Somehow I managed to miss this story when it first broke, maybe a month or so ago. In a way, I'm glad that I did because I would have just spent 4+ weeks angry at the justice system and badmouthing the California Parole Board.
Last month, Manson Family follower and coldblooded, vicious murderer Susan Atkins revealed she had brain cancer and possibly six months, at most, to live. She applied to the California Parole Board for Compassionate Release Consideration, hoping to spend her final months of life in the free world and with her family.
When I first read this, I didn't know whether to laugh, get angry or even cry. Helter Skelter was the first true crime book I ever read, at age 11, and the story has always stuck with me. I believe this case, and this case alone, led me to studying psychology and, in particular, the deviant mind. Imagining the sheer terror and torture Atkins and fellow Family members put their victims through still chills me to this day. The senselessness of the killings is as mind numbing today as it must have been in 1969.
Atkins, and her fellow murderers, really dodged a bullet back in the early 70s when California ruled the death penalty unconstitutional and commuted their sentences to life in prison. Their victims didn't get a commuted sentence.
The American public has been forced to listen to Charles Manson's insane ramblings for nearly 40 years, along with stories about upcoming parole hearings of his followers. Each of them have been denied all these years, and rightfully so. Life in prison should mean just that - - life in prison. They didn't steal money, they didn't run a red light. They snuffed out human life. That can never, never been rectified.
Now Susan Atkins, the individual who personally told the nine-months pregnant Sharon Tate "Look bitch, I have no mercy for you" after Ms. Tate begged for her unborn child's life, is asking for mercy. Atkins, the individual who personally stabbed Ms. Tate to death, is asking for mercy. Atkins, the individual who not only wrote the word "pig" in Ms. Tate's blood on her front door, but also tasted it, is asking for mercy. Atkins, the individual who claimed to actually experience a sexual orgasm upon killing Ms. Tate, is asking for mercy.
In the nearly forty years since the gruesome killings, in the nearly forty years since Atkins has been incarcerated, never once has she expressed remorse, sorrow, grief or understanding over her actions. Never once has she admitted she was wrong. Never once has she apologized to the families of her victims.
I feel a small amount of sympathy for Atkins' family. They didn't ask for this. But that tiny bit of sympathy is overshadowed by my feelings of sorrow, pain and anger for the victims. Atkins has had nearly 40 years of life they haven't had. Sharon Tate's unborn child never got to take a first breath; he died where he was conceived, in his mother's womb. Atkins' victims never got the chance to knowingly spend their last months of life with their families. They never got to say goodbye. And they never got to argue their case in a California courtroom. Atkins, among others, decided their fate with indiscriminate thrusts of a knife.
So does Atkins, an individual who has no sense of what the word "compassion" truly means, deserving of our mercy?
Absolutely not. And the California Parole Board agreed, denying Atkins' application. The Los Angeles County District Attorney, Steve Cooley, argued against it, saying, "[Atkins] has failed to demonstrate genuine remorse and lacks insight and understanding of the gravity of her crimes."
Amen to that. I don't wish pain and suffering on anyone, but if Atkins is dying, she is dying right where she should be. Behind bars.
Hopefully this will give the victims' surviving family members some peace and perhaps a bit of closure.
This is where the focus should be: on the victims, not the killer