Friday, September 25, 2009

Susan Atkins Died Peacefully Yesterday, -Unlike Her Victims in 1969

The phrase “rot in jail” has lost all meaning, and with it the authority of much of our laws in the United States and around the world.

Sharon Tate’s son would have turned 40 this year. He would have been a contemporary of mine. He would have graduated from High school in 1987, maybe gotten out of college in 1991. He will forever remain an unnamed (correction: See Flora's comment below,) untried theoretical being -because through no fault of his own, he was struck from the world less than a month before being born by a lunatic named Charles Manson and his weak-minded followers. His mother died a gruesome torturous death at the hands of people who have cowardly begged for clemency and mercy for decades in front of juries. Susan Atkins even married twice while in prison. All of this makes me extremely angry.

I suppose I take issue with the notion of redemption as a tangible functioning concept. What could anybody ever do to compensate for a murder?

There are no dollar amounts imaginable, no assignment of human service that can approach the suffering of family and friends. Nothing can bring back the murdered. Nothing can erase the pain and violence of their end.

What punishment or prison can make things “even?”

After all the promises of justice; often portrayed in marble as a blind-folded robed woman, scales in hand, what is there? It’s a fiction.
Nothing can ever balance her scales; nothing can ever truly set things right against the finality of an untimely death at the hands of a criminal. Killing the Manson family members a thousand times over, would not bring back one single human being. There is only the dry solace of knowing that murderers like Susan Atkins will never be free to take another life, never be free to unleash their homicidal idiocy on the defenseless. There is only the small consolation that Patricia Krenwinkel; Leslie Van Houten; and Charles Watson will spend the rest of their lives surrounded by dangerous individuals like their own worthless selves, who share their same shameful disregard for human beings.

Atkins lived to be 61. She had been suffering from brain cancer, she’d had a leg amputated and was partially paralyzed in her last months of life. According to the New York Times, Vincent Bugliosi, (Susan Atkins' prosecutor in the 1970 trials) recently spoke out in favor of her release, saying the mercy requested was ''minuscule'' because Atkins was on her deathbed.

-This woman was sentenced to life in prison.
What mercy, -minuscule or otherwise- should come in to play?

During the 10-month trial in 1970, Atkins, Charles Manson and their co-defendants lied and aggressively maintained their innocence. Once they were convicted however, Atkins confessed her violent homicides in graphic detail without visible remorse.
They killed 9 in all that we know of: Sharon Tate 81/2 months pregnant, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent and grocery owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Subsequently Atkins also was convicted of another murder. She and Charles Manson killed Gary Hinman, in July of 1969.

I’m not in support of the death penalty because I’m against killing people like Susan Atkins: I’m against the death penalty because our justice system is run by human beings and is susceptible to all the errors and abuse that ordinary people bring to doing a job. I just don’t trust anybody with a decision so permanent. However, in cases like these, where life sentences are administered, why at the end of a convicted prisoner’s life is it even conceivable that they be afforded parole?

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, was convicted for his involvement in the Lockerbie bombing that killed 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 unsuspecting Scottish citizens on the ground who had the terrible misfortune of being hit with debris from the airplane. Al Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment but served just over 8½ years of his sentence in Greenock Prison. Just over a month ago, the Scottish Government released him on “compassionate grounds,” because he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer, with a diagnosed life expectancy of 3 months.
Al Megrahi returned to Libya.
His victims are still in the ground; their own lives violently interrupted and unfinished. Al Megrahi will get to say good bye to his relatives, and ponder his life and existence, something he didn’t give his victims a chance to do.

As for Susan Atkins, she said she had found redemption in Christianity in the later years of her life. Trouble is, I just don’t believe in that kind of absolution. It’s entirely unacceptable, and yet another reason why we have to insure religion stays out of government. If Atkins had said she deserved mercy because she’d now had a new found belief in Superman and this ethics, she would have been laughed at. Because she cited an established religion, her request was actually deliberated and considered.

I don’t think Atkins saying she’s sorry and that she’d changed, or found God should’ve unlocked the doors to the prison she murdered her way into. I’m glad the authorities and the parole board in California agree. Susan Atkins received a life sentence. Being that life sentences are the least we can do (-keeping them away from the rest of us so they can’t hurt anybody again) to the monsters amongst us like Al Megrahi who think it’s rational and just to murder people in order to make a political point, these sentences should be honored to the letter.

I think the entire idea of parole for murderers, on the face of it, is utter nonsense. Parole essentially undoes the functions of the laws that we agree to obey and uphold and makes their consequences ultimately non-existent.

The act of even weighing parole for a murderer or rapist, gives consideration to a human being convicted of the most violent crimes imaginable, but it also affords a right to that offender, a right he or she took away from their victims.

