Keith Named Van Houten Counsel
Friday, December 4th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 4 – Maxwell Keith, veteran of the sensational Finch-Tregoff trial of a decade ago, was appointed by the court yesterday to represent one of the female defendants at the Tate murder trial because of the disappearance of her attorney.
Over the strenuous objections of Charles Manson and the three young women that they wished to conduct their own case, Superior Court Judge Charles H. Older asked Keith to step in for 250-pound defense attorney Ronald Hughes, who has been missing from the trial for four days.
Hughes had represented Leslie Van Houten, and the young woman jumped up in court late yesterday and said she did not want Keith as her lawyer but wanted to carry on her defense herself.
Manson also was on his feet to argue that none of the lawyers was representing the defendants properly.
Older ordered Manson to sit down and a deputy finally had to approach the 35-year-old “family” leader before he resumed his seat.
Older disclosed that a car containing Hughes’ transcript of the trial had been found abandoned in the rugged Sespe Hot Springs mountain area north of Los Angeles, although no trace of the attorney had been found during a helicopter and ground search.
The judge ruled that Keith would become a “co-counsel” in the case and would be given time to familiarize himself with the trial before final arguments to the jury begin, perhaps a week from now.
Dr. R. Bernard Finch and Carol Tregoff, his mistress, twice got mistrials in 1959 and 1960, in the killing of the doctor’s wife. They were finally convicted of first-degree murder in 1961 when Keith was acting as Finch’s attorney.
A rumpled, tousled-haired man, Keith has the nickname of the “Ivy League hillbilly.”
All four defendants broke into the court session yesterday afternoon to protest that they wanted to conduct their own defense, but Older overruled all motions to that effect.
“I don’t accept this man as my counsel,” Miss Van Houten said.
Manson argued again that he should represent himself and Deputy Dist. Atty. Vincent Bugliosi turned to him and said:
“Take the stand, Charlie. Take the stand.”
Manson has testified outside the presence of the jury, but has never told his story in the presence of the panel.
Older adjourned the session after 15 minutes and the defendants were led out. The judge said the trial would continue on a day-to-day consultation with attorneys until Keith’s feels he is sufficiently familiar with the facts in the 25-week-old trial to make a closing argument for Miss Van Houten.
Fear was expressed by both the prosecution and other defense lawyers over Hughes’ fate. The red-bearded, 35-year-old lawyer had not been seen by any of his colleagues since last Friday when he reportedly went camping in the desolate mountain area north of Los Angeles.