Patty Tate, Sharon Tate's sister, and we'll also hear from Leslie's father, but first, our 1994 conversation with Leslie Van Houten from the California Institute for Women in Corona, California.


KING: How long have you been here, this prison?

LESLIE VAN HOUTEN, EX-MANSON FAMILY MEMBER: I've been in this prison, I've been back from bail 15, maybe 16 years.

KING: You were out for a while, right?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, I was. And I came to this prison in '71, I believe, on death row. And then, in '76, I was given a reversal of my first trial, and I was out to court, and then I bailed and then I came back so.

KING: And found guilty after the second trial, right?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes -- no, the third trial. I had a hung jury in my second trial.

KING: Is it death row?

VAN HOUTEN: No, they've moved it. There used to be, but they've moved it up to another facility up north.

KING: After all this time, is it a total adjustment? Are you totally pat of this community here?


KING: I mean, are you one of the leaders? I mean, you're the veteran of this prison.

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, I'm one of the old-timers.

I don't know if I would say I'm a leader. I try to -- there is a lot of young women now coming in with very long sentences. And you know, I try to carry myself in a way that I think gives them a chance to take seriously the years ahead of them.

KING: A lot of women coming in with long sentences?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, I think so.

KING: Like 15 years?

VAN HOUTEN: Fifteen to life.

KING: Crimes like?


KING: A lot of spousal killings?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, yes, and attempted murders. But mostly those kind of crimes, I think, are what carry the long terms.

KING: All right, we'll talk about a lot of things, including -- let's go back to 25 years -- 25 years ago tonight, is when you were involved in a murder, right?


KING: Last night, the 9th, would have been Tate killings, right?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes. KING: You were not at the Tate killings?


KING: What you were doing in this whole thing to begin with? You what, how old, 19?


KING: What were you doing?

VAN HOUTEN: I was -- I had gotten to the ranch through other people that had been there and were driving up and down the coast. And prior to that, I was neck deep in the hippie movement. And I met these people, they said that they came from a commune in L.A. where they lived for the day and for the moment, and it was a lot of the Leary kind of philosophy of be here now and...

KING: You were attracted to that.


KING: Where are you from.


KING: What did you father do?

VAN HOUTEN: He's an auctioneer, retired now.

KING: Do you remain close through all the years, or was there a time of separation?

VAN HOUTEN: The only time of separation was when I dropped out. My family...

KING: Were supportive when you were caught and everything?

VAN HOUTEN: With anger and with resentment, you know. I remember one of the first visits with my mother, you know, I said to her that she'd probably would be better off to just leave me alone, because I had so easily left her life, and she just said that she wasn't made of that kind of stuff, you know.

KING: How many people were in the commune?

VAN HOUTEN: There were probably, I'd say about 15 solid members, maybe 10 to 15 solid members, and then another 10 or so transients.

KING: About equal men and women?

VAN HOUTEN: No, not at all.

KING: Much more women?

VAN HOUTEN: Oh, sure. KING: Why?

VAN HOUTEN: Manson worked women better, I mean. You know I'm talking from...

KING: You were attracted to him. Looking back, there had to be some reason -- he was the leader, right? VAN HOUTEN: I was mostly -- I wasn't one of the ones that was physically enamored with him. I was more caught and mesmerized by his mind and the things he professed and...

KING: Were many of the women physically involved?


KING: You were not physically involved?


KING: Did he want you to be?

VAN HOUTEN: No. He -- I had come to the ranch through another man, Robert Beausoleil, and Robert Beausoleil was very important to Manson, and there is a lot of speculation as to why, but who knows.

KING: But Robert was your, like, lover?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes. And so Manson always treated me in a way that I belonged to Bobby, and, you know. I was sort of used, I think, as bait to get to keep Bobby...

KING: Well, we don't understand about the period, and you certainly can help. There were lots of cults. There were lots of communes. There were lots of dropouts. What led this one to be violent?


KING: Most were passive.

VAN HOUTEN: Yes. Manson.

KING: What was his rationale? In other words, what would impress you? Where were you when the Tate killing went on? You were with Manson, right?

VAN HOUTEN: I was at the ranch, yes, taking care of the children.

KING: The others went out to do that. You knew what they were going to do?

VAN HOUTEN: I knew that something was going to happen, but not specifically that night or that time or what.

KING: How did he condition them to accept the taking of someone else's life?

VAN HOUTEN: He started off -- the whole philosophy at the ranch even in the gentler days, was to shut ourselves of our egos, and to get rid our own identity and to do what was then called become one with one another. And he would do this by assaulting our families, mimicking our morals and all the things that we had been taught, because most of us were middle-class Anglos. And...

