Manson Trial Ends After 9-Month Run
Wednesday, March 17th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Mar. 17 — Exactly nine months to the day after it began, the Tate-LaBianca murder trial ended Tuesday as both the defense and prosecution rested in the penalty phase, bringing to a close what has become the state’s longest murder proceedings.
Only jury instructions and final arguments remain before the five-woman, seven-man jury begins deliberating whether hippie leader Charles Manson and his three girl disciples — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — live in prison for the rest of their lives or die in the gas chamber.
Three prosecution witnesses had been called during the 10-week penalty phase, but the defense called 29 witnesses, including the three female defendants. During the guilt phase of the trial, prosecutors called 84 witnesses. The defense presented no case.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older ordered the four defense attorneys and the district attorney’s three-man prosecution team to meet with him today to discuss the final jury instructions. He gave the jury the day off.
Final arguments are to begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday and are expected to last at least two days. Judge Older told jurors they could expect to receive the case for deliberations by Tuesday of next week.
Final witness at the trial was Manson’s first “family” member and the mother of his three-year-old child — former Wisconsin University librarian Mary Brunner.
She told the court that she and Manson had been issued a marriage license and had taken blood tests so they could married in 1967 but didn’t recite the formal vows because “we could see he was going to go back to jail and decided it would be better if he didn’t have a wife.”
Although she talked about Manson freely as she discussed the marriage license and the fact that the cult chieftain is the “legal” father of her son, Michael Manson, she refused to even mention his name as she was questioned about the murder of Topanga Canyon musician Gary Hinman.
Her testimony before the county Grand Jury brought an indictment against Manson for Hinman’s murder, and her testimony in court during the trial of “family” member Robert Beausoleil for the Hinman murder was credited with sending him to San Quentin’s death row.
Tuesday, however, she reversed herself.
In her earlier testimony, she claimed she helped Miss Atkins and Beausoleil kill the 34-year-old musician on orders from Manson.
Tuesday, however, the Wisconsin native changed her story, claiming she was not at the Hinman home and had been told about the killings by Miss Van Houten and Miss Atkins.
“I substituted myself for Leslie when I talked to law enforcement officers,” the girl testified, attempting to explain her previous testimony. “Bobby was trying to cover up for her.”
One other witness, “family” member Nancy Pittman, also known as Brenda McCann, was recalled to the stand by Manson’s attorney, Irving Kanarek.
She testified she first heard about the killings at the home of the pregnant actress “when the girls came back — we didn’t know who had been killed — their names — until the next night when we saw it on television.”
However, Miss McCann, also wearing an “x” on her forehead — the “family’s” sign of alienation from society — claimed that Manson knew nothing of the murders in that he was in Devil’s Canyon, several miles from the Spahn Ranch home of the clan.
“I knew he was there,” she said, “because I was making a pair of leather pants for him and I had to take them out there for fittings.”
Also repeating other statements made during the penalty phase of the trial by “family” members, Miss Pittman said the motive for the murders was not to incite a race war.
“It was all for the same thing — it was to get a brother out of jail — to repeat a murder they had done before to show they had an innocent man in jail and the murderers were still free.”
The girl claimed Beausoleil had been arrested for the Hinman murder and was innocent.
By MARY NEISWENDER