Friday 18 October 2013

Charlie  Manson:  The lunatic  they  followed  (Part 3)                          
This is the third installment about this lunatic who brought about eight murders in California. I suggest that you really should read the previous two articles first before you read this one so that you will have a better concept of what motivated Manson and his followers to murder people. Part 1 was published on October 11, and Part 2 was published on October 15.

The investigation and the prosecution

More than 40 investigators were assigned to the Tate murders and the slayings of Leno LaBianca and his wife. The two cases were not well investigated by the police, principally due to rivalries between the Tate team who were investigating the four murders in the Tate residence and the La Bianca team who were investigating the two murders in the LaBianca residence.  The Tate team was not open to suggestions that the two cases were connected. As a result of this, prosecutor Bugliosi himself played a significant and active role in gathering the evidence needed to convict.

On October 20, 1969, Sheriff’s detectives handling the Hinman case (murdered by members of the Manson Family) informed the investigating police that they have learned of a girl who might have information about a roving band of hippies who may be involved in the slayings. On October 31, the girl was interviewed and she told them about Charles M. Manson being the leader of the cult implicated in slayings. It was the first mention of Manson being involved in any murders.

On November 12, the police in suburban Venice reported a suspected burglar in jail who might have more information on the suspects. The informant was interviewed the same day and provided the name of another possible informant.  That same day, a third informant was located and he told the police of overhearing talk that some members of a musical band might be implicated in the slayings. On November 18, Beverly Hills police reported a woman suspect in another case as having disclosed conversations with Susan Atkins, a member of the cult who was a cellmate of the woman at that time. On the 26, the former cellmate related to the police investigators the girl’s story about Manson and his followers. The informant’s cellmate was Susan Atkins who had participated in the murders in both residences and was the person who also stabbed the pregnant actress, Tate to death. Atkins was questioned by the police and she revealed the details of the slayings both in the Tate residence and the LaBianca residence.  Atkins told the police that Sharon Tate was the last to die after being knifed by Tex Watson while she was holding Sharon Tate on the floor. Atkins said later that she tasted Tate's blood and found it to be “warm and sticky.”  She took some of Tate's blood and used it to scrawl, on the porch wall, “PIG.”  

She also said that Manson, had expressed his displeasure with the attack at the Tate residence.  Too messy, he thought.  He decided to accompany the next Helter Skelter mission, which he scheduled for that very night.  In addition to the four Family members from the previous night's mission, Manson was joined by Clem Tufts and Leslie Van Houten.  Manson ordered Linda Kasabian to cruise the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, in search for potential victims, before settling on the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.  Watson, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten were the killers chosen by Manson.  As they left the car, Manson told them: “Don't let them know you are going to kill them.”  

On December 1, 1969, acting on the information from these sources, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) announced warrants for the arrest of Watson, Krenwinkel, and Kasabian in the Tate case.  Also the suspects' involvement in the LaBianca murders was noted. Manson and Atkins, already were in custody, however they were not mentioned with respect to the connection between the LaBianca case. Van Houten, was also among those arrested near Death Valley.

Watson and Krenwinkel, too, were already under arrest, authorities in McKinney, Texas, and Mobile, Alabama, having picked them up on notice from LAPD. The police in Los Angeles had a problem trying to extradite Watson however since the sheriff in the town where Watson was being held was uncooperative as he was related in some degree to Watson.

It wasn’t long after when physical evidence such as Krenwinkel's and Watson's fingerprints were collected by the LAPD at the Tate residence. On September 1, the distinctive .22-caliber Hi Standard Buntline Special revolver Watson when he shot Parent, Sebring, and Frykowski had been found and given to the police by Steven Weiss, a 10-year-old who lived near the Tate residence. In mid-December, when the Los Angeles Times published a crime account based on information Susan Atkins had given her attorney, Weiss' father made several phone calls which finally prompted the stupid investigators in the LAPD to locate the gun in its evidence file and connect it with the murders via ballistics tests. Acting on that same newspaper account, a local ABC television crew quickly located and recovered the bloody clothing discarded by the Tate killers. The knives discarded en route from the Tate residence were never recovered, despite a search by some of the same crewmen and, months later still, by the LAPD,

A knife found behind the cushion of a chair in the Tate living room was apparently that of Susan Atkins, who lost her knife in the course of the attack.