KING: But what took it the next step, Leslie?

VAN HOUTEN: What he started to do was to challenge, like, would you die for me? And then if we're all the same. You know, and this wasn't like in one like I'm doing with you...

KING: This is over a process.

VAN HOUTEN: ....this is over a period of time.

KING: When did he first say, to your memory, let's go take someone's life?

VAN HOUTEN: Very -- not very long before the actual murders, he said that he felt that he was going to have to take the lead and show the Blacks how it needed to be done, that they weren't doing it. Since then, I found out that he had had some kind of a bum dope deal with somebody and had shot someone, so I assumed...

KING: Do you know why they picked Sharon Tate?


KING: Was that purely bad luck?

VAN HOUTEN: I know now that it had something to do with Terry Melcher, but at the time, each of us knew very little of what was going on.

KING: When they came back from the killings, did they describe them to you?

VAN HOUTEN: Pat did the next morning.

KING: Were you distraught?

VAN HOUTEN: No. I was, because it was sad and tragic that violence had to occur, but I wasn't questioning that it had to occur.

KING: So you felt it was justified, sorry that you had to kill people, but it was justified to make a statement.


KING: We'll be right back with Leslie Van Houten. We're at the California Institute for women in Corona, California, and this is the 25th anniversary of this incredible occurrence in American history.

Don't go away.


VAN HOUTEN: My heart aches, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE) seem to be any to really convey living with the amount of pain caused. I don't know what else to say. (END VIDEO CLIP)




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am here today and will continue to be here as long as the process requires it, to express our family's concern that Ms. Houten is ever paroled. Her callous disregard for human life, her brutal participation in murder and total disregard for the sanctity of life should forever seal her fate as a lifetime prisoner.

These murders of my aunt and uncle were carried out for no other reason than a thrill for killing. There was no passion or mitigating circumstances. She and her cohorts snuffed out two loving people in the prime of their lives.


KING: We're back with Leslie Van Houten.

OK, the morning after, before you went on your spree, when it was being described to you, was it described like methodically or in detail or on a high? I mean these people were brutally...

VAN HOUTEN: No, no, Pat was very upset and she didn't understand. And so she talked to me about it in that tone. If only...

KING: And what was Manson like?

VAN HOUTEN: I don't remember him after that. I don't remember seeing him that day until the evening.

KING: He knew what had happened, though?

VAN HOUTEN: Oh, sure, nothing -- nothing happened at Spahn Ranch that he did not know about, and, you know, whether it was buried through other people or something had a hand in.

KING: Now the night you did what you had to do -- we've got to live through this...


KING: Who went with you? Where you did you go?

Tell me about it.

VAN HOUTEN: We got in the car.

KING: How many?

VAN HOUTEN: There were -- there was Steve and Tex and Manson and Linda Casabian, Susan, Pat and I.

KING: Squeezed in a car.

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, and...

KING: You had weapons?

VAN HOUTEN: There was a bayonet. And I don't know. I know about the bayonet.

KING: And you drive where.

VAN HOUTEN: We drove all over L.A., and Manson was very agitated, and Casabian was very nervous and upset, and he was yelling at her a lot.

KING: And the stories were all over the paper about the Tate murders, right?

VAN HOUTEN: That part I had no sense of.

KING: You didn't see the papers?

VAN HOUTEN: No, I saw it on television the morning before, but...

KING: Then how did you choose to go to this LaBianca house?

VAN HOUTEN: I don't know. He selected it. We had driven around...

KING: Where was this, in the hills?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, all I knew was that it was in the "nice" neighborhood.

KING: And what did you do? You get to this house -- you just picked this house out. It could have been the next house. It was at random.

VAN HOUTEN: It -- as far as I knew.

KING: In other words, you don't...

VAN HOUTEN: I -- you know, I hate to say it was, because, who knows?

KING: In other words, he might not have known where he was going.

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, I don't know.

KING: What did you do when you got there?

VAN HOUTEN: We sat in the car, and Manson and Tex got out and went up -- and I'm not real clear on the exact... KING: Yes, well it's 25 years.

VAN HOUTEN: ... sequence of things. And a lot of times, I'm -- I'm -- I feel like I need to tell you that. In case I miss something, it's not deliberate.

KING: It's not a trial.

VAN HOUTEN: OK, thank you. So Manson came back, and I believe Tex did, too -- or, anyway, the bottom line is he looked in the car, and he pointed at Pat and I and told us to get out and go do what Tex said. And then...

