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Manson follower tried to incite race war, should stay in prison, D.A. tells Schwarzenegger

April 30, 2010 |  5:25 pm

D.A. Urges Governor to Reverse Parole of Manson FollowerA convicted killer who has been described as mass murderer Charles Manson's “right hand man” should not be released from prison, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley told Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday.

Bruce Davis, 67, who has served 38 years in prison for the 1969 killings of musician Gary Hinman and ranch hand Donald “Shorty” Shea, was recommended for release by a two-member Board of Prison Terms panel in January.

In a letter to the governor, who has the power to reverse parole recommendations, Cooley wrote that he believes that Davis “continues to minimize, rationalize and offer excuses” for his role in the killings.

“The viciousness of the Gary Hinman and Shorty Shea murders, the relationship of those murders to an effort to incite a race war ... and Bruce Davis's attempts to minimize his criminal responsibility make him an unreasonable risk of danger to society,” the county's top prosecutor wrote.

Davis’ attorney, Michael Beckman, said his client has taken responsibility for the crimes and has changed since entering prison. Davis has a sterling disciplinary record, Beckman said, and has become ordained as a minister and has earned his masters and PhD in philosophy and religion via correspondence school while in prison.

“If the goal of prison is to rehabilitate and get prisoners back into society, he’s a textbook example,” Beckman said. “He’s not going to bother anybody. He’s just going to go home to his wife and his child.”

Davis was not involved in the 1969 Manson family murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others. But, according to Cooley, he “occupied a major role in the Manson family hierarchy.” He was convicted in the killing of Hinman, an aspiring musician, and Shea, a stuntman and a ranch hand at the Chatsworth ranch where Manson and his followers lived. 

Police found a Black Panther symbol at Hinman’s murder scene, which prosecutors later said was an attempt by the Manson family to incite a race war, which they called “Helter Skelter.” Manson and most of his co-defendants have repeatedly been denied parole.

Onetime Manson family member Susan Atkins died last September, shortly after a state parole board panel rejected her plea for a “compassionate release” from prison because of brain cancer.

Davis had been denied parole 25 times before. At his 26th parole hearing, a two-person panel recommended that he be freed. The governor can allow the decision to stand, reverse it or send it back for further reconsideration by the entire parole board.

--Kate Linthicum

Photos: Davis when arrested, then more recently. KTLA News