Manson didn’t mind being in jail while waiting for his trial. He needed this time to formulate how he was going to defend himself. He decided that it would be in his best interests if he defended himself at trial. It would give him a chance to deliver his speeches about what his goal was in society as it would be the only time he would be on a world stage. However he could have done that even with a lawyer representing him because at the closing of the defense’s evidence, he would be asked if he wished to make an unsworn statement in which the prosecutor couldn’t cross examine him.

He could also argue at the summation of his defence that the murders were committed by the other defendants without his authority or knowledge. Of course, he would need the cooperation of the other defendants to go along with that scheme. Considering how gullible those silly women were, that would be easy to do as you will see later in this article.

The trial began on June 15, 1970. The prosecution's main witness was Kasabian, who, along with Manson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel, had been charged with seven counts of murder and one of conspiracy. Since Kasabian, by all accounts, had not participated in the killings, she was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony that detailed the nights of the crimes. Originally, a deal had been made with Susan Atkins in which the prosecution agreed not to seek the death penalty against her in exchange for her grand jury testimony on which the indictments were secured. However once Atkins repudiated that testimony, the deal was withdrawn and the offer was then given to Kasabian. Because Van Houten had only participated in the LaBianca killings, she was only charged with two counts of murder and one of conspiracy.

Originally, Judge William Keene had finally reluctantly granted Manson permission to act as his own attorney. However Manson's conduct, including violations of a gag order and submission of outlandish and nonsensical pretrial motionss caused the judge to reverse his decision so his original permission was withdrawn before the trial's start. Manson then filed an affidavit of prejudice against Keene, who was replaced by Judge Charles H. Older

Ronald Hughes was a young lawyer with an extensive knowledge of 1960s counterculture but he failed the bar exam three times before passing and he had no trial experience. Despite that, he was the state-appointed attorney for the defendants, Charlie Manson and Leslie Van Houten (several other attorneys were appointed and then dismissed during the trial). Hughes had suggested to Manson that he should obtain a different attorney for himself. Irving Kanarek then agreed to defend Manson.

Hughes meanwhile agreed to defend Leslie Van Houten, because he felt that he could defend her more effectively than defending Manson. As attorney for Van Houten, Hughes tried to separate the interests of his client from those of Charles Manson. His defence of Van Houten was that she was acting under the influence of Manson who was controlling her actions. This was a move that angered Manson and may have cost Hughes his life because the actions of Hughes infuriated Manson and other Manson Family members who were not charged with the murders. The last thing Manson said to Hughes was, 'I don't want to see you in the courtroom again.”

On December 2, Judge Older ordered the trial to proceed and appointed a new attorney, Maxwell Keith, for Van Houten. The women angrily demanded the firing of all their lawyers, and asked to reopen the defense. Judge Older denied the request. By week's end, Hughes had been missing for two weeks. When the court reconvened, Manson and the women created a disturbance suggesting that Judge Older “did away with Ronald Hughes,” which resulted in them being removed again from the courtroom.

Vince Bugliosi who was the lead prosecutor in the case figured that Manson would expect Tex Watson to take the fall since the State of California had been unsuccessful in extraditing Watson to California from Texas. He also figured that the female defendants might finger Watson as the prime mover of the killings since they adored Manson and didn’t have the same adoration towards Watson.

The prosecutor didn’t have to worry because later, another Family member—sixteen-year-old Dianne Lake began to talk a few months after she and the other Family members were swept up in the raid. She testified that Tex told her that he had killed Sharon Tate on the direct orders of Manson. Admittedly, that is hearsay evidence but it was accepted and it was the linchpin that nailed the lid on Manson’s rhetorical coffin. Further she said that Leslie Van Houten had told her that she stabbed someone who was already dead at a house in Los Feliz. That was where the LaBianca couple lived and was murdered.  She said that Leslie told her about raiding the refrigerator and taking a carton of chocolate milk from the fridge and writing the word, “PIG” on the door of the fridge with the blood of one of the LaBianca victims.  It just goes to show you that if you are part of a group of people who committed a crime, you should never discuss it with anyone who was not party to the crime what you did during the crime.