KING: Do whatever Tex said. VAN HOUTEN: Yes, and then I don't remember if he said this in front of me or I heard it later or something, but he said to Tex to make sure that everybody did something. And so we went into the house. And I would say that that was when I first really understood what was happening.

KING: How many people were in the house?

VAN HOUTEN: Two, a man and woman.

KING: And were they tied up?


KING: Charles Manson and the other friend had tied them up.

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, and they were very frightened. And Pat and I went in the kitchen. I think Tex said to get knives or -- anyway, we ended up in the kitchen getting knives. And Pat and I tack Mrs. LaBianca into the bedroom. And...

KING: Was she screaming?

VAN HOUTEN: Not at that point. Mostly, what's going on? What are you going to do? And I tried to tried to hold Mrs. LaBianca down. And her head was covered with a pillowcase. I don't know if I did that. I could have. And she heard her husband dying in the living room.

KING: Who killed him?


KING: Stabbing him, too?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, and when she heard, she struggled. And pat went to stab her and the knife bent. And she was yelling out for her husband. And by that time, I was very torn inside. You know, I felt that I needed to, really, almost be a good soldier in this mission that had to be done, and I was not.

KING: Also, saying why am I here? Or did you not question why you were there? VAN HOUTEN: I don't even know if I could have put that together. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.

KING: How was she killed eventually?

VAN HOUTEN: She was stabbed. I went and I called Tex, and I said that weren't able to kill her. And then Tex went in the bedroom, and Pat went into the living room, and I went and I stood in the hallway. And then Tex turned me around and he handed me a knife and he said do something. And so I went in, and Mrs. LaBianca was laying on the floor, and I stabbed her.

KING: Where?

VAN HOUTEN: In the lower back, around 16 times.

KING: How do you rationalize this for yourself now?

VAN HOUTEN: Not at all.

KING: Do you think about it a lot?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, yes, I do.

KING: Did she -- was she screaming during this or did...

VAN HOUTEN: Once I went and called Tex, I when I stared -- I stared into an empty room, you know, just so I wouldn't have to deal with what was happening. I -- I couldn't really handle it. And I don't -- I remember her calling to her husband, but I don't have clear sound memory after that until Tex turned me around.

KING: After you went out to the car and drove away, was there a rush? A high?

VAN HOUTEN: There was -- there was -- we didn't do that.

KING: What did you do?

VAN HOUTEN: We went and sat in some bushes, and I believe it was Tex took milk and cheese from the house.

KING: And you ate?

VAN HOUTEN: And we sat in the bushes and had milk and cheese.

KING: And where was Manson?

VAN HOUTEN: He was gone with the others.

KING: How did you get back to the ranch?

VAN HOUTEN: Hitch hiked.

KING: Why did they leave you?

VAN HOUTEN: They were going to go look for other places.

KING: We'll be right back with Leslie Van Houten at the California Institute for Women.

Don't go away.



VAN HOUTEN: It's a very difficult thing to live with what I did when I was 19 years old and be able to carry myself with any form of dignity as a woman of 52. And I'm very proud of who I turned myself into. And I'm very proud of the fact that many women who are torn and broken as human beings come to me because they know that I have faced myself honestly and forthrightly. And so while others may try to define me to you, I stand before you as a woman who feels very strongly that I have done all that I can.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here because of a group of words and loopholes in those words, because originally she was sentenced to execution, and that was put aside and she was given life in prison. And I have to say that my opinion is with the rest of my family that the fact that her life was spared was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) enough.



KING: When, during all this process, do you feel you changed?

VAN HOUTEN: When, do I feel? When I first got here, we were -- Pat and Susan and I were in a isolated area, and the prison took great strides to monitor very closely who we dealt with and who we didn't. And I think that really my entire incarceration has been a slow process of coming back to who I was before.

KING: Where are you now would you say? You've been denied parole how many times?


KING: You're up again when?

VAN HOUTEN: A year from December.

KING: And your grounds are? What are the grounds for parole? What's your argument for parole?

VAN HOUTEN: That I'm no longer a danger to society, that the board has a set of rules and regulations, and a matrix with a set of numbers for the kind of crime, that I have met that, and that I'm suitable for parole.

KING: So who's it up to now?

VAN HOUTEN: The board.

KING: Did you get any votes the last time? Do they announce the vote?

VAN HOUTEN: No, I don't think they do. You know, I...

KING: Do you think you're going to get out?

