Ex-Manson follower gets parole, but hurdles loom
SAN LUIS OBISPO, California (AP) — A California board once again approved parole Wednesday for former Charles Manson follower Bruce Davis, but before he’s released he’ll have to get past Gov. Jerry Brown — who chose to keep him in prison under the same circumstances just last year.
Davis, 71, made his 28th appearance before a Department of Corrections Board of Parole Hearings at the California Men’s Colony near San Luis Obispo.
He has been in prison for nearly 43 years, sentenced with Manson and others for the 1969 murders of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman ranch hand Donald “Shorty” Shea. He long maintained that he was a bystander in the killings, but in recent years he has acknowledged his shared responsibility.
Davis was granted parole by the same board in 2012, but Brown rejected it last March, saying he was convinced Davis still hadn’t revealed all he knew about the Manson Family.
Brown said in his written decision that after four decades “it is encouraging that Davis is beginning to reveal the actual details of what happened. But it is clear that he continues to withhold information about these events.”
“Until Davis can acknowledge and explain why he actively championed the Family’s interests and shed more light on the nature of his involvement, I am not prepared to release him,” Brown said.
And just three years before Brown’s rejection, Davis got the same treatment from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who refused his release on parole in 2010.
Wednesday’s decision now triggers a 120-day review period for the board. The governor then has 30 days to approve, reverse, change or decline to review the decision.
Governor’s spokesman Jim Evans said in an email Wednesday that he could not comment beyond the information released by the Department of Corrections.
Davis’ attorney, Michael Beckman, said last year that Davis was the most rehabilitated of the hundreds of parole candidates he’s represented, calling the governor’s decision “horrible” and contrary to the findings of parole commissioners who found him eminently suitable. He said Davis has told everything he knows.
Davis was not involved in the notorious slayings of Sharon Tate and six others, making him a more likely candidate for parole than many of the better-known Manson family members.
He became a born-again Christian in prison, earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in philosophy of religion and ministered to other inmates.
He married a woman he met through the prison ministry, and has a grown daughter. The couple recently divorced.
Davis would be only the second Manson-related murder defendant to be granted parole since the killing spree began in 1969.
Manson and three of his followers, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles “Tex” Watson, remain in prison for life in the Tate killings. Their co-defendant, Susan Atkins, died of cancer behind bars in 2009.