We’re an odd country at times. Our inability to reach consensus on just exactly what is fair and just punishment reflects our diversity of thought and ethics, but I believe that laws, if they are to be laws at all, have to be enforced, or legislated into disuse if deemed ineffective or incorrect. We have had a bizarre trend over the last forty years of new laws passed simply because existing laws are not enforced. The body of Hate crimes legislation, which I largely support, is a sad indication of this. Hate crimes laws have largely come about because the existing laws to safeguard all citizens from violent battery and attack simply aren’t enforced when it comes to certain minorities and gender groups. While I support Hate crimes legislation as a necessary stop gap, ultimately we have to return to the concrete idea of one set of laws and consequences for all.
We have to insist upon immutable rules, consequences and regulations for living where violence is concerned so that we avoid the insulting charade of multiple-murderers like Susan Atkins, David Berkowitz and countless others attempting to play on the sympathies of a parole board for clemency.

In their actions as executioners of human beings, they gave no such consideration to their victims.



Oso said...

can't disagree on anything there.
I also am skeptical of those in prison who commit horrible crimes then find religion.It would seem to me that if they truly found belief in God they'd still be shamed by what they did and not expect to get out now.

Jack Jodell said...

Just the kind of thoughtful and well-reasoned post I would expect from you on such a subject, SJ---great job. These senseless murders show how sometimes there is no justice in this world.Yes, Atkins, Berkowitz, and many others did jail time, but that pales in comparison with the severity of their crime.

Proof this is an oft-unjust world lies in the fact that paranoid, greedy, profiteering, and egotistical warmongers like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George W. Bush walk around freely and unpunished, though guilty of war crimes that cost nearly 4,000 young American lives and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives. Whoever said war is glorious was crazy; it is nothing other than mass murder.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Look at that disgusting smile on her face in court. Yikes, huh?

SJ said...

Hello all,
just got back from Yankee Stadium a few mintures ago, my first trip to the new digs.

I think most people would agree if they look at the situation from all sides, but especially in consideration of the fact that unlike robbery or other crimes, murder and other forms of violence leave irrevocable harm or worse; so I think the sentences should be as permanent as the crimes. I don't want to even hear about someone like Bernie Madoff ever being parolled.

SJ said...

yes agreed my friend. Eye for eye approaches don't really ameliorate the harm. We have to take solace in these sentences as future prevention, a way to keep a murderer from doing it again. It's a better assurance than hoping they mean it when they say they are born again.
By the way, the new Yankee stadium has a free museum with life sized statues of Don Larsen and Yogi Berra in mid pitch, laid out in the exact distance from the mound to the plate. It's truly a remarkable thing to look at. I sat in the bleachers and was moved to tears as I watched it all. -and we beat Boston.

SJ said...

creepy picture huh? The more I read about the full, -albeit incarcerated- life Susan Atkins lived after everybody she had a hand in killing died, the sicker I got. I read a few published letters from Charles Manson to the warden complaining that most of his cable channles were blocked...


There are people in America who work for a living and never hurt anybody, and they don't have cable. I mean WTF? Manson shouldn't have anything to stare at other than his prison bars.

Flora said...

Great post!

FYI: Postmortum, Sharon's baby was named Paul after her father.

Atkins was originally sentenced to death, but it was changed to life with the possibility of parole in '72 when Cali deemed the DP unconstitutional.

SJ said...

Thanks for the kind words Flora.

I had read about the sentence change in the Washington Post after writing this piece, ironic for a mudrderer to catch such a break.

Oso said...

here's something interesting I'd read the other day re: Manson and the Sheriff's Dept looking the other way on Manson's activity.For what it's worth,Krassner's been around forever and was a good source back in the day.Hadn't read much from him in years.

SJ said...

Thanks Oso,
just read it, may have to check out his book.
I purposefully left the word "hippie" out of my piece and I'm glad Krassner's piece backs me up. Whatever anybody might think about hippies, Manson and his followers were not hippies. Their madness belongs to any time any culture sadly. To read the drug trafficking and mob angle on their activites from Krassner is all the more reason he and his followers should never see the light of day.

Vigilante said...

I'm glad you mentioned al Megrahi because I posted on him.

Here's the deal. I am opposed to death sentences because I believe the jury system is too unsystematic. Short of taking a perp's life, keeping him locked up until death is the best alternative punishment. A life sentence should mean that the prisoner is assured of rotting to death in captivity. Let that punishment fit his crime.

Vigilante said...

S.J., your Yanks havea date in Mannywood.

SJ said...

-exactly. I don't trust anyone with anything permanent. But in the case of someone convicted on overwhleming evidence and testimony and their own confession, once they are sentenced, -end of story.
I don't want to eradicate the appeals process (Too many false convictions would go unchallenged), just parole for convicted violent offenders like Susan Atkins. Al-Megrahi is a case almost to ridiculous to discuss.

SJ said...

irony of ironies.
-It'll be Joe Girardi versus Joe Torre if they ultimately meet.