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Published: Saturday, 7/19/2008

Justice assured

THE cult of death known as the Manson family perpetrated one of the most heinous crimes in the history of California, if not the nation: the killings of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969. Besides the mastermind, Charles Manson, Susan Atkins was among the most culpable.

It was Atkins who, deaf to pleas for mercy, stabbed to death Ms. Tate, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, tasted her blood, and used it to write "Pig" on the door of the Tate home.

After spending nearly her entire adult life in prison, Atkins is dying of brain cancer and sought a compassionate release from prison so she can spend her last months with family and friends.

"Susan has served a life sentence," her sister-in-law argued. "This is about her death."

That is wrong on all counts, and last week the California Board of Parole Hearings wisely agreed.

The board's denial of release for Atkins was about justice and it upheld an important principle: If the death penalty can't be applied, society needs to be assured that murderers aren't ever going to get out to enjoy the taste of life and freedom denied their victims in the grave.

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