A 61-year-old man who has spent decades in prison after being sentenced to death for the murder of four people in 1983 was thrown a lifeline on Feb. 22 when California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered DNA testing of evidence that he claims will prove his innocence. The case garnered national attention in 2000 when the CBS show "48 Hours" ran a story suggesting that key evidence had been overlooked or destroyed by law enforcement.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, former Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten has been recommended for parole. However, there is a 150-day waiting period that includes a period of review for board staff. Furthermore, her parole must still be approved by the governor. The parole board also recommended her release in 2016 and 2018, but the decision was reversed by the governor at the time.
Individuals who are serving time for murder convictions in California may be eligible for release after a change to state law. The change went into effect on Jan. 1, and it says that only killers can be convicted of murder. Previously, those who were indirectly related to such a crime could be charged as if he or she actually killed the victim.
Unlike most crimes, involuntary manslaughter is not a crime in which the accused's state of mind or intent is an element. The California Penal Code defines it as an accidental homicide committed either during the commission of a non-felony crime or as the result of reckless conduct during a lawful activity. Under either theory, there is no allegation of intent by the accused to kill the victim. If the case is based on an allegation involving a lawful act, the prosecution must, however, prove the accused/defendant knew or should have known the conduct was such that it posed a potential danger to others.
A 21-year-old California man could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted of killing a gay and Jewish University of Pennsylvania student. Prosecutors say that they are considering the homicide a hate crime because the man's phone contained large amounts of anti-Semitic and homophobic material. The man entered a plea of not guilty during a Nov. 9 hearing in Orange County Superior Court.
A 21-year-old man sits in San Diego County Central Jail for the alleged shooting death of one man on Interstate 5 and shooting another man about 10 minutes earlier on Boundary Street in Mount Hope. After these incidents, the California Highway Patrol located the suspect's vehicle on northbound I-5 and alerted the San Diego Police Department.
A 42-year-old man has been taken into custody in connection with a string of recent burglaries in the Malibu Canyon area of California. He is also suspected of fatally shooting a man in front of his 2 and 4-year-old daughters in Malibu Creek State Park in June. The man is being held on a number of parole violations while investigators build homicide and burglary charges against him according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department representative.
California inmates serving time for murder could soon get a second chance. A new bill limits the state's authority to convict defendants charged with felony murder. The bill also allows inmates incarcerated on felony murder convictions to apply for re-sentencing.
The gang known as MS-13 used a remote California farm city as a base from which they engaged in criminal activity in places as far away as New York, according to prosecutors who filed charges against more than 20 alleged members. The charges came after a lengthy investigation into drug trafficking in Fresno County and were announced during an Aug. 31 press conference. The gang is said to have taken advantage of the scant resources available to law enforcement in the city of Mendota to conduct business without drawing unwanted attention.