Ex-Manson Follower Seeks Compassionate Release
California's longest-serving prison inmate, a former follower of Charles Manson, is seeking a compassionate release due to failing health.
Convicted of the murder of Sharon Tate, Susan Atkins has fewer than six months to live.
Atkins, 60, was convicted in the 1969 slayings of actress Sharon Tate and four others. She had been incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California.
But Atkins, the state's longest- serving female inmate, has been hospitalized since March 18 and is listed in serious condition, state corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said. Because of privacy laws, Thornton would not disclose the nature of Atkins' illness.
Atkins' husband and attorney, James Whitehouse, was quoted as saying she has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, according to a blog called Manson Family Today. She also has had a leg amputated, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday, citing sources close to the case.
The compassionate release request has been approved by the prison, which conducted an evaluation, and is under corrections department review, Thornton said.
According to historical accounts of the murders, Atkins stabbed Tate, who was 8½ months pregnant, and scawled the word "pig" in blood on the door of the home the actress shared with director Roman Polanski.
"I don't want to seem like a heartless creature, but in all my years, I never considered this could happen," Debra Tate, the actress' sister, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
"She showed no compassion. She told my sister as she slit her throat that she didn't (care) for her or her unborn baby," Tate added.
Atkins, like Manson, received a death sentence, and the punishment was changed to life in prison when the California Supreme Court ruled the state's death penalty unconsitutional in 1972.
Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Atkins, told the Los Angeles Times that she "has paid substantially, though not completely, for her horrendous crimes. Paying completely would mean imposing the death penalty." But, he told the paper, given her terminal illness, "I don't have an objection to her being released."