Susan’s Letters Barred in Court
Monday, October 26th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 26 – Letters implicating a defendant in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial were barred from evidence today pending results of a defense appeal for a higher court ruling on admissibility.
The letters, written by “Manson family” member Susan Atkins, reportedly include passages which implicate her in the murders. They were scheduled to be read today as the trial entered its 20th week.
However, Miss Atkins’ attorney, Daye Shinn, objected that the letters should not be admitted into evidence, since his client was not advised that their contents could be used against her.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older granted Shinn’s motion to take the matter to the district court of appeal, and granted a delay for that procedure.
Contents of the letters written by the 22-year-old defendant while she was in Sybil Brand Institute have been censored by Judge Older to omit any reference to other defendants.
One of the letters was received by a Long Beach resident, Janet Marie Owens, on Dec. 18, 1969, a week after Miss Atkins was indicted for the murder.
Deputies said that all “Manson family” mail was ordered photostated and turned over to Los Angeles police department investigators.
One of the investigators, Sgt. Manuel Gutierrez, said he had asked officials to photostat all “family” mail to assist him in further investigation of the case. He admitted that if incriminating evidence were found in the letters he would “definitely use it against them.”
Miss Atkins sat chatting with two other female defendants — Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — and seemed little concerned that the letters were to be read to the jury. Meanwhile Charles Manson, the “family” leader, still clean shaven, sat listening intently and offered suggestions to the four-lawyer defense team.
By MARY NEISWENDER