Thursday, January 28, 2010
Bruce Davis Shouldn't Count His Chickens
Manson family member Bruce Davis recommended for parole after nearly 4 decades in prison
AP Special Correspondent
5:32 PM PST, January 28, 2010
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bruce Davis, a member of Charles Manson's murderous cult who participated in two killings, was recommended for parole Thursday after nearly four decades in prison.
The 67-year-old Davis has been in prison since 1972 after being convicted in the murders of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea.
Attorney Michael Beckman, who represented Davis at the parole hearing, said Davis acknowledged for the first time that he shared responsibility for the crimes, even though he didn't kill anyone himself.
"He said, 'I was as responsible as everyone there,'" Beckman said.
The recommendation by a two-member panel of the Board of Parole Hearings came after the 26th hearing for Davis, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said.
It was just the first step in a process that also requires approval by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other parole board members. The process could take five more months.
Los Angeles County prosecutors could petition the governor to reject parole, but spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said no decision had been made on how to proceed. Schwarzenegger's office said it would base its decision on public safety and other considerations.
Davis was serving a life sentence after driving the car that took Manson family members to Hinman's home in the Topanga Canyon area of Los Angeles.
He also said he was present when Shea was killed at the cult's communal home at Spahn Ranch near the San Fernando Valley.
Beckman said Davis told the parole panel he had refused an order by Manson to chop off Shea's head but admitted slashing Shea on the shoulder.
Davis was not involved in the infamous Manson family murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others.
Davis became a born-again Christian in prison and ministered to other inmates, married a woman he met through the prison ministry and has a grown daughter.
The only other Manson family member convicted of murder to be paroled was Steve Grogan. He was released in 1985 after leading authorities to the site where Shea's body had been buried.
Manson follower Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was released from federal prison last year after serving time for the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.
Manson and two of his followers, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel remain in prison for life in the Tate killings. Their co-defendant, Susan Atkins, died last year.
Beckman said Davis had received 23 consecutive denials of parole for one year each. He said the roadblock had been Davis' attempt to minimize his participation in the crimes.
Beckman said Davis told the parole commissioners he now knows that his presence encouraged others to participate.
The attorney said Davis, a native of Tennessee, also explained how he joined Manson's cult in a search for acceptance after a difficult youth.
During his years in prison, Beckman said Davis has earned a masters degree and a doctorate in philosophy of religion. He hopes to live with his wife and daughter in Grover Beach near San Luis Obispo, where he has the possibility of a landscaping job and wants to work with a church.
The decision to recommend Davis for parole was made by panel members Robert Doyle and Booker Welch after a five-hour hearing at the California Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo.
Deputy District Attorney Pat Sequeira, who argued against the parole, declined to discuss the proceedings.