Can you believe it? Manson demanded that the judge release him immediately because his incarceration while waiting for the trial to end deprived him of spiritual, mental and physical liberty in an unconstitutional manner that was not in harmony with Man’s and God’s law. H told the judge that if the charges were dropped against him, it would save everybody a lot of trouble.  The judge must have smiled when he heard all that gibberish because he then replied as he waved at the others in the courtroom “Disappoint all these people? Never, Mister Manson.”

Manson later appeared in court with an X carved into his forehead. He issued a statement that he was considered inadequate and incompetent to speak or defend himself against the judge’s rulings and therefore this was the reason why he had "X'd himself from the establishment’s world. Over the following weekend, the female defendants duplicated the mark on their own foreheads, as did most Family members within another day or so. Manson's X mark on his forehead was eventually replaced by a swastika which remains on his forehead to this day.

The prosecution had placed the triggering of ‘Helter Skelter’ as the main motive. The crime scene's bloody White Album (put out by the Beatles) references—pig, rise, helter skelter—that were correlated with testimony about Manson’s predictions that the murders blacks would commit at the outset of Helter Skelter would involve the writing of “pigs” on walls in victims’ blood. Testimony that Manson had said “now is the time for Helter Skelter” was supplemented with Kasabian's testimony that, on the night of the LaBianca murders, when Manson considered discarding Rosemary LaBianca's wallet on the street of a black neighborhood. Having obtained the wallet in the LaBianca house, he “wanted a black person to pick it up and use the credit cards so that the people, the establishment, would think it was some sort of an organized group that killed these people.” On his direction, Kasabian had hidden it in the women's restroom of a service station near a black area. She said, “I want to show blackie how to do it.” Manson had suggested that to the Family members who participated in the LaBianca murders after they left the LaBianca house.

During the trial, Family members loitered near the entrances and corridors of the courthouse. To keep them out of the courtroom itself, the prosecution subpoenaed them as prospective witnesses, who would not be able to enter while others were testifying. When the group established itself in vigil on the sidewalk, some members wore a sheathed hunting knife which when in plain view, was carried legally. Each of them was also identifiable by the X on his or her forehead.

Some Family members attempted to dissuade witnesses from testifying. Prosecution witnesses, Paul Watkins and Juan Flynn were both threatened. Watkins was badly burned in a suspicious fire in his van. Former Family member Barbara Hoyt, who had overheard Susan Atkins describing the Tate murders to Family member Ruth Ann Moorehouse, agreed to accompany the latter to Hawaii. There, Moorehouse allegedly gave her a hamburger spiked with several doses of LSD. Found sprawled on a Honolulu curb in a drugged semi-stupor, Hoyt was taken to the hospital, where she did her best to identify herself as a witness in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial. Before the incident, Hoyt had been a reluctant witness; after the attempt to silence her, her reticence about testifying then disappeared.

On October 5, Manson was denied the court's permission to question a prosecution witness whom the defense attorneys had declined to cross-examine. Leaping over the defense table, Manson attempted to attack the judge. Wrestled to the ground by bailiffs, he was removed from the courtroom along with the female defendants, who had subsequently risen and begun chanting gibberish in Latin. The judge thereafter began wearing a revolver under his robes.
Twenty-two weeks into the trial, (November 16) which included more outbursts and bizarre behavior from Manson and his co-defendants, the prosecution rested. Lawyers for the defendants stunned the courtroom by announcing that the defense also rested. Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten immediately shouted that they wanted to testify. Manson had managed to get his instructions passed onto the three other defendants so the three women then told the judge that they wanted to testify to committing the murders on their own and that Manson had nothing to do with the crimes. It is beyond my understanding why these three freaks of nature would want to save the life of their mentor who got them into his mess in the first place. Hughes objected and stood up against Manson's ploy and stated, “I refuse to take part in any proceeding where I am forced to push a client out the window.” After Manson made a statement to the court, he then advised the women against testifying. Judge Charles Older who had taken over the case then ordered a ten-day recess to allow the attorneys to prepare for their final arguments. Hughes later told a reporter that he was confident that he could secure an acquittal for Van Houten.

In late November 1970, the missing lawyer, Hughes had gone camping near Sespe Hot Springs. He disappeared, and his decomposed body was discovered four months later. It is thought that other members of the Family killed him in reprisal for impugning Manson in court. One member of the Family described his murder as the first of the retaliation killings.