VAN HOUTEN: I hope someday, I don't know.

KING: What was were your sentence?


KING: But there's no life without parole in California, right?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, there is now.

KING: There is now, but there wasn't when you were...

VAN HOUTEN: Right, no.

KING: When you were out on bail, how long were you out?

VAN HOUTEN: Six months.

KING: What did you do during that time?

VAN HOUTEN: Well, most of it was going to court. But I worked as a legal secretary. I spent a lot of time with my family and at the beach, you know. I like being around nature.

KING: Do you keep in touch with any of the people who were involved?


KING: None?

VAN HOUTEN: No. I've been contacted.


VAN HOUTEN: I was contacted by Catherine Share (ph). She was the woman that talked me into going to the ranch, and after all these years she wanted to tell me that she understood her role in my life and that she wanted to apologize to me. And it meant a lot.

VAN HOUTEN: Do you ever hear from Charles Manson? KING: Yes, I did. I've heard from him on two separate occasions. The first time was during my second trial. He wanted me to call him out and turn my trial into a circus, and I, by then, understood him for who he was and said no. So I, at that time, I got some rather cruel, angry letters. And then this winter, when I had been approached to do a network show, he began writing angry...

KING: Telling you not to do it?

VAN HOUTEN: ... letters. Basically. You know, he's never -- he's never that out front. Doing his little smarmy round about.

KING: Did you respond?



VAN HOUTEN: I turned the letters over to the authorities is what I did.

KING: What -- How -- what was or is Charles Manson to you now?

VAN HOUTEN: An opportunist of the cruelest, most vicious kind.

KING: For what gain?

VAN HOUTEN: His own aggrandizement, you know? I -- I feel that, you know, at the time he seemed like a big deal. And I feel very responsible for creating the monster. You know,...

KING: You don't let yourself off the hook here then?

VAN HOUTEN: Oh, absolutely not. You know, no, not at all, no. And, you know, like, for years it's been very difficult for me because to say this man had this position in my life and this happened, to say that almost looks as though I'm saying, so I'm not guilty. I'm not responsible. But that's not true.

KING: The devil made me do it.

VAN HOUTEN: A follower is as responsible for allowing a leader to lead them foully.

KING: Some argue more responsible.


KING: You don't have to listen.


KING: He didn't kill anybody, did he?

VAN HOUTEN: Right, right. And so the dynamic of the manipulation by him is just a contributing factor of my crime. KING: Well, some have said the people who followed Hitler are worse than Hitler.


KING: I mean, you could take that the demon says...


KING: Someone has to do.


KING: You did what the demon said.

VAN HOUTEN: Right, and if nobody says anything then the demon doesn't exist.

KING: If you've change and grown,...


KING: ... do you think he could?

VAN HOUTEN: I don't -- I haven't seen it.

KING: Certainly the letters -- there's no indication of...

VAN HOUTEN: No, no. You know, he -- he is -- the letters were -- I've given them to my attorney -- the letters are very wanting the ranch -- now he calls us "the ranch," you know? And, you know, when I was at the ranch, to Manson I was basically what's your name? And incredibly stupid. And now in his mind, for some reason, I'm like some big player in his stuff. You know, it's the same old rattling on.

KING: How do the other prisoners treat you here? Are you sort of isolated, worshipped, looked up to? What?


KING: You're a veteran.

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, I -- I would hope that the women here see me as a peer. I don't -- I'm not comfortable with my notoriety, and because I've been in a situation where there was a leader, I'm very careful to not do that.

KING: You don't want to be him here.

VAN HOUTEN: I hope that if the young people look at me, that it's as a -- more of a role model of how they can survive their life in prison without completely, you know, surrendering to abuse.

KING: Are you in a cell? VAN HOUTEN: Yes. This institution has cells. They're, like, a little bit bigger than an average bathroom. And they're sort of like a bathroom where the bunk beds are where the tub is.

KING: No -- your all by yourself?

VAN HOUTEN: And two of us.

KING: Two. And I notice it's -- you can sort of walk around out here?


KING: It's like a -- "campus" is a bad word, but there's an airy, nice feeling about this place.

VAN HOUTEN: This prison...

KING: It doesn't feel like a prison.

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, this prison has single structure, and it has lots of grass and trees. And that makes for a pleasant...

KING: Couple other quick things, Leslie...

VAN HOUTEN: In other words, it contributes to the nonviolence of the prison.

KING: Two other things: What do you do with your own needs, desire, love, romance, touching, being? What do you do with that?

VAN HOUTEN: I have occasional visitors.

