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Manson follower Susan Atkins, with six months to live, granted parole hearing

June 5, 2009 |  8:14 am

Susanatkins Last year, doctors diagnosed Susan Atkins with terminal cancer, prompting a failed bid by the convicted murderer and Charles Manson follower to receive a "compassionate release" from state prison.

But Atkins, who gained infamy for her role in the 1969 slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and others in a bloody two-night rampage in Los Angeles, may get one last chance to convince state parole officials she should no longer be kept behind bars.

Officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Thursday they have scheduled a Sept. 2 parole hearing for Atkins in Los Angeles.

Atkins has served 38 years in prison, longer than any other female prisoner, officials said. Before last year's attempt, she was most recently considered for, and denied, parole in 2000.

In early 2008 Atkins was diagnosed with brain cancer. With one leg amputated and the other paralyzed, Atkins has only six months to live, doctors say. Atkins petitioned for so-called compassionate release, igniting a debate about when mercy is appropriate.

Those backing her release argued unsuccessfully that the cost of keeping Atkins in prison, which by now could be well over a million dollars, should have favored her release because it would save the state substantial amounts of money.

Others, including former Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, said it was a question of mercy and told The Times it was wrong to say "just because Susan Atkins showed no mercy to her victims, we therefore are duty-bound to follow her inhumanity and show no mercy to her."

But most were unwavering in their contention she should die in prison considering her crimes.

Tate, the wife of film director Roman Polanski, was 8 1/2 months pregnant when she and four others were killed at her hilltop home in Benedict Canyon. The actress, who was stabbed to death, had begged Atkins for her life.

"She asked me to let her baby live," Atkins told parole officials in 1993. "I told her I didn't have mercy for her."

Atkins was housed at the California Institution for Women in Corona from April 1971 until March 2008, when she was transferred to a local hospital for treatment.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Undated photograph of Susan Atkins. Credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / Associated Press

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