LOS ANGELES, Jun. 17 – Selection of a jury began yesterday in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial and hippie cult leader Charles Manson said he was willing to accept the first 12 citizens called into the jury box without questioning any of them.
Superior Court Judge Charles H. Older ignored the offer made by Manson’s attorney, Irving Kanarek, and began inquiries of the prospective jurors as to whether they had any preconceived notions or prejudice about the innocence or guilt of Manson and his three female codefendants.
Two men were excused from jury services within the first hour after they said they could not return a death penalty under any circumstances because of conscientious objection to such a sentence.
By the end of the day, seven others had been excused because the nightly lockup of the jury would work an extreme personal hardship on them during the long trial.
The three young women members of the “Manson family” — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — giggled and whispered to each other as the prospective jurors filed past. Once they took their seats, the members of the panel craned their necks to get a look at Manson and his girls.
The 60 persons first called were all conservatively dressed, the majority over 35 years of age, and certainly none of them could have been classified as hippie types.
The names of 12 were picked from a metal box and they took seats in the jury box.
Kanarek rose and told the court that Manson had informed him he was willing to accept the first 12 seated as the final jury. Older did not reply.
Kanarek told newsmen later that “all we want is a fair jury.”
“Mr. Manson believes that these 12 people who came in by chance of the streets could be — relatively — the type of jurors he wants.”
The 35-year-old ex-convict sat quietly in court with his arms folded during the morning proceedings. He was dressed in blue denim prison trousers and shirt and he turned once to smile at the jurors seated in the back of the jammed courtroom.
In a related development, another member of the Manson clan was indicted for the murder of musician Gary Hinman, a case in which Manson also is charged.
Mary Brunner, a key prosecution witness in the trial of Robert Beausoleil who was convicted and sentenced to death for the Hinman murder, changed her story four times in subsequent court proceedings. Deputy district attorney Burton Katz said the vacillation of Miss Brunner voided the prosecution’s previous guarantee of immunity.
Older explained that once a final jury was selected, it would be locked up in hotel rooms throughout the remainder of the trial which is expected to last around six months.
Nine of the first 12 called into the jury box said service of that duration would work extreme personal hardship some citing the need to care for children, self employment with loss of income and planned summer vacations.
The first man seated, Walter Coubrough, said he had planned to go to his native Scotland next month on vacation with his wife. Older asked him whether he felt giving up the vacation would be an extreme hardship.
“Well,” said the Scotsman, bringing the only touch of lightness to the grim proceedings, “I’ve paid my money and all for the tickets and I might not get it back.”