[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/03/art.atkinsmanson.jpg caption="Susan Atkins and Charles Manson in a Santa Monica courtroom Oct, 1970."]
It’s hard to imagine a better test case for California’s compassionate release program for prisoners who are terminally ill.
Susan Atkins, who has brain cancer and has been given six months to live, has been a model prisoner during her almost 40 years behind bars. Her attorney says she has had a leg amputated, can barely speak, and would most likely spend the rest of her life in the same hospital room she’s been in since March.
The compassionate release program was designed in large part to save taxpayers money, and Susan Atkins is costing the state a bundle: More than a million dollars in medical fees in three months, and 225 thousand for around-the-clock guards outside her hospital room. If she’s freed, her family would pay for her care, saving the state many thousands of dollars.
But this is Susan Atkins, one of those creepy Manson girls who literally smiled at the cameras after brutally killing innocent people to appease Charles Manson.
Atkins is the one, who, by her own admission, held down the pregnant actress Sharon Tate while she and her unborn child were stabbed 16 times. Atkins admits that Tate begged for mercy saying, “Don’t kill me I want to have my baby!” But Atkins says she told Tate while holding her down, “I have no mercy on you."
Should California now have mercy for Susan Atkins?
If she’s freed, her family would be able to visit without restrictions, and could be with her more as she dies. And the state wouldn’t have to keep paying to guard a woman who can't even walk.
“Keep writing the checks” is what Virginia Graham told us during an interview in Phoenix.
Graham met Atkins in jail in 1969 after the so-called Helter Skelter murders, named for song that Manson says The Beatles used to send him a message.
Atkins confessed to Graham, who then turned Atkins in. Now in her 80’s, Graham thinks Atkins should die a prisoner, saying she deserves the same no-mercy treatment she gave Sharon Tate.
But others like the prosecutor in the case Vincent Bugliosi think Atkins should be let go, to save money.
Today, the parole board held an open hearing, asking for public comment. If the board recommends freeing Atkins, a judge would decide whether Susan Atkins deserves a compassionate release - or not.
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