‘Verdict with Dan Abrams’
Guests: Eric Lampel, Ron Allen, Lester Holt, Susan Filan, Contessa Brewer
ABRAMS: Joining me now is Susan Atkins‘ attorney, Eric Lampel; and MSNBC‘s senior legal analyst Susan Filan (ph).
Thanks to both of you for coming on, appreciate it. All right. Eric, what is the argument for releasing Susan Atkins?
ERIC LAMPEL, ATTORNEY FOR SUSAN ATKINS: Well, the California penal code that was amended that went into effect this year allows for compassionate release of terminally ill prisoners if they‘re not a danger to society. Certainly Susan qualifies for—she is disabled, she has a couple months to live.
The reason the governor and the legislature in California passed that was to ease some of the burden on the California taxpayers to not have to pay these huge hospital costs for caring for these terminally ill prisoners.
ABRAMS: But because this is such a high-profile case, you seem to still think that there‘s a real shot?
LAMPEL: Well, there‘s a shot. I mean, this is a new code section, a few prisoners have been released, not all of them. Susan has been eligible for parole for decades and has been a model prisoner. Hasn‘t been a danger to society for decades. And the fact that she now has brain cancer and has lost her left leg through amputation, certainly means she‘s not a danger.
So, I hope that compassionate release law will allow her to. If she‘s not going to be released, she is going to be in the same hospital room, but at least her family will be able to come in and see her.
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It‘s an outrage to even consider letting her out on compassionate release. I understand the statute, I understand the financial cost to the state, but the state has to penalize people who have been convicted and sentenced by the court. This court sentenced her to this life imprisonment term whether it involves brain cancer or not. So I don‘t see why because she‘s ill she should get out. You do the crime you do the time.
LAMPEL: Yes, you do the sentence and the sentence was not life in prison. You misunderstand the basics of the situation. Her sentence was seven years to life with the possibility of parole.
FILAN: But she has been denied parole every other time for every other reason. You are only just saying now she should get out because she‘s sick. And I‘m saying that doesn‘t change anything because she was denied parole for the same reasons earlier, those reasons still stand.
LAMPEL: The only reasons were she was involved in the crime, I make no excuses for those crimes. That isn‘t the point. The point is she qualifies under this section, she‘s terminally ill, she‘s not a danger, she has one leg, she has brain cancer, she‘s not going to get out and do anything. And the state of California shouldn‘t have to pay for it.
ABRAMS: Hang on one second, let me play—I want you to respond. This is Debra Tate, Sharon Tate‘s sister testifying at one of the parole hearings.
DEBRA TATE, SISTER OF SHARON TATE: I don‘t think that serial killers should be released back into society. I believe that if one is, that that opens the door for the future.
ABRAMS: What about that, Eric?
LAMPEL: Well, they disagree with the sentence. They think she should be put to death or burned at the stake or something, or it‘s a life in prison.
ABRAMS: Or just stay behind bars for life.
LAMPEL: Well, but she‘s seven to years with life with the possibility of parole was her sentence. She‘s terminally ill, she qualifies.
ABRAMS: Bottom line, Susan, do you think it will happen?
FILAN: No. And I think just because she technically qualifies doesn‘t mean she should get it. I don‘t think she should get it and I don‘t think she will.
ABRAMS: We shall see. Eric Lampel and Susan Filan, thanks a lot.
LAMPEL: Thank you, Dan.
FILAN: Thank you.