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Manson Asks Role Of Attorney

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 18 – Charles Manson, bearded leader of a hippie-style clan, told a Los Angeles judge Wednesday he wants to act as his own attorney when he comes to trial on charges of murdering actress Sharon Tate and six others.

“Your honor, there is no way I can give up my own voice in this matter,” Manson told Superior Court Judge B. William. “If there is no way I can speak freely, it ties my hands down and I might as well not have a defense.”

Manson, 35, asked that he be assisted in his defense by two professional attorneys – Luke McKissack and Lawrence Steinberg, both of Los Angeles. McKissack is currently handling the appeal of Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, convicted of killing Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Keene denied both requests temporarily, saying he would have to decide whether Manson is competent to represent himself. He said he would announce his decision Dec. 22, the date Manson is to enter a plea in the bizarre slayings.

Manson, clutching a notepad and pencil as he stood before the judge, declared, “I am competent to stand and talk to you.”

The judge said the matter was whether he was competent to he an attorney.

“‘Your honor … I’d like to retain attorneys because I understand the complexity of this case, of its publicity,” Manson said softly, “I have the awareness to understand the charges against me and I have some knowledge of the law.”

Manson and four other members of his nomadic clan are charged with murder and conspiracy in the slayings, of the actress and four other persons last August at the Tate estate. The same five and another clan member are charged with murder and conspiracy in the slayings the next night of a wealthy grocery store owner and his wife.

Manson, his straggly hair parted down the center, wore a faded brown prison uniform. During the proceedings he nervously twirled his mustache and his fingers through his beard.

At first he spoke so softly the court reporter said she couldn’t hear him. Then, speaking clearly into a microphone, he said, “I would like to represent myself, and then I would like Mr. McKissack and Mr. Steinberg to help me, if possible.”

When Keene questioned the feasibility of this plan, Manson replied. “In reading the Constitution in my last time here it said I had voice. I wish to retain that voice.”

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