Bizarre Humor at Grim Tate Trial

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7 – In the grim atmosphere of the Sharon Tate murder trial, arriving visitors are startled by laughter echoing down a corridor from the courtroom.

The trial is not funny but the antics of those involved often lend an air of bizarre humor which has led some to label the proceedings as “theater of the absurd.”

During moments of comic relief, the defendants – Charles M. Manson and three women followers – giggle, the jurors chuckle and even the judge has been observed smiling.

Much of the levity comes from the counsel table. For instance, there was the base of Daye Shinn, attorney for Susan Atkins. He was sentenced to three nights in jail for contempt of court.

After each night in a cell, Shinn asked the judge to recess court. Why?

Well, the first day he said he’d slept only a half hour because “I was in a cell with a kidnaper and a robber and I couldn’t sleep in such a strange place.”

The second day, Shinn, six times married and of Korean descent, moaned, “Your honor, now I’m having domestic problems. My wife doesn’t read English and she thinks I’ve been out with another woman.”

On the third day, Shinn puzzled the judge by announcing he hadn’t slept because he was “on guard duty.” He explained: “I had to sleep in an upper bunk that was about two feet wide, and I had to be on guard so I wouldn’t fall out.”

The judge told the sleepy attorney: “We have a two-hour recess at noon, Mr. Shinn. Take a nap.”

Manson’s attorney, Irving Kanarek, also spent a night in jail and told newsmen the next day that the food was terrific. But Kanarek was most anxious to relate details of the one phone call he made from jail – “To my mother in Seattle. I didn’t want her to hear it on the news, that I was in jail.”

A third attorney, Ronald Hughes, has caused corridor comment with his wardrobe. Hughes, 35, a novice attorney trying his first case, says he is a “pauper” who owned only one suit at trial opening.

One day, Hughes arrived in shirtsleeves saying his one jacket was at the cleaners. The judge refused to let him in court, and Hughes hastily borrowed a jacket from a newsman half his size. Soon, the burly 250-pound Hughes began squirming in the small coat and asked a larger reporter for his jacket. However, in mid-afternoon the reporter was called to San Francisco on assignment. Unable to get his jacket from Hughes, who was in the judge’s chambers, he left town jacketless.

The next day, the balding, bearded Hughes sported a new, doublebreasted suit. Proudly, he showed the label: “MGM Auction – Spencer Tracey.”

Hughes said..he picked up several outfits at the movie lot auction for $5 or less. He owns Ed Begley’s trousers; Walter Slezak’s coat; and his latest acquisition is a suit worn by Raymond Burr while portraying superlawyer Perry Mason.


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