Manson Fires Attorney Who Doubted Sanity, Hires Novice
Friday, March 20th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Mar. 20 – Charles Manson Thursday fired an attorney who had sought a psychiatric examination for the bearded, onetime cult-leader and was assigned a new lawyer who promptly withdrew that request.
Ousted was veteran lawyer Charles Hollopeter, 59, of Pasadena. In his stead, Superior Court Judge William B. Keene named attorney Ronald Hughes, new in every sense of the word; the 35-year-old UCLA graduate has never tried a case.
Hughes lost no time in injecting himself directly into the case. The West Los Angeles lawyer, who said he only passed his bar exam last June, charged that Judge Keene is “trying to control” Manson’s case. He likened Keene’s conduct to that of Chicago Judge Julius Hoffman in the trial of the eight — later seven — defendants accused of fomenting the riots which ruptured the 1968 Democratic Convention.
“I believe there are a lot of things going down in this case, just as in the Chicago Seven trial,” Hughes said.
Blond and bearded, Hughes said that Keene’s conduct went “far beyond the ways and means of the judiciary.”
“I feel it is unfortunate that the court has screwed around…with Mr. Manson’s representation,” said Hughes.
The switch in Manson’s legal counsel culminated a day which also featured a trio of the Manson “family” girls singing as they entered court, a farewell from Hollopeter and the hurling of the U.S. Constitution into the wastebasket by Manson. It also produced some of the sharpest dialogue yet between Judge Keene and Manson, much of it reminiscent of the Chicago Seven trial. And it finally delivered a date for the start of Manson’s trial — April 20.
Hollopeter was Manson’s attorney of record as the day’s proceedings opened. A few hours later, he was ousted at Manson’s request. The primary reason for Manson’s ire was a series of motions asking that Manson be allowed to undergo psychiatric examination, that Manson be granted a continuance of 30 days and that Manson be tried separately from the other defendants for the murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others.
When it was over, Hollopeter had been replaced. He said it was apparently over the issue of the psychiatric study.
“I made the motion,” Hollopeter said “I thought it was a good thing or I wouldn’t have made it.” He said that he had found Manson “a rather likeable guy.”
“I wish him well,” Hollopeter said.
Thursday’s session began with Manson smiling amicably amid three of his codefendants, Leslie Van Houten, 19, Patricia Krenwinkel, 22, and Susan Denise Atkins, 20. The girls had entered the courtroom with hands linked, singing.
Hollopeter presented his motion for a psychiatric examination and Dr. George Abe, of Metropolitan State Hospital at Norwalk, was appointed to examine Manson to determine his capacity to deliberate, premeditate and harbor malice, a prerequisite for a first-degree murder conviction.
The order was later vacated by Manson’s new attorney, Hughes.
A graduate of UCLA a year ago. Hughes formerly worked in the public defender’s office and became acquainted with Manson while visiting him in county jail.
When Hollopeter made a motion for severance of Manson’s case from the other four charged in the Tate-La Bianca murders, Manson spoke up:
“I’d like to change this counsel before we go any further. I disagree with all the motions. I find it hard to concede that one man can represent another. If a man is a man, he represents himself. But if I am forced to have an attorney I’d like to allow Mr. (Ira) Reiner (attorney representing the Van Houten girl) help me get my proper status hack.”
Without comment Judge Keene answered, “motion denied,” but apparently became flustered and jumped from the severance motion to a motion for continuance also filed by Hollopeter..
Manson became irate again, saying “Last week you said I could change attorneys. Have you changed your mind?”
Judge Keene said the change of attorney could come only on a formal motion, at which time Manson pulled from a pile papers a blue-jacketed typed motion which asked substitution of Hughes for Hollopeter.
Following a short recess during which Hughes was allowed time to talk with his new client, Hughes said he would “go along with a motion for continuance of the trial until April 20,” but felt he was “being forced to go along with the court.”