KING: They allow that here.

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, just, you know, in the visiting room. I got married...

KING: No cohabitation?

VAN HOUTEN: Well, I -- when I was in my early 30s, I married. But it was a very bad thing to do and I haven't done it since. You know, I did it specifically for love, and, well I was hoping -- you know, what can I say?

KING: Do you think about killing someone a lot? That you killed someone?

VAN HOUTEN: Yes, yes. You know, I didn't take Mrs. LaBianca's life, but I feel as responsible as if I had.

KING: She was dead before you were stabbing her?

VAN HOUTEN: I felt that she was. And in my early years, it gave me some kind of comfort, and then as, of course, I matured, and my understanding of responsibility took greater depth, you know, it doesn't make that much difference to me.

KING: Thanks, Leslie.



KING: When we return, we'll hear from Leslie's father, as well as the author of "Helter Skelter," the best-selling book about the Manson murders. Plus, Sharon Tate's sister. Stay with us.


KING: Welcome back. You just saw our interview with Leslie Van Houten, who was denied parole yesterday and is still serving a life sentence for her role in the Manson family murders. Following our interview with her in '94, we talked with some other key figures in this notorious case. The arguments back then were very much the same as they are today.


KING: There is a general consensus that she's remorseful and rehabilitated. But there's always this question: Considering her part in one of our most gruesome crimes, can her debt to society ever really be repaid.

A distinguished panel joins us now for a look at crime and punishment. Here in Washington, is Paul Van Houten, Leslie's father. This is his first ever appearance, with regard to this crime, since it happened. In Los Angeles, Leslie's lawyer, criminal defense attorney John Markham; also Vincent Bugliosi, Manson's prosecutor and author of the runaway best seller "Helter-Skelter"; and Patty Tate, Sharon Tate's sister and now an outspoken victims advocate.

How do think your daughter did tonight, Paul?

PAUL VAN HOUTEN, LESLIE VAN HOUTEN'S FATHER: She did very well. I'm really proud her.

KING: This had to be an incredible shock to you when this arrest occurred. Can you remember back to that time?

PAUL VAN HOUTEN: Well, I had a feeling when I saw the name, "Leslie Sangston" (ph) in Waterloo, Iowa, because we came -- we'd been in Waterloo, Iowa, and Leslie was her name, and then a friend of mine went to the jail and told me that it was Leslie, but a judge had told me not to become involved until she appeared, because there is no way that I'd have enough money to hire a lawyer to defend her.

KING: Did you know she was with Manson and that she...

PAUL VAN HOUTEN: I didn't know anything about Manson, but I knew she was in trouble, because they had my credit card, and the Union Oil company, when I reported the card, said they couldn't catch him, but something would happen that they would catch him. KING: Vince Bugliosi, you prosecuted this case. What did you think of Leslie tonight, and what did you think of her attempt to get out?

VINCENT BUGLIOSI, MANSON PROSECUTOR: Well, It's understand that she wants to get out, and obviously it's not pleasant to spend the rest of your life behind bars, Larry.

I want to say one thing before I get into the substance of this case, that it's a little difficult for me to be on the same show with Mr. Van Houten, speaking ill of his daughter in any way. Obviously as father, he loves her very much and he wants to see her come home, and I certainly understand that. But we should not forget that Leno and Rosemary LaBianca also had fathers and mothers of course who loved them very much and wanted their lives to be spared just as much as Mr. Van Houten understandably wants his daughter to come back home.

I think there are several issues here, Larry. One is whether she's rehabilitated.

There is somewhat of a misconception among many people that if you're rehabilitated early, you're entitled to be set free. But there are two other reasons why we incarcerate people, and that's deterrence, setting an example, thereby deterring other prospective killers or criminals from violating the law; and retribution, punishment.

My personal belief is that if she were to be set free right now, these two requirements, retribution and deterrence, would not be met, and that's why I'm opposing her being set free.

On the issues of rehabilitation, I think it would be presumptuous of me to even give opinion on that. I haven't been in Leslie's presence since 1971. Even if were, I'm not equipped to make a determination about that.

KING: Were you impressed with her tonight?

BUGLIOSI: I was impressed by her. In defense of her, I can say this, that she seems to be a model prisoner and everyone seems to say that she is very remorseful for these murders.

