SEASIDE, Calif. (KION) In July of this year, the California Board of Parole granted parole to Harold Bicknell, a Seaside man convicted of killing four family members in 1977, but Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered an en banc review.
According to Fordham Law Review, hearing a case en banc "allows the full circuit court to overturn a decision reached by three-judge panel. Several sources say this type of review is often considered a last resort when a significant issue is at stake or if it is requested by a party in the case and agreed to by the court.
When the Board of Parole granted Bicknell parole, the Monterey County District Attorney's Office said it appealed to the governor, who referred the decision to the Board of Parole Hearings Commissioners for en banc consideration.
All 17 Parole Board Commissioners can review the decision on Dec. 22.
Bicknell confessed to several people before the trial, according to the DA's Office, but then denied his involvement. Despite that, a jury found him guilty using evidence that included footprint matches, testimony from witnesses and his previous statements. After he was found guilty, Bicknell made a detailed taped confession with his attorney and again claimed to be guilty during his sentencing. Later, he testified against his juvenile girlfriend at the time, Terri M.
In August 1977, Bicknell was 19 years old and his pregnant girlfriend, Terri, was 14. At the time, Bicknell's grandmother, 66-year-old Josephine Smith, lived with her 28-year-old daughter, Suzanne Harris, who is Bicknell's aunt. Smith's 15-year-old granddaughter, Renee Ferguson, and 6-year-old granddaughter, Rachel Harris, also lived at the home.
Renee apparently shared that Bicknell had a sexual relationship with Terri, and Bicknell said during Terri's trial that he cornered Renee in a bedroom and stabbed her in the heart. After that, he said he “grabbed her bra and tied her hands behind her back because she began to struggle.” He then said he stabbed her in the throat several times while Terri held a gag over her mouth.
Bicknell said Suzanne Harris saw what happened, so he chased her to the kitchen and stabbed her. When Smith entered the room, he said he punched her in the face.
Another cousin of his who was in the home at the time, juvenile Rayleen F., and her friend Karen K. saw what happened, and Bicknell claimed that Karen stabbed Smith and not him.
He said Terri brought Rachel Harris to the kitchen and stabbed her, but she got away, so he chased her and stabbed her more than 40 times.
Bicknell was granted parole for the first time in February 2019. The Board of Parole Hearings said he was granted parole because he had a clean record while in prison, because of his age at the time, because of an abusive child and other reasons. Bicknell's surviving family members said they were under the impression that he would likely never be paroled and opposed the decision. Gov. Gavin Newsom reversed the decision, saying he was still a danger to society.
Bicknell's family has shared their opposition to his release, and one of his sisters said Bicknells' accounts of their childhood abuse were not true. She said he portrayed himself as their protector when he was the one who was abusive. She said once he strangled her to the point that their stepmother left the house with her and the other siblings out of fears for their safety.