Friday, August 14, 2009

Not Everyone Deserves a 2nd Chance

That's Squeaky Fromme on the left and Leslie Van Houten on the right.
In 1969, both were members of the Charley Manson gang.

Under the influence of Manson at the age of 20, Van Houten invaded the home of Rosemary LaBianca on the night of August 10, 1969 and fatally stabbed her 16 times. Van Houten was sentenced to death on March 29, 1971. Retried a couple of times and finally sentenced to life imprisonment.

Squeaky Fromme never killed anyone. On the morning of September 5, 1975, Fromme tried to shoot President Gerald Ford with a .45 cal automatic but her gun did not have a round in the firing chamber. She was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Today, after three decades behind bars, Squeaky Fromme walked.


Leslie Van Houten, also 60, remains in prison. I am not writing this column about Van Houton. For detailed treatment of her circumstances, I recommend John Waters, Leslie Van Houten: A Friendship.

In Squeaky Fromme's case, her release is a miscarriage of justice.

In a democracy, political killings are distinguished from common murders. That’s why many of them are called assassinations. The killing of a political leader, a witness in a court trial, writer or a journalist is a blow against the nation itself and its constitution. It is intended to silence the victim, to deny society of his/her further contribution in words or deeds. Such anti-democratic atrocities deserve paramount attention from all of us and all of our institutions. They should be punished to the fullest extent permitted under law, short of capital punishment.

And that applies to attempted/unsuccessful assassinations.

To liberate Squeaky Fromme today, when fools are allowed to carry side arms to raucous town meetings and confront political leaders is insane. The message will not go unnoticed in the twilight shadows and swamplands of America.

12 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

As horrible as the Tate-LaBianca murders were, the prime mover was Manson. I well remember seeing Manson's followers with swastikas on their shaved heads sitting in front of the Federal Court building. I can scarcely believe 40 years have passed since those horrible murders that irrevocably changed L.A. for the worse.

John Waters always writes brilliantly and clearly as he describes the Manson family and Fromme's release after almost 40 years.This post deserves close reading. The horror of the Manson murders change Los Angeles forever.

If Vick deserves a second chance, and I'm not convinced he does, then so does Fromme. Since I don't believe Vick deserves a second chance at the NFL, the same goes for Fromme.

8/15/2009 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger Jack Jodell said...

I'm in agreement with both of you. There must be a ZERO tolerance for political violence in this country. Regarding Vick, the fact that he has athletic talent should not be the determinant factor in whether or not his misdeeds are swept away, just as the fact that people like Cheney and Rumsfeld once had high political power should not absolve them from punishment for the war crimes they committed. Celebrity status should never be the ticket to preferential legal treatment.

8/15/2009 05:38:00 AM  
Blogger DB Cooper said...

You can attempt to assassinate the President and, one day, earn your freedom back for good behavior? Does that go for abortion doctor killers, too?

8/15/2009 06:17:00 AM  
Blogger Anvendelig said...

John Hinckley, whose pistol fired, injured President Reagan and seriously wounded press secretary James Brady in 1981, was declared insane and has been permanently institutionalized. However, he was won weekend furloughs from the mental hospital to spend with his parents.

Arthur Bremer who shot and crippled George Wallace in 1972, was sentenced to 63 years. Later, it was reduced to 53 years. Still later, in 2007, Bremer was released. Bremer published his diary while confined. Wallace forgave him, but Bremer never apologized.

I would say the lesson is, if you fail at assassination, you can hope to get out for good behavior.

8/15/2009 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

Avendelig I agree completely. That does seem to be the trend, although I doubt Sirhan Sirhan will ever be released and he took out a senator, a great one I might add.

8/15/2009 07:22:00 AM  
Blogger GetaLife-ReadUrNews said...

Katie Couric seems to be asking for a gun-check at the door of town halls. She asks,

Are we really still debating health care when a man brings a handgun to a church where the President is speaking?

How does a swastika spray-painted on a Congressman's office further a discussion about Medicare?

8/15/2009 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

Not enough folks are engaged enough to comprehend the importance of "political" assassinations or their impact. Vig, your description was immaculate and timely! I've always thought that no matter the time, the psychological environment nor the use of mind altering drugs ect. that everyone is responsible for their actions. Everyone involved in the Manson killings is responsible for the actions they took. So, I guess I'm not in total agreement with Stella...The Self is always the prime mover...Manson may have harnessed the insecurities and discontent of his young followers... but they deserve the due course of punishment. X 9. Personally, because I think, that 'following' is a cop out on life... and after all, Charlie was just offering another form of 'religion' to grasp and trash the individuality of those around him that he was so jealous of and did not have any clue as to how to befriend or compete with. TY Vig, for the clue as to J. Waters... how could I have missed it?

8/15/2009 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger MacDaddy said...

Given the time she has already served, I believe Fromme deserves a second chance but with one caveat-- her mental faculties.

Manson's control over Fromme, Tate and the rest essentially made him the head of a religious cult. If psychiatrists say she is now mentally competent, I think she should be given some type of conditional release.

8/15/2009 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

Provocative post and great comment's thread. Aside from your always great posts, I'm most jealous of the commenters here. I'm jealous that they are here and not at my place all except for you Stella, who did visit me. God I'm glad you're back. But what I really hate to admit is that I have nothing to add to this conversation. You guys have said it all. Now come on over to my place. I've got beer in the fridge.

8/15/2009 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

Yes, Daddy B, exactly right, as usual. I imagine Fromme needs regular, mandatory psychological evaluations. She proved herself susceptible to manipulative people and needs help. Gwendolyn comment is on the mark: Everyone involved in the Manson killings is responsible for the actions they took.

Gwendolyn, I believe we are in agreement: Since I don't believe Vick deserves a second chance at the NFL, the same goes for Fromme. Certainly, her attempt to assassinate Gerald Ford, whether you liked him or not makes her release questionable as to her stability. I believe in both personal responsibility, as well as accepting and helping the mentally ill, which often leaves me in a quandary.

Mike's mention of Sirhan Sirhan reminded me of the loss when RFK was assassinated. I was acutely aware of the loss. Growing up in L.A. brought the tragedy home much as I imagine Texans who remember JFK's assassination.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to tear down the Ambassador hotel. This historical landmark should have been turned into a museum memorializing RFK's accomplishments.

(Hi Utah!)

8/15/2009 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

You're right Stella...
a quandary and it IS hard to judge. You lived through it... it was my first college sociology paper. It captured us for years. Obviously, it captures us still. My nephew taunts his mother and I 'psudeo supporting' Vick... I can't tell if it's about teen pushiness or he really thinks that because Vick plays football he should get a 'pardon' .... that is really upsetting since Vick did what he did and I can't even write it without getting majorly mad. But! Meet The Press is beginning with Maddow & Armey. Wooohoooo!!!!

8/16/2009 06:01:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Thanks for the reminder, Ms Barry!

8/16/2009 07:13:00 AM  

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