Susan Atkins' Plea in Hinman Case | Cielodrive.com

PEOPLE V. ATKINS

Thursday, May 27, 1971

SUSAN
ATKINS

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, THURSDAY, MAY 27, 1971,
3:10 O'CLOCK P.M.
-o0o-

THE COURT: All right. The record will show that Mr. Shinn is present with Miss Atkins, and in the case of People versus Manson, Atkins, Davis and Grogan, we're ready to proceed.

Mr. Shinn has indicated to the Court, Mr. Katz has indicated to the Court, Miss Atkins wishes at this time to move to change her plea, wishes to enter a plea of guilty of Murder of the first degree.

The Court will take a very short five-minute recess.

(Short recess.)

THE COURT: Miss Atkins, is it your intention to enter a plea guilty to Murder of the first degree?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, it is.

THE COURT: All right. Will you arraign her for that plea, Mr. Katz?

MR. KATZ: I might say, prior to arraigning Miss Atkins on the plea, I've had an opportunity to fully discuss the decision of Miss Atkins with Daye Shinn.

Is that correct, Mr. Shinn?

MR. SHINN: That is correct.

THE COURT: I guess we're going to have to stop all of that noise.

(Pause.)

THE COURT: We're ready to proceed.

I don't think anyone heard anything you said when you began. Go ahead.

MR. KATZ: Yes, your Honor. I merely indicated that I have had a full opportunity to discuss Miss Atkins' decision with Mr. Shinn.

Is that correct, Mr. Shinn?

MR. SHINN: That's correct, your Honor.

MR. KATZ: Miss Atkins, you have been previously arraigned on indictment number A-267861, which charges you in Count I with a crime of Murder, in violation of Section 187 of the Penal Code, in that it was alleged that on or about the 27th day of July, 1969, at and in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, you, the said defendant did wilfully, unlawfully, feloniously and with malice aforethought murder Gary Alan Hinman, a human being;

In Count II of the same said information, it was further alleged that you were involved in a conspiracy to commit robbery and murder in violation of Section 182.1 of the Penal Code between the dates of the 25th and the 28th day of July, 1969, the victim being Gary Alan Hinman, a human being, to which you have heretofore entered a plea of not guilty and requested a jury trial.

Your attorney, who is standing beside you, Mr. Shinn, has indicated that it is your desire to withdraw your plea of not guilty to Count I or the Information which is the charge of Murder of Gary Alan Hinman, and enter a new and different plea of guilty to the charge of Murder in the first degree.

Is that your desire, ma'am?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Miss Atkins, have you discussed this charge -- that is, the count of Murder and the plea -- with your attorney, Mr. Shinn?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, for about the last fifteen months.

MR. KATZ: Has your attorney advised you of your constitutional rights and right to a trial in this case?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, he has.

MR. KATZ: You do understand, Miss Atkins, that you have an absolute constitutional right to a jury trial, which means that you have a right to choose twelve men and women who sit on the panel and hear the issues of fact in this case, hear your defense, if any, and from that determine your guilt or innocence?

Do you understand that's your constitutional right?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I understand my constitutional right, and it hasn't been shown me at all.

MR. KATZ: Miss Atkins, as you stand now, you are presumed to be innocent of the crime of murder of Gary Alan Hinman.

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I understand that.

MR. KATZ: All right. You understand, in order to find you guilty of Murder in the first degree, the jury must hear all of the evidence in this case, hear the arguments of counsel, and make an independent determination of your guilty or innocence; do you understand that?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I understand that.

MR. KATZ: You understand that a jury, based upon the evidence, might return, for example, a verdict of not guilty?

You understand that is a possibility?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I understand.

MR. KATZ: All right. Now, understanding that, you do have the right to have all the facts presented, both by the prosecution and by the defense before a jury.

Is it your desire, after talking to Mr. Shinn, is it your desire to freely and voluntarily give up your rights to a jury trial at this time?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Counsel, do you join in the waiver?

MR. SHINN: Counsel joins.

MR. KATZ: People join in the jury waiver, your Honor.

THE COURT: Very well. The Court accepts it.

MR. KATZ: All right. Miss Atkins, do you also understand you have a right to a court trial as to these pending charges; do you understand that?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Before I can take your plea of guilty, I must inform you of the following constitutional rights that you have:

You do understand that you have a constitution right to have the people's witnesses brought into court, to have them sworn, to hear testimony under oath, and to have your attorney and yourself confront these witnesses and to have your attorney cross examine these witnesses on your behalf; do you understand that?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Do you now waive and give up this right of confrontation and cross examination of the prosecution's witnesses?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Counsel, do you join in that waiver?

MR. SHINN: Counsel joins.

MR. KATZ: People join.

Now, Miss Atkins, you also have a constitutional right not to incriminate yourself. If you plead guilty to a criminal offense, you are, in fact, incriminating yourself.

Do you understand that?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Do you waive and give up your right of self-incrimination?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Counsel, after talking with Miss Atkins, fully, concerning the facts surrounding the killing of Gary Alan Hinman, do you join in that waiver?

MR. SHINN: Counsel joins.

MR. KATZ: Do you understand that you are being asked, Miss Atkins, to plead to the charge of murder in the first degree?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: In that connection, let me briefly explain to you that murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought.

Murder is classified into two degrees, first and second degree. Murder -- all murder which is perpetrated by any kind of willful, deliberate and premeditated killing with malice aforethought is murder of the first degree.

Also, under the felony murder doctrine, the unlawful killing of a human being, whether intentional, unintentional or accidental, which occurs as a result of the commission of or intent to commit the crime of robbery, and where there was, in the mind of the perpetrator, the specific intent to commit such crime, i.e., the robbery, that is murder in the first degree.

