Life-Death Fate of Tate Killers in Jury’s Hands
Saturday, March 27th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Mar. 27 — Describing death by cyanide in the gas chamber, defense attorneys Friday ended their pleas for the life of Charles Manson and his three hippie girlfriends, drawing a close to the costliest and longest trial in State history.
The seven-man five woman jury which two months ago found Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Leslie Van Houten guilty of the brutal Tate-LaBianca murders, now will decide whether they spend the rest of their lives in prison or die in San Quentin’s gas chamber.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older held court for more than an hour after the usual quitting time to instruct the jury so it could begin deliberating this morning.
The jury will decide the four defendants’ fate in a room on the ninth floor of the Los Angeles Hall of Justice where the trial has gone on for almost nine-and- a-half months. Manson is jailed on the 13th floor of the same building.
The judge’s 52 jury instructions came after the final summation of chief defense counsel Paul Fitzgerald, whose impassioned plea — not only for the life of his own client but for the lives of all four — left several jurors shaken.
One alternate juror buried her head in her hands as Fitzgerald detailed the procedures used by the San Quentin authorities to carry out a death sentence.
After describing the chamber, the preparation of the cyanide, the “ready room” for prisoners, and the procedures which end in the prisoner being strapped into the metal chairs, Fitzgerald described the death itself. Then he added:
“This was an eye for an eye…a tooth for a tooth. Yet, if we believe Christ is in every man, this, too, has been a day of crucifixion — as well as of retribution. In these warped and lonely persons …the son of man has been crucified.”
As the attorney pleaded for their lives, the defendants seemed to pay little attention.
Manson, who was ejected from the courtroom several weeks ago for being disruptive, was in a holding cell next to the courtroom. He looked out the screened window of his cell only three times during the day-long summations.
The girls, sitting at the counsel table, doodled, whispered and giggled — as they have during the entire trial.
At one point, their giggles distracted not only the attorney but the jury, as they spotted a television singer who had come to the court as a spectator.
The 33-year-old attorney earlier had attacked the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi as “representing death …Death never had a more, vigorous bloodthirsty advocate.”
“Professing he disliked asking the death penalty, he yelled and screamed his demand for death, holding before you photographs of the most gruesome corpses available.”
Fitzgerald, who labeled the prosecutor a “sword-rattling harbinger of death” reminded the panel that Bugliosi had used the word “murder” 234 times in his final summation, “blood or bloody” 36 times, and “kill or killers” 49 times.
“I’m shocked and embarrassed that somebody in my profession would demonstrate such relish for the death of others,” the former public defender said.
Claiming Bugliosi “profaned scripture” by citing the Bible as authority for imposing the death penalty, Fitzgerald said that “God’s position is certainly not one of death.”
“God himself did not see fit to kill Cain when Cain killed Abel. Jesus Christ stepped forward to save Mary Magdalene from being stoned to death. He did so by saying ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’…words as profound today as when they were uttered 1900 years ago.”
Then as the jury sat almost immovable, he asked them to ask themselves if Jesus Christ were a fellow juror how would he vote,
“Don’t equate yourselves with Pontius Pilate. Don’t wash your hands of these defendants — apply the Christian doctrine of sympathy, compassion, forgiveness and mercy.
“Don’t react out of condemnation, vengeance and retaliation.
“The prosecution said these defendants were animals…mutations…with no heart…human monsters. It would be easier for you to kill them if they weren’t human.”
The prosecutor also was verbally attacked by other defense attorneys for his “blood-thirsty” summation.
Daye Shinn, representing Susan Atkins, again pointed out to the jury that his client was “promised” life if she testified for the prosecution before the county grand jury. She did, he said, but the prosecution reneged on its part of the bargain.
“Mr. Bugliosi now has a guilty conscience,” the Korean-born attorney said, “and it will be on his conscience until he goes to his grave. There’ll always be a voice in Mr. Bugliosi’s ear crying out for justice.
