Judge Sentences Manson Follower to Life in Shea Killing
Friday, December 24th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 24 — Los Angeles Superior Judge James J. Kolts ruled Thursday that Charles Manson follower Steven Grogan should face life in prison instead of the gas chamber for beheading Donald (Shorty) Shea with a machete.
In explaining why he overruled the Nov. 8 death penalty recommendation that it took less than 16 hours for the jury to reach, Judge Kolts said:
“This decision (was) not easy for the court. It would have been easiest to follow (the prosecutor’s) urging and the jury’s recommendation, then let the issues be considered on appeal … but I don’t construe my role in that way.
“It is clear that Grogan functioned barely above the animal level, and we’ve seen his Whiney insolence, his antic behavior and his constant complaining about the adequacy of counsel when his attorney (George Weedman) was representing him in the highest professional tradition.
“But we can’t overlook the fact that Grogan is of limited intelligence, that he was young — just 16 — when he came under the influence of Charles Manson.
“Grogan was too stupid and too hopped up on drugs to decide anything on his own…it was Manson who decided who lived or died.”
As the sentence of life was imposed, the gaunt, bearded Grogan asked, “May I be heard?” But the judge ignored the request, and the defendant was quickly whisked out of the courtroom.
Weedman had argued before the judge’s decision the sentence should be life imprisonment and based his stand on the factor of Grogan’s young age and Manson’s domination over him.
Weedman also pointed to the fact that Manson, tried separately for the same murder, received a life sentence for the Shea slaying and the killing of Malibu musician Gary Hinman.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Burton Katz, who prosecuted Grogan, countered with the argument that in Grogan’s trial there was much evidence introduced that had not been made available to the Manson jury.
Shea, who repeatedly clashed with Manson while both were at the Spahn Ranch near Chatsworth, disappeared sometime in late August of 1969.
His body has never been found.
By WILLIAM FARR