Do you understand that?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Now, Miss Atkins, has anyone used any force or duress upon you or any member of the Family to obtain this plea of guilty to this charge?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: No.

MR. KATZ: Other than the fact that has been discussed by counsel and the Court, that in return for your plea of guilty to murder in the first degree, you will receive a life imprisonment sentence in connection with the killing of Gary Alan Hinman, has anyone promised you any other reward, immunity, or other benefit to obtain your guilty plea?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I haven't asked for anything, or been told I was going to get anything. This is voluntary. This is a totally voluntary plea of guilty.

MR. KATZ: All right. Has anyone told you, other than the fact that you will receive, in return for your plea to murder in the first degree, a life imprisonment sentence, anything else, any benefit, any reward or any other promise of leniency?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: No.

MR. KATZ: Are you pleading guilty to this charge because in truth and in fact you are guilty, and for no other reason?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: All right. Miss Atkins, you understand that in Count I, you are charged with the murder of Gary Alan Hinman. In that connection, did you go the home of Gary Alan Hinman, located in Topanga Canyon, on July 25, 1969, with other persons?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: If that's the date, I went there.

MR. KATZ: All right. That was a Friday evening?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, I believe it was.

MR. KATZ: All right. And did you stay there off and on during the course of some 48 hours until Sunday, July 27, 1969, at the home of Gary Alan Hinman?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I believe so. I believe that's the time.

MR. KATZ: And when you were at the home of Gary Alan Hinman, were you aware of and apprised of the fact that a robbery was taking place in connection with Gary Hinman's property?

(Whereupon Defendant Atkins conferred with her counsel.)

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I was aware that there was a transaction going on.

MR. KATZ: Were you aware of the fact that people in your presence, at the Gary Hinman home, during the period in question, attempted to and did extract and take property --

DEFENDANT MANSON: Your Honor, I object to that. That doesn't have anything to do with the plea.

MR. KATZ: -- from Gary Alan Hinman?

THE COURT: Excuse me just a minute. Mr. Manson, you're going to have to be quiet, or you're going to have to be removed.

DEFENDANT MANSON: He's questioning the witness.

THE COURT: In order to accept this plea of guilty --

DEFENDANT MANSON: You have to testify?

THE COURT: -- the Court must hear facts. And, Mr. Manson, the Court will ask you to be quiet, or I will have to remove you.

THE COURT: It is your law.

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Your Honor, he's asking me things that I am not aware of. I am not aware of a robbery as it was indicated.

I am aware of transactions, yes.

THE COURT: You understand, as he has told you, that a murder, a homicide that's committed in the course of a robbery, is a robbery -- or, is a murder of the first degree?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I understand this.

THE COURT: All right.

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I understand, also, that the prosecution has alleged that there was robbery, and that was the motive for the murder.

I know better.

THE COURT: Well, regardless of whether or not --

DEFENDANT ATKINS: And I cannot honestly look at this Court and say, β€œYes, I was aware there was a robbery,” because no, I was not aware the robbery was going on.

MR. KATZ: Your Honor, may I ask a question a different way?

THE COURT: Very well.

MR. KATZ: Miss Atkins, as I understand it, you were present at the house of Gary Alan Hinman on Old Topanga Canyon Road in Malibu, between the dates July 25, 1969 and July 27, 1969; is that correct?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: All right. And were you aware, during that period of time, that there was an intention by others that were in your presence to kill Gary Alan Hinman?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: No.

MR. KATZ: Did you participate in the killing of Gary Alan Hinman?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Did you do so with knowledge that your acts would result in the death of Gary Alan Hinman?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Did you also assist in wiping Gary Alan Hinman's house down for fingerprints, and removing garbage and other paraphernalia used to bandage the injured Hinman?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Take out the word β€œassist.”

MR. KATZ: All right. Miss Atkins, did you remove some bandages and other garbage used to bandage the wounded Hinman during that period in question?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, I did.

MR. KATZ: Did you wipe down the house for fingerprints during the period between July 25, 1969 and July 27, 1969, --

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, I did.

MR. KATZ: -- after Hinman's death?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, I did.

MR. KATZ: And did you knowingly participate in the killing of Gary Alan Hinman?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Participate?

MR. KATZ: Yes. Did you knowingly participate in the killing of Gary Alan Hinman.

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, I knowingly did.

THE COURT: I'm sorry. I didn't hear that last phrase.

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I knowingly did.

MR. KATZ: May I have one moment, your Honor?

THE COURT: Yes.

(Discussion off the record at the counsel table between Mr. Katz and Mr. Manzella, and also a discussion off the record at the counsel table between the Defendant Atkins and her attorney, Mr. Shinn.)

MR. KATZ: Miss -- strike that.

Your Honor, does the Court have any further questions before I ask for the formal entry of the plea to first degree murder?

Well, first, I would ask that Mr. Shinn -- Mr. Shinn, you have had a full opportunity to discuss all the facts and ramifications of Miss Atkins' plea to Murder in the first degree, in connection with the charges pending against her?

MR. SHINN: That's correct.

MR. KATZ: And are you satisfied that, based upon your understanding of the facts -- that is, the People's case, as presented in the Beausoleil trial, and the information made known to you, together with your discussion with Miss Atkins, concerning her story regarding the manner and means by which Mr. Hinman met his death, are you satisfied that, in the interests of justice and the due process of fair administration of justice, that a plea of guilty to murder in the first degree is warranted, as her counsel?

MR. SHINN: That's correct.

MR. KATZ: And do you also consent to the plea, to murder in the first degree, at this time?

MR. SHINN: Yes.

MR. KATZ: And other than the fact that I indicated to you that, upon the approval of the Court to a plea of murder in the first degree, that the People would make a recommendation that Miss Atkins receive a sentence of life imprisonment, