Judge Refuses to Dismiss Charges in Murder Cases
Tuesday, April 14th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Apr. 14 – Superior Court Judge Malcolm M. Lucas refused yesterday to dismiss charges against accused murderess Susan Denise Atkins, ruling her statements before the County Grand Jury which indicted her provided grounds to hold her for trial.
The 21-year-old woman, one of six defendants in the Tate-LaBianca murders, testified last Dec. 5 and it was believed the information she provided resulted in the indictment against her and the others.
Judge Lucas said he would not hold an evidentiary hearing on the admissibility of Miss Atkins’ statements to the Grand Jury because such proceedings should be held by Superior Court Judge William B. Keene. scheduled to preside over the murder trial.
Miss Atkins’ attorney, Daye Shinn, said there was insufficient evidence to sustain the indictment and alleged the young woman’s original lawyer, Richard Caballero, had a “monetary interest” in contracts to publish her story.
Shinn, who later filed a motion to suppress Miss Atkins’ alleged confession and admissions, said the first attorney’s financial interest in the case made it impossible for Caballero to effectively represent Miss Atkins.
Caballero was “blinded by monetary aspects,” Shinn argued.
“The court should be well aware of what went on in this case,” he said.
Shinn also claimed Miss Atkins did not freely and voluntarily give up her constitutional right to remain silent when she testified before the Grand Jury.
Dep. Dist. Atty. Vincent Bugliosi said the admissibility of her testimony was not an issue in the motion and termed Shinn’s allegations “wild and totally erroneous.”
“It clearly shows the desperation of Susan Atkins in seeking to recant her Grand Jury testimony,” Bugliosi claimed.
Miss Atkins, who is usually silent in her court appearances, laughed aloud at this point.
At the beginning of the case, it was expected Miss Atkins would be a witness for the prosecution at the trial.
However, she dismissed Caballero as her attorney and replaced him with Shinn.
Shinn quickly declared Miss Atkins would not testify for the prosecution.
Bugliosi claimed that during her testimony before the Grand Jury, Miss Atkins verbally and voluntarily gave up her right to remain silent.
“Who put them (the words in the transcript) there?” the dark-haired defendant asked Bugliosi as she spoke aloud during the prosecutor’s argument yesterday.
A “mere mechanical recitation waiving the right is not sufficient,” Shinn noted.
He pointed out, Bugliosi interviewed Miss Atkins in Caballero’s office the night before she testified before the Grand Jury.
Bugliosi admitted the interview and Miss Atkins asked him. “Isn’t that against the law?”
The prosecutor pointed out he had also interviewed about 10 other witnesses who testified before the Grand Jury.
“This is totally proper,” he said. “Prosecutors do not call strangers to the witness stand.”
Bugliosi also contended, “There was not one ounce of pressure put on Susan Atkins for her to testify.”
Judge Lucas, reading from the Grand Jury transcript, noted Caballero had testified he advised Miss Atkins about her constitutional rights and that she had not been pressured or coerced.
While Judge Lucas was reading, Miss Atkins repeatedly shook her head negatively.
The jurist noted the Grand Jury foreman had advised Miss Atkins she could not be compelled to testify and any testimony she gave could be used against her.
In addition, he quoted from the transcript that Dep. Dist. Atty. Aaron H. Stovitz, the other prosecutor, asked Miss Atkins if she understood her rights and she said, “Yes.”
Miss Atkins and three other defendants are still set for trial April 20. Shinn, however, said he would seek a postponement.
A filth defendant, Mrs. Linda Kasabian, 20, is expected to be a prosecution witness.
The sixth defendant, Charles Watson, 21, is still fighting extradition from Texas.