Susan’s Attorneys Called to Testify on DA’s Promise
Thursday, February 25th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 25 – Legal jousting in the chambers of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older today delayed the start of the Tate-LaBianca murder trial as defense attorneys prepared to call eight more witnesses in an attempt to save their clients from the gas chamber.
The trial, in its 37th week, is now expected to center around the testimony of Susan Atkins, one of the female defendants, who was promised a life sentence by the district attorney’s office for her testimony. Her former attorneys, Richard Caballero and Paul Caruso, have been subpoenaed to testify.
In an angry exchange, Wednesday, hippie leader Charles Manson and his three girl disciples turned on a former member of their love-cult “family” — the girl whose testimony is credited with convicting them of seven murders.
Twenty-one-year-old Linda Kasabian, the former member of Manson’s nomadic tribe who admitted participating in the Tate- LaBianca murders but was given immunity for her testimony, returned to the stand in the penalty phase of the trial to again say the defendants were not telling the truth – even in their confessions.
Looking demure in a long peasant-type gown, the moccasined mother-of-two was answering questions from Manson’s attorney Irving Kanarek when she was interrupted by defendant Susan Atkins.
“You only got off by putting it off on Manson…admit it!” Miss Atkins shouted from her seat at the counsel table. “Why don’t you tell your part…”
“I have!” Mrs. Kasabian shouted back. “Why don’t you tell your part.” Then turning to Manson, she repeated, “And why don’t You tell your part.” “Live with it,” Manson answered, “it’s on your face.”
When Judge Charles Older restored order and admonished the jury to disregard the statements, Mrs. Kasabian seemed flustered for the first time.
“This whole trip it’s…whew! Really! This whole situation is insane,” she said nervously stirring in the witness chair and laughing.
Asked by Kanarek what she meant by insane, the girl answered: “It’s almost like it’s unreal. I know that it happened…touched by anything like this before. It’s hard to relate to after being away from it for a while.”
“She means,” Manson interrupted again from the counsel table, “She never dumped her load on anybody else before.”
Warned by Judge Older that if he didn’t remain quiet he would be removed from the courtroom, the bearded, shaggy haired Manson sulked silently as his former girlfriend continued to testify.
“What’s unreal about this case?” Kanarek asked.
“I don’t know. Those are words that just came to my mind. I don’t know what I meant. I never thought about the things that happened in this courtroom. Now, being back, it’s strange — it doesn’t seem real — it’s like a dream.”
On the stand for 18 days during the guilt phase of the marathon trial, Mrs. Kasabian testified for less than three hours Wednesday as she contradicted the confessions of the three girl defendants.
She testified that at no time did she discuss the arrest of Manson family member Robert Beausoleil for the murder of Topanga Canyon musician Gary Hinman, nor did she discuss ways of getting him out of jail.
The three female defendants — Miss Atkins, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel — all testified they had discussed Beausoleil’s case with Mrs. Kasabian and it was Mrs. Kasabian’s idea to commit copycat killings to free Beausoleil. The Tate-LaBianca killings paralleled the Hinman killing in that the musician was stabbed to death and “Political Piggy” was written in blood on the walls.
The long-haired blonde also testified that at no time did she say that Beausoleil was the father of her child, Angel, born while she was in county jail.
Although during her Initial testimony she said that her husband, Robert, was the baby’s father, she said Wednesday she didn’t know who the father was.
Mrs. Kasabian was former chief prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz. Stovitz was called to testify to the fact that Miss Atkins was offered a “deal” by the district attorney’s office for her testimony before the Grand Jury.
Stovitz said the prosecution had indicated to the girl it would not seek the death penalty for her if she told the truth to the county panel. However, he said she lied when she testified.
At least eight more witnesses are scheduled to appear in the penalty phase psychiatrists and three more family members. The case is expected to go to the jury by the end of next week.
By MARY NEISWENDER