“He took her to the grand jury and was kind …but when she was through he wasn’t kind anymore…he called her ‘bitch’ and ‘vampire’ and ‘killer’ and ‘monster’.
“All I can say is there are different types of monsters. There are men monsters and women monsters and district attorney monsters. Mr. Bugliosi tricked and conned Susan Atkins.
“Miss Atkins, drowning, saw Mr. Bugliosi in awe and thought ‘here comes help now’ but he hit her over the head. And now he talks about inhuman…he talks about monsters.”
Maxwell Keith, whose initial summation had several spectators in tears, followed the same lead claiming the prosecutor “demands death, revenge and more blood.”
“Is not the State of California more reasonable, more merciful than these three girls and their insane master, Mr. Manson,” Keith shouted. “Mr. Manson influenced these girls; otherwise they wouldn’t have done what they did. Regardless of LSD and their emotional problems, someone had to control their thoughts. But, I do not say that Mr. Manson should pay with his life. He’s entitled to live just as much as these girls.
“From all the evidence in this case, I deduce Mr. Manson is insane — legally insane. You don’t need a doctor for that. Evidence shows that his mind is disordered…his mind is sick. By reason of this mental illness he was under the delusion that killing members of the establishment was beautiful and not morally wrong.
“It was simple, easy, to control the minds of these girls…their minds were empty when he got them. These girls were human sacrifices.
“Without Charles Manson and LSD these offenses would never have happened. Yes, these girls guided those knives, but their arms were the extension of someone else. Their wills were his will. He was their father figure and their God. They would not, nor could not, say ‘no’ to their God.”
Keith claimed his client, Leslie Van Houten, was not a born killer and that “murder does not run in her blood”.
Earlier, Manson’s attorney, Irving Kanarek, was “cut off” by Judge Older in the middle of a Bible reading in which he was comparing his client to a crucified Christ. The judge cited the time factor and the need to get the case to the jury.
Manson has been in and out of the courtroom — for being disruptive — almost as often as Kanarek has been in and out of jail — for being in contempt of court.
For seven months Manson and his three “followers” protested their innocence, but the jury — after 43 hours of deliberations — decided they were guilty.
For the past nine weeks the four Manson “family” members knew that they would spend the rest of their lives in prison or die in the gas chamber and that the decision would rest with the same Jury that found them guilty.
Manson, who was described by Kanarek as “just a 140-pound boy who likes girls” — still claims he’s innocent.
But the girls during the course of the penalty trial, changed their minds — but only about themselves.
They took the witness stand to tell their story — they, indeed, were guilty, but Manson was innocent. They told almost the same story.
Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins told how they went, in dark clothes and carrying knives, into the home of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and killed everyone there.
Sharon Marie Tate Polanski, 27-year-old wife of movie director Roman Polanski. She was 8 1/2 months pregnant.
Jay Sebring, 35, Hollywood hairstylist and ex-fiance of the movie star,
Voityck Frykowski, 37, Polish playboy friend of the Polanski’s.
Abigail Anne Folger, 26, San Francisco coffee heiress who, with Frykowski, was a houseguest at the Tate home.
Steven Earl Parent, 18, a student who was visiting the caretaker at the Tate home.
The next night, Miss Krenwinkel — this time with Leslie Van Houten — went to the home of wealthy market owner Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. They killed both
One by one the girls took the witness stand — part of 29 defense witnesses brought to court during the penalty phase — and told stunned jurors how it was done.
The testimony of the clan — which heaped praise on Manson — almost overshadowed the two prosecution witnesses.
One was Manson’s federal parole officer, who had little good to say about the 36-year-old ex-convict, and another was a Negro trumpeter who had been shot by Manson and had nothing good to say about the cult chieftain.
Psychiatrists and the parents of two of the girls — Miss Van Houten and Miss Krenwinkel — also paraded to the stand to tell a story of model children who turned to LSD.
The psychiatrists claimed that LSD was damaging to the brain and personality.
The parents claimed their children were good and don’t deserve to die.
The jury will decide — beginning today — whether they do or not.
By MARY NEISWENDER