But there is one observation I'd like to make about the issues of rehabilitation, Larry. If someone participates, as Mrs. Van Houten did, in murders as incredibly brutal and vicious and unspeakable and nightmarish as these murders were, it seems to me, Larry -- I could be wrong, but it seems to me -- that there must be something, -- what, we don't know -- but something inside of them, something in the deepest recesses of their soul, their guts, that enabled them to do what they did, something that most of us fortunately do not have because -- I just want to continue this thought -- something that enabled them to do it. You and I would never do something like this.

Now we might not be able to isolate or identify that element, but I think it must be there, and therefore, to release a type of person like this on a vulnerable society, may be taking a risk that we shouldn't take.

KING: OK. BUGLIOSI: One little footnote. I just want to make...

KING: Hold on, Vince, I've got to get some other people in.

John Markham, why should she be paroled.

JOHN MARKHAM, VAN HOUTEN ATTORNEY: The law in California is very clear. Once you've served your minimum -- your base term, which in her case, is about 17 to 20 years, depending how you formulate it, you are to be released...

KING: Then why was she denied?

MARKHAM: Unless, unless, Larry -- you are to be released once you serve that term, unless you are perceived to be an unreasonable risk of danger to society.

They say to her over and over that she is such a risk, even though every prison official who deals with her, monitors her, counsels her, reports on her -- and these are people who've seen everything and heard everything -- say, unanimously, she is an excellent candidate for release.

KING: So therefore, after you've done the 20, you say there is no reason to hold her?

MARKHAM: In -- no reason to hold her. And that unreasonable risk factor is what makes us a discriminating society. You don't let everybody out after they serve their base term, because some people remain dangerous. For example, Manson.

KING: Now, Patty, she was not involved in the killing of your sister?


KING: How do you feel about these people, or specifically, Leslie?

TATE: Well, the way I feel is I -- they got a second chance on life. They first had the death sentence. They got a second chance by a life sentence. It makes me so angry that the government lies to us. She has, as they all do, a life sentence. That should mean exactly that: a life sentence.

And, first of all, first-degree murderers -- they shouldn't even be eligible for parole. First-degree murderers, multiple murderers -- why should that even come up? And the whole matter about being rehabilitated should not matter for a first-degree murderer.

KING: Now, Paul, what would you say to Patty?

PAUL VAN HOUTEN: Well, I would say, if anybody had anything to say about Leslie, that it should be the LaBiancas, that she had nothing to do with Patty Tate's sister. If the LaBiancas wanted to talk about it, I would say that they should have the right. KING: Have they spoken?


KING: Never the family has spoken?


MARKHAM: Larry, if I may interject, I don't know if Paul knows this or not, but the LaBianca daughter, one of the LaBianca children, went to Tex Watson's parole hearing and said she forgave them all. I don't think that's terribly relevant, and I don't think it's terribly relevant what Ms. Tate thinks. I think it's law of California, not what people think it is.

KING: All right, let me get a break, and we'll come back with more.


Tomorrow night, every aspect of the baseball strike and all key figures in it.

Don't go away.


L. VAN HOUTEN: I guess it's important to me that you understand that it's not something I just deal with when I come to the hearings, that each day I wake up, I know why I'm waking up where I am, and I've done my best to turn myself and live my life in a way that other people aren't harmed, and that's part of what I have felt is one of the only ways I can make up for the loss of life. It's one of the hardest things in dealing with having contributed to murder is there is no restitution.




STEPHEN KAY, DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I think from the record, here what we've gone over today and what we said, it can be determined factually why the gravity of the crime outweighs her good behavior while in prison. And I'm not saying don't take into consideration her good behavior, and I commend her for that. She got her life when the California Supreme Court overturned the death penalty. She had been given the death penalty originally. She got her life. That's something that the LaBiancas never will have a chance for.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KING: Before we take some calls, Vince Bugliosi, former prosecutor, are you impressed at all by the fact that all the prison officials and prison psychiatrists think she should get out?

BUGLIOSI: Well, I haven't been told that. I don't monitor the...

KING: My notes say that...

BUGLIOSI: I haven't been told they all think that she should get out. Well, psychiatrists are kind of easy to fool, Larry.

And my point is that irrespective of what appears on the surface, if you can do what she did, the question is does she have something inside of her that would constitute a risk to set her free?

KING: Was there anything in her childhood, Paul, that could have told you this?

PAUL VAN HOUTEN: No, if Leslie had never smoked her first marijuana cigarette, she'd never -- this would never have happened.

KING: You're blaming it on marijuana?

PAUL VAN HOUTEN: No, but that put her with the group. That marijuana put her with the group. And with Marijuana and LSD, and Manson able was able to maneuver these people.

KING: But millions have smoked marijuana and didn't go kill people.

