Need an example? It’s been more than a year since May 8, 2008, when I wrote a short post for WCI, spreading the news that Charles Manson groupie and convicted murderer Susan Atkins (seen with Manson in the courtroom in the photo at the left) suffers from brain cancer and was expected to die within weeks. Seems that since then Susan’s taken the lyrics to that old Bee Gees’ song to heart, and she’s Stayin’ Alive!
Please don't take this wrong. I'm not being flip, and I do understand that we're talking about life and death. But I have to ask: What’s the deal? How could someone given weeks to live still be alive more than a year later? The impression we were all given back then from those close to Atkins was that she was flat on her back and in horrible condition, waiting for the soon expected arrival of the grim reaper. Of course, at the time Atkins was asking for a compassionate release from prison, which was denied in July 2008.
Maybe some of you in the medical community can comment on whether or not this is a common turn of events with a brain tumor? As far as I know, it may be. I'm far from an expert. Yet since I write about crime all the time, I have to admit that I'm a bit of a skeptic. My first thought was: Did the folks around Atkins perhaps exaggerate the seriousness of her condition last year, to stir up sympathy and support for springing her while she still had time to live on the outside?
The irony is that a full year has lapsed, and Atkins is not only still alive but up for parole again. She was scheduled for a hearing in May, only to have it cancelled when not enough board members were available. The hearing is currently rescheduled for September 2 in Los Angeles. Her husband has said that if she's still alive, Atkins will attend, even if she has to be wheeled in on a gurney.
In the meantime, the controversy surrounding Atkins bid for release hasn't died either. Some of those who saw Atkins as a monster, the wide-eyed killer who stabbed Sharon Tate while the heavily pregnant woman begged for her life, have pointed at Atkins’ nearly four decades as a model prisoner and come out favoring her parole. Included is Manson prosecutor turned bestselling author Vincent Bugliosi, who has said Atkins deserves mercy, arguing against the stance that “just because Susan Atkins showed no mercy to her victims, we therefore are duty-bound to follow her inhumanity and show no mercy to her."
In contrast, Sharon Tate's younger sister, Debra, hasn’t changed their opinion on what should happen to Atkins and the rest of the Manson clan. "They all should live out their natural years in institutions," she's said. Why? If they are released, Tate has said, "I can't trust that they won't inspire other individuals to do similar acts."
Will Atkins cling to life long enough to make the September hearing? Who knows? Her husband described her current condition to CNN as dire. He says Atkins is barely able to speak, a leg has been amputated, much of her body is paralyzed and she has to be fed. If she does make it to September, it seems certain that this will be her last bid for freedom.
Hmmm. On second thought, are we sure about that?