Former Attorney Claims Susan Atkins Should Live
Sunday, March 7th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Mar. 7 — Susan Atkins’ former attorney told the Tate-LaBianca trial jury on Friday he did not think she should die for her part in the killings because she had kept an agreement with the district attorney’s office.
Richard Caballero, who represented Miss Atkins from November 1969 until February 1970 when she fired him, told the jury the young woman has been promised a life sentence if she testified truthfully before the County Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury in December 1969 indicted Miss Atkins, Charles Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten for murder.
Caballero admitted the matter of whether Miss Atkins should receive a life sentence was “open to interpretation” because last year she filed an affidavit saying her testimony was a lie.
But the attorney said he felt she had “substantially complied” with the terms of the agreement and therefore should not get the death penalty.
Caballero was the 24th defense witness called to testify at the penalty phase of the nearly nine month old trial.
The defense expects to wrap up its case by the middle of this week, meaning closing arguments could begin at that time.
Caballero admitted he turned over a tape recording to Miss Atkins’ “confession” to prosecutor Vincent T. Bugliosi before the Grand Jury hearing, but said the deal had already been made at that time.
By turning over the tape, the attorney claimed, he was fulfilling his part of the deal so the prosecutor could prepare his questions for the Grand Jury hearing.
Caballero testified he told Bugliosi to use the tape to prepare questions, “don’t make any copies and return it to me.”
He declared Miss Atkins lost no legal right by testifying before the Grand Jury because the agreement was that whatever she said could not be used against her at the time of trial.
“Susan Atkins never gave up anything when she testified before the Grand Jury. She gave up nothing and got everything,” Caballero said somewhat heatedly in response to a question by Miss Atkins’ present attorney, Dave Shinn.
The witness added that had he “beat the case” at the time of trial, “we would have walked her out of here.”
Caballero also contended that when he persuaded Miss Atkins to sell her “story,” it was not for domestic distribution.
Besides, he said he did not feel publication of Miss Atkins’ confession would hurt her at the time of trial because he felt the Grand Jury transcript would already be made public.
But Superior Judge William B. Keene sealed the Grand Jury transcript a day after Miss Atkins’ confession was printed in the Los Angeles Times. It has not been made public to this day.
By SANDI METTETAL