Defense Lawyers Say Tate-LaBianca Case Cost Them Money, Standing
Sunday, March 7th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Mar. 7 — None of the defense attorneys who have represented Charles Manson and his women followers throughout the marathon Tate-LaBianca murder trial claims to have gained fame or fortune; some of them, in fact, say they are in financial difficulty.
One said he may lose his home; another has sold his own art work to finance the defense, and a third said, “Right now, I’m just broke.”
Three of the lawyers have been working virtually for free throughout the trial, now in its ninth month. A fourth is court-appointed and even he said he’s feeling the pinch while awaiting payment. None expected the case to last this long.
The four defendants have been convicted of murdering movie star Sharon Tate and six others, and the case is now in the penalty phase.
“It has been catastrophic and devastating economically,” said chief defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald, 33, who quit his $25,000-a-year job in the public defender’s office to represent Patricia Krenwinkel. “It’s just really wiped me out.”
Fitzgerald said he lost about $30,000 in income and has incurred $10,000 in trial expenses.
“I spent $5,000 of my own money, which I didn’t have,” he said. “I sold possessions to finance this case — such things as a stereo and my own art work, paintings and sculpture I’d done.”
As for personal living expenses, Fitzgerald, divorced and the father of two children, said, “I’ve managed largely on credit, and the creditors are closing in.”
However, he said he has no regrets.
“Money just isn’t that important,” he said. “If I’d been a wealthy man and lost it all, I might have been bitter, but I sort of went from rags to rags.”
Daye Shinn, 52, attorney for Susan Atkins, said he budgeted his funds for an expected four-month trial and “at this point, I’m nearly bankrupt.
“I’m behind in my house payments, my child support and my alimonies,” said the six-times-married Shinn.
He said he got $19,000 from the royalties on a published version of Miss Atkins’ story of the killings but he claims — and other attorneys agree that about $16,000 of that “has gone back to the Manson family.”
Shinn said he gave money to remaining members of the hippie-style clan for food, shelter and bail when some used to finance the case.
“I figure that, at most, I made $3,000 for nine months work,” said Shinn. And the rest of his practice has dwindled because “I’m out of my office all day, and my clients lost interest because I’m not there.”
Irving Kanarek, 52, Manson’s lawyer, refused to reveal his financial status, but Shinn says Kanarek is used to not getting paid much because “he’s the kind of guy who will take a case for $100 if he believes in it.” Kanarek lives frugally, say acquaintances. Manson has announced in court that he can’t afford to pay Kanarek.
Other lawyers blame Kanarek partially for the protracted trial. His long-winded cross-examinations have consumed weeks of court time.
“I realized after two-and-a-half months, that this was going to be a long trial,” said Fitzgerald, “but I knew then that there were only two ways to get out — die or get fired. My ego wouldn’t permit me to get fired and I was fortunate enough not to die.”
Maxwell Keith, 46, a veteran criminal lawyer, was appointed to represent Leslie Van Houten in December when defense attorney Ronald Hughes disappeared on a camping trip. Hughes, 35, who proclaimed publicly during the trial that he was a pauper and lived in a garage, has never been found.
“Right now I’m broke because I haven’t been paid,” said Keith, “but I’ll be all right in the long run, I’m so much better off than the other lawyers.”
Keith declined to reveal his fee, which is set by the judge, but said he got one payment after the verdict. His practice, too, has gone downhill, he said, and he doesn’t expect to gain any new clients as a result of publicity.
“To put it bluntly,” he said, “if Leslie gets the death penalty it sure isn’t going to do any good to get all that publicity.”
Fitzgerald also eschewed the idea that attorneys took the case to gain fame.
“I didn’t take it for the publicity,” he said, “I knew from the beginning the publicity in this case would not be good. It looked like a loser from the beginning. You want publicity on the ones you win.
“What publicity has done is get my life threatened and get me a lot of kookie letters. Crazy, insane people come to me and want to be my clients, people who want to sue the government to get back taxes or want to name the governor as co-respondent in a divorce suit.”
He added that, contrary to rumors, he doesn’t expect to rights to the defendants’ stories.
“Frankly,” he said, “I think the world has been saturated with the story; there are no big secrets that haven’t been told. I don’t believe there’s a market for it.”
Why did the lawyers get involved?
Shinn said he met Manson when he was first arrested and liked him.