Saturday, May 01, 2010

Like Clockwork

Cooley says ex-Manson follower shouldn’t be released from prison
L.A. County’s district attorney says Bruce Davis, 67, who has served 38 years in prison for the 1969 killings of a musician and a ranch hand, continues to ‘offer excuses’ for his role in the slayings.

By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times

May 1, 2010

A 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' attempts to minimize his criminal responsibility make him an unreasonable risk of danger to society," the letter reads.

Michael Beckman, Davis' attorney, said his client has taken responsibility for the crimes and has changed since entering prison.

Davis has a sterling disciplinary record, Beckman said, has become an ordained minister and has earned his master's and doctorate degrees in philosophy and religion via correspondence school.

"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."

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 killings 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 the Hinman murder scene, which prosecutors later said was an attempt to incite a race war, which the Manson family called "Helter Skelter."

Manson and most of his co-defendants have repeatedly been denied parole. Susan Atkins died in September, shortly after a state parole board panel rejected her plea for a "compassionate release" because of brain cancer.

Davis had been denied parole 25 times before. At his 26th parole hearing, a two-person panel recommended 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.