PAUL VAN HOUTEN: Millions of people social drinkers.

KING: Houston, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hello..


CALLER: I have a statement. I think it would be an absolute disgrace to this country if Leslie Van Houten was released, I do. And thought of being paroled once is awful. I mean, the crimes that they committed, and the fact that Gerald Manson is even still contacting this woman? No, that would be a...

KING: Well, because he's contacting her doesn't make her at fault, right, ma'am?

CALLER: Well, because she's saying that, because she's still in prison.

KING: So you believe she -- you believe for this kind of crime, you never get out, right?


KING: And you believe that, too, right, Patty?

TATE: Oh, absolutely. First-degree murder should never be allowed to come up for parole. It shouldn't be an issue.

KING: So therefore, you don't believe that people can change or be rehabilitated.

TATE: No, I don't believe that it should be a part of the issue. The rehabilitation comes from within. First of all, I don't think that any doctor really has the insight and the know all to really say and make the decision someone is rehabilitated, and...

KING: Well, then no one would be paroled under that concept.

TATE: Not first-degree murderers. Absolutely not first degree.

BUGLIOSI: Larry, the term justice is something -- there is a kind of a paradox here.

KING: It's not definable.

BUGLIOSI: Well, justice -- everyone, says it's a very lofty, and noble goal, everyone accepts it and embraces it, yet retribution, your intellectual cognoscenti, they look down upon. But justice is just a euphemism for retribution.

And the question is this: What type of justice is it? What type of retribution is it, we know justice to be? For someone be convicted of two brutal first-degree murders and serve 25 years, that's 12 1/2 years for each murder. I think a life is worth more than 12 1/2 years. And also remember, she was originally sentenced to death here.


KING: Yes, go ahead, John.

MARKHAM: Very quickly. We might want to repaint the picture, but under our constitutional form of government, once a statutory scheme has been set up for punishment, we can't change it just because the politicians are running around saying we've got to get tougher on criminals, because it is what it is.

KING: Carl Springs, Florida, Hello.

CALLER: Yes, hello. My question is for Leslie's father.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: I'd like to turn this around a bit. If her -- I'm sorry -- if his daughter was murdered, what would he want to happen to the murderer?

PAUL VAN HOUTEN: Well, I really feel that I lost a daughter by Manson's manipulation. And I can't see being holding against somebody for years, and years and years, after they -- these girls were brainwashed when it happened. They really were not in their right minds.

And so, as far as I'm concerned, I think I would be forgiving.

KING: We'll be back with more on LARRY KING LIVE after this.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where was Mr. LaBianca? Do you know?

L. VAN HOUTEN: He was in the living room, and Tex was already killing him, or he was already dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you heard noises, as I recall?

L. VAN HOUTEN: Yes, I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming from the living room?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you assumed that's what's happening?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And those noises were...


L. VAN HOUTEN: They were the sounds of him dying, the gurgling sounds of him dying, and Mrs. LaBianca heard them and I heard them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then after, you were told to do something. Did you in turn then stab Mrs. LaBianca?

L. VAN HOUTEN: Yes, I did, in the lower torso (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 14 to 16 times. I didn't know at that time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you remember doing that?

L. VAN HOUTEN: Yes, I do.



KING: Back to the calls.

Zurich, Switzerland, hello.

CALLER: Yes, good morning, Mr. King.

KING: Morning. CALLER: Welcome back to the show. We missed you.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Yes, I am Deshemi (ph) from Switzerland. I am a Scandinavian citizen, and in Finland they wouldn't keep anybody, unless he has committed a crime against the member of the justice system, for more than 12 years. And absolutely no one would last for more than 20 years, even with somebody who had a case who committed three murders at the same time against three policemen.

KING: And you agree with that, sir?

CALLER: I do not understand what additional more years for a person who has shown clear remorse...

KING: OK, Patty, what do you gain by keeping -- I guess he's asking this -- well, what do you gain by keeping Leslie in?

TATE: Well first of all, I feel I need to say this. Manson hand picked the people to go out and do his murders, because -- he picked them, each one individually, because he knew that they were capable of murdering.

So this goes back to what Vince was saying. Something down deep in their soul, they are capable of murder. First-degree murder, very serious issue, there are a lot of things in the state of California that have to change. When someone is sentenced with a life sentence by their peers, it should mean exactly a life sentence. We got a life sentence.

KING: How old were you, Patty, when your sister was killed?

TATE: I was 11.

KING: Do you think about her all the time?

