Manson Defense in Surprise Rest
Thursday, November 19th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 19 – In a surprise move which disrupted a Los Angeles Superior Courtroom, attorneys for cult leader Charles Manson and three of his girl followers rested their case before they even opened it.
Although the four defense attorneys were adamant in resting the case, the three girl defendants immediately demanded permission to testify.
After consultation between the attorneys and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older, the jurist indicated the girls would be allowed to testify.
The girls told the judge they would present questions to be asked and would take the witness stand with Susan Atkins first, Patricia Krenwinkel second and Leslie Van Houten third.
Speculation over the past month had indicated that Manson would have the girls “confess” to the crime and “admit” that he had no part in the killings.
The courtroom tumult began after chief defense counsel Paul Fitzgerald stood to address the court, following the judge’s denial of a motion to dismiss all charges against the defendant.
“The defendants rest,” Fitzgerald said.
His client, Patricia Krenwinkel, jumped to her feet, shouting, “I wish to testify.”
Deputy Dist. Atty. Vincent Bugliosi requested a bench conference but was cut off by another of the girl defendants, Miss Atkins, who leaped to her feet and shouted, “This should be in the presence of the jury.” As the attorneys attempted to approach the bench to confer with Judge Older, Miss Atkins continued to shout.
“I wish to approach the bench, too,” the long haired Manson disciple yelled, her two co-defendants standing at her side.
“This is my trial, you know.”
All three girls attempted to get to the bench conference but were halted by deputies and then stood silently as attorneys conferred.
The judge immediately ordered an in-chambers conference and the jury was escorted from the room.
Manson, who sat quietly during the girls’ outbursts, had earlier engaged in a shouting match with the chief prosecutor during the defense’s vain attempt to get the seven counts of murder and one of conspiracy dismissed.
When Bugliosi brought up the fact that Manson had confessed to a former member of his “family,” Juan Flynn, the cult chieftain interrupted:
“I was referring to Vietnam,” Manson yelled.
(Bugliosi had quoted the confession, “don’t you know I am responsible for all those murders?” The statement was made to Flynn as Manson held a knife to his throat the day following the LaBianca murders, Bugliosi had said.)
“You were never there?” Bugliosi taunted.
By MARY NEISWENDER