Ex-Tate Juror Tells Ordeal: ‘Could Only Sit and Sit and’

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 31 – “There was nothing to do but sit and sit and sit. at times we didn’t leave the sixth floor of the Ambassador Hotel for a week at a time, except to stand on the fire escape and get a little sun. That just about drives you out of your mind.”

That was how highway engineer Kenneth Daut described his seven months of jury duty in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial, now in its penalty phase.

Daut was an alternate juror who was relieved of duty Friday because his wife was injured in a traffic accident.

Jurors are under orders not to talk specifically about the trial until it’s over, but lie said he thought the trial was a “disgrace.” “I thought it was like a circus.” he said. “It took a lot more time than necessary.”

Daut, 42, had been confined to the carefully guarded Ambassador Hotel in downtown Los Angeles with four other alternate jurors and 12 regular jury members and sat through the trial and deliberations at the Hall of Justice.

Saturday was his first, day free of constant chaperoning by sheriff’s deputies, newspapers that had been clipped before he was allowed to read them and seemingly endless time on his hands.

The day was “kind of funny,” said his wife, Betty. “He had trouble remembering how to drive the car and he forgot his wallet.”

“I’m very glad it’s over,” said Daut, who was relaxing at his Westchester home.

“It was a great strain because there was absolutely nothing but time hanging on your hands from the time you got up in the morning until you went to bed at aight.”

“I’m going to have to get out of the habit of asking a deputy in a restaurant if it’s all right if I go to the bathroom.”

He said it was a” relief to read a newspaper without some articles already snipped out and to watch TV news without deputies switching off the sound at certain points.

Jurors are kept from reading or hearing about the trial as well as other related crime stories.

Daut said he helped other jurors play practical jokes on the bailiffs who guarded them.

Also, he said, he learned to play cribbage, built a model airplane, played table tennis, exercised , swam and read 18 novels “about everything in the world except law and minder crimes.”

The jury convicted cult leader Charles Manson and three young women followers of the slaying of actress Sharon Tate and six others. It is now hearing arguments in the trial’s penalty phase before imposing sentences of death or life imprisonment.

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