Manson Attorneys Claim Witness Psychotic, Incapable of Testifying
Thursday, October 29th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 29 – A hearing was scheduled today in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial to determine whether the last prosecution, witness — a former Manson “family” member now in Patton State Hospital — is capable of taking the witness stand.
Defense attorneys contend that Diane Lake, whose testimony allegedly will implicate Leslie Van Houten in the killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, has been ruled psychotic by psychiatrists and therefore should not testify. The 18-year-old girl was scheduled to tell of a “confession” she overheard in which Miss Van Houten implicated herself in the killings.
The Lake girl, who has been at the state mental hospital since shortly after her arrest along with other members of the hippie leader’s cult, is the final prosecution witness.
Chief prosecutor Dep. Dist. Atty. Vincent T. Bugliosi said he expects to rest the state’s case Friday, if the girl is allowed to testify.
On Wednesday three letters written by Charles Manson’s girl follower Susan Atkins, in which she implicated herself in the murders, were read to the jury.
The letters had been blocked temporarily while defense attorneys attempted to get an appeals court ruling overturning Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older’s decision that they should be admitted.
Only parts of the letters were read to the seven-man, five-woman jury. Sections implicating Manson and his two other girl defendants, Patricia Krenwinkel and Miss Houten had been deleted in in-chambers censoring sessions.
In one letter, written to former cellmate Ronni Howard, a prosecution witness, Miss Atkins indicated she was “not mad at you anymore…I blame no one but myself for ever saying anything to anybody about it.”
Miss Atkins blamed her former cellmate for being a police informer, claiming in the letter that “when I first heard about it I wanted to slash your throat.”
Referring to the murders she wrote she “did not admit to being in the second house (the LaBianca murders) because I was not in the second house.”
In another letter written to a Long Beach girl, Kit Fletcher of 1145 Cherry Ave., she said “Everything that has happened to me doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers the rest of the world.
“Why did I do it, or why did I open my mouth to my cellmates? I did what I did because that is what I did.”
Miss Fletcher was another cellmate of the 22-year old Miss Atkins while she was in Sybil Brand Institute charged with the murder of musician Gary Hinman in Topanga Canyon a week before the Tate murders.
To another former cellmate in Fisher Lake, Mich., she told of “just being indicted” on seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy.
“You remember the Sharon Tate and LaBianca murders,” she wrote. “Because of my big mouth to a cellmate, they just indicted me…My attorney wants to save my life.”
Parts deleted from the letter to Miss Howard implicate Manson, claiming “I wanted the world to know M…It sure looks like they do now. There was a so-called motive behind all this. It was to instill fear into the pigs and to bring on Judgment day, which is here now for all.
“You know it will all turn out okay in the end anyway, M or no M, Sadie or no Sadie, love will still run forever.”
By MARY NEISWENDER