Manson Court Proceedings End With Whimper

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 19 — Only two seats in the spectator section of the courtroom were occupied Thursday.

They were elderly men with frayed shirt cuffs, the kind who shuffle from one court to another day after day to hear a trial, any trial, to escape from loneliness and boredom and now and then become a vicarious part of the soap opera of other human lives

On the witness stand, a barrel-chested man with bushy grey hair droned into a microphone, reading from a thick sheaf of onion skin paper.

The judge was busy writing in longhand on the bench. The jurors shifted and coughed, gazed at the ceiling, doodled on notepads. The prosecutor sat with his head in his hands. He could have been asleep.

Only if you listened carefully and caught an occasional phrase or name…Spahn Ranch…Leslie Van Houten…Pooh Bear…would it have occurred that this was the last page of the last chapter of the trials of the notorious Charles Manson.

Manson wasn’t even there, though the matter at issue was whether he should get life or a death sentence. It was a moot question, anyway, since he already had been sentenced seven times to the gas chamber at his first trial.

Manson, who celebrated his 37th birthday earlier this week by wearing a vest made of the hair of his “girls,” doesn’t come to his trial these days. He slays in an adjoining holding tank and occasionally shouts an obscenity through a wire grill.

Some day next week the jury will begin deliberations and, no matter their decision, Manson finally will be taken to Death Row at San Quentin to join some 90 other men waiting for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty.

It will be 27 months since the Sharon Tate massacre was emblazoned in the headlines, almost two years and more than $1 million in court costs since the “Family” went to trial.

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