On November 17, Manson testified. Lest Manson's address violate the California Supreme Court's decision in People v. Aranda by making statements implicating his co-defendants, the jury was removed from the courtroom. Speaking for more than an hour, Manson said, among other things, that “the music is telling the youth to rise up against the establishment.” He also said, "Why blame it on me? I didn't write the music. To be honest with you, I don't recall ever saying 'Get a knife and a change of clothes and go do what Tex says.’ I never said that.” Of course he was lying through his teeth—a common trait among sociopaths.

No sooner had the trial resumed, (just before Christmas) than disruptions of the prosecution's closing argument by the defendants led Judge Older to ban the four defendants from the courtroom for the remainder of the guilt phase. This may be have been because the defendants were acting in collusion with each other and were simply putting on a performance, which Older said was becoming obvious and interfered with the process of the court.  

The matter went to the jury and Manson and the three women were found guilty on all counts with respect to the five murders in the Tate residence and two in the LaBianca residence.

On January 25, 1971, guilty verdicts were returned by the jury against the four defendants on each of the 27 separate counts against them. Midway through the penalty phase, Manson shaved his head and trimmed his beard to a shape like a fork.  He told the press, “I am the Devil, and the Devil always has a bald head.” I thought that strange considering that previously he had told his followers that he was Jesus Christ.  In what the prosecution regarded as belated recognition on their part that imitation of Manson only proved his domination, the female defendants refrained from shaving their heads until the jurors retired to weigh the state's request for the death penalty.

On March 29, 1971, the jury returned verdicts of death against all four defendants on all counts. On April 19, 1971, Judge Older sentenced the four of them to death to make it official.

On March 29, 1971, the same day the jury returned death penalty verdicts against all the defendants on all counts, Hughes' severely decomposed body was discovered by two fishermen in Ventura County. His body was found wedged between two boulders in a gorge. Hughes was later positively identified by dental X-rays. Due to the severe decomposition of his body, the cause and nature of his death was ruled as “Undetermined”.

Things did not go well for other members of the Manson Family. On November 8, 1972, the body of 26-year-old Vietnam Marine combat veteran James L. T. Willett was found by a hiker near Guerneville, California. Months earlier, he had been forced to dig his own grave, and then was shot and poorly buried; his body was found with the one hand protruding from the grave and the head and other hand missing (likely because of scavenging animals). His station wagon was found outside a house in Stockton where several Manson followers were living, including Priscilla Cooper, Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme, (later imprisoned for attempting to shoot President Ford) and Nancy Pitman. Police forced their way into the house and arrested several of the people there, along with Fromme who called the house after they had arrived. The body of James Willett's 19-year-old wife Lauren ‘Reni’ Chavelle Olmstead Willett was found buried in the basement. She had been killed by a gunshot to the head, in what the Family members initially claimed was an accident. It was later suggested that she was killed out of fear that she would reveal who killed her husband, as the discovery of his body had become prominent news. The Willetts' infant daughter was found alive in the house. Michael Monfort pled guilty to murdering Reni Willett, and Priscilla Cooper, James Craig, and Nancy Pitman pled guilty as accessories after the fact. Monfort and William Goucher later pled guilty to the murder of James Willett, and James Craig pled guilty as an accessory after the fact. The group had been living in the house with the Willetts while committing various robberies. Shortly after killing Willett, Monfort had used Willett's identification papers to pose as Willett after being arrested in an armed robbery of a liquor store. News reports suggested that James Willett was not involved in the robberies  and wanted to move away, and was killed out of fear that he would talk to police. After leaving the Marines following two tours in Vietnam, Willett had been an ESL teacher for immigrant children.

Proceedings to extradite Watson from his native Texas began after he had resettled a month before his arrest. This resulted in him being tried separately. The trial commenced in August 1971 and by October, he, too, had been found guilty on seven counts of murder and one of conspiracy. Unlike the others, Watson had presented a psychiatric defense in which prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi made short work of Watson's insanity claims. Like his co-conspirators, Watson was also sentenced to death.

In 1976, Leslie Van Houten was granted a new trial on the grounds that she was denied proper legal representation after Hughes disappeared before the closing arguments. Van Houten’s retrial in 1977 ended in a hung jury. She was then released from jail after posting $200,000 bond and retried in 1978. In her third trial, Van Houten was convicted of the first degree murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and conspiracy in connection with the four Tate murders. She was sentenced to life in prison.

The next article will be about the fate of the five condemned murderers.

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