TATE: All the time, yes. And it hurts just as bad. And I -- I -- it hurts my parents just as bad. Of course, my mom's passed away now, but it's a very painful thing that we have to live with. And when you go out and you commit a murder, you better be ready to pay with your own life...

KING: Boca...

TATE: ... and incarceration.

KING: Boca Raton, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry, good evening.

KING: Hi. CALLER: Mr. Bugliosi, let's face it. This was a heinous crime, no doubt, and I'm not trying to downplay it at all, but let's face it, if it wasn't for the unbelievable nature of the crime and how publicized and polarized it was, she would have been out a long time ago. Let's face it. Murder is murder, no matter how heinous, and we have hundreds of murderers walking the street as we speak right now. I mean, I live in south Florida, and we read about this every day.

KING: OK, is it fair, Vince? Is Leslie Van Houten still behind bars because it was celebrated?

BUGLIOSI: No, this is 25 years, but she was convicted of two murders, not one. And don't forget now, a jury evaluated all of this evidence and came back with a verdict of death in this case. So, in a sense -- in a sense...

KING: Yes, but if, as John points out, most of the people are out already who would be sentenced for the same crime, is she being punished because it was of the notoriety?

BUGLIOSI: I can't -- I can't answer that for you, Larry.

KING: Do you think so?

BUGLIOSI: I don't think so. If it were one murder, perhaps, but two murders, I would have to say no. But please let's not forget about retribution, and let's not forget about deterrents. This fellow from Switzerland that called in, if we're to buy his theory, carrying it reductio ad absurdum -- and, of course, this is an absurd example, but if the principle is correct it should apply -- if Hitler were at Nuremburg and a hundred psychiatrists agreed across the board that he was completely rehabilitate under that principle, I guess he should be set free.

MARKHAM: Larry, may I jump in for a second?

KING: Yes, John.

MARKHAM: She was not sentenced to death in a sentence that stood. As you know, all of the sentences were reversed because the death penalty was declared unconstitutional. But Leslie had something different. Her sentence was thrown out altogether. The guilty verdict was thrown out altogether because for the last part of the trial her lawyer had disappeared and they had to get a substitute.

In her second trial, she -- it was a hung jury. They didn't even convict her. The third trial, when she was out on bail, they finally convicted her when she was out of funds for another case.

She did not kill two people. At best, she aided and -- it's a terrible crime, and she's paid 25 years for it, but she didn't kill two people.

BUGLIOSI: Well, she was aiding and abetting in the murder of both of them. There were -- there were...

KING: Let me get a break, guys. We're running on time here close. I wish we had more.

We'll be right back. Don't go away.




KING: We're back.

Last call, Simpsonville, South Carolina, hello.

CALLER: Hello, I'd like to address this to Mr. Van Houten. What I'd like to ask is suppose Leslie would get paroled. What would she, like, do? I mean she's getting, like, three square meals a day in prison. I mean, like, what would she do in public? Like, nobody's going to give her a job or anything. I mean, what would her lifestyle be like if she was to get parole? What would happen to her?

PAUL VAN HOUTEN: Leslie has a degree in English. She's a legal secretary. During the time she was out on parole, she worked as a legal secretary for an attorney and went to trial each day. Leslie will have no problem on the outside as far as support and as getting work.

KING: Patty, you must have some sympathy for Paul. Do you? His daughter?

TATE: I have sympathy for the victims's families, the ones that are really left with nothing, nothing but memories. He has his daughter. We don't have anything. We have nothing but memories.

I have to say one thing. Talking about the aiding and abetting and murder, how was she to know when that person took his or her last breath this? Was it her knife that really killed it or was it someone else's?

KING: Yes, we've run out of time, but...

TATE: We don't know.

KING: We've run out of time. We haven't, obviously, heard the last of this.

Thanks for coming, Paul. I know this wasn't easy.

And thanks to all our guests in California. And that's tonight's edition of LARRY KING LIVE,


KING: While Leslie Van Houten was denied parole Friday, that may not be the end of it. Earlier this month, a California judge admonished the parole board. The judge said in previous years, the board didn't adequately consider Van Houten's accomplishments while in prison. The ruling might open the door to further legal action. And barring that, Leslie Van Houten is eligible for parole again in 2004.

Tomorrow night, we'll liven things up a little. Regis Philbin for the hour. Until then, good night.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact is that you're programmed very well. But then, you're expected to. You're expected to follow the rules of the institution, and you've been doing that, and you are to be commended for that. This panel ultimately concluded, however, that your crime and the risk factors associated outweigh that positive programming.