Wednesday 24 May 2017

Follower of Charles Manson 'should be released' 48 years after double killings

Bruce Davis pictured in October 2012 - the 74-year-old has been recommended for parole (Joe Johnston/The Tribune of San Luis Obispo/AP, File)
Bruce Davis pictured in October 2012 - the 74-year-old has been recommended for parole (Joe Johnston/The Tribune of San Luis Obispo/AP, File)

A former follower of cult leader Charles Manson who is serving a life sentence for two murders has again been recommended for release.

California governors have blocked four previous parole recommendations for Bruce Davis, 74.

He had his 31st parole hearing at the California Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo as he serves a life sentence for the 1969 killings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea.

Davis was not involved in the more notorious killings of actress Sharon Tate and six others by the Manson "family" the same year.

During the half-century since the killings, parole panels have now decided five times that Davis is no longer a public safety risk.

Officials cited his age and good behaviour behind bars that includes earning a doctoral degree and ministering to other inmates, but g overnors have the final say on release.

Governor Jerry Brown will have about five months to consider the latest recommendation.

Mr Brown rejected the previous recommendation last year. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also concluded that Davis remains too dangerous to be free.

Davis testified at his 2014 hearing that he attacked Mr Shea with a knife and held a gun on Mr Hinman while Manson cut Mr Hinman's face with a sword.

"I wanted to be Charlie's favourite guy," he said then.

Lawyer Michael Beckman, who has been fighting for years for the release of Davis, said he is the most rehabilitated prisoner among the 2,000 he is representing in the penal system.

"There's no-one even a close second," he said.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey called the Manson-related killings "some of the most horrific crimes in California history".

She objected to the possible release of Davis.

"We believe he continues to exhibit a lack of insight and remorse and remains a public safety risk," she said after the parole decision.

Mr Hinman's cousin, Kay Martley, said Davis' crime was so terrible that he should die in prison.

Mr Hinman was tortured for three days, she said in remarks prepared for the parole hearing.

"This wasn't a crime of passion or impulse; this was slow, calculated and cold-blooded," she wrote.

Ms Martley, who travelled from Mr Hinman's native Colorado to attend the parole hearing, said she was angry about the recommendation.

"Just because he's going to be 75, he's considered a low risk even though they said he has a personality disorder that he's going to have to work on - his narcissistic behaviour, need for acceptance, his grandiosity."

Davis was convicted with Manson and another follower, Steve Grogan, over the twin killings.

Grogan was paroled in 1985 after he led police to Mr Shea's buried body. Robert Beausoleil, convicted over Mr Hinman's death, remains in prison.

Manson and followers Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles "Tex" Watson are imprisoned for the Tate killings.

Their co-defendant, Susan Atkins, died of cancer behind bars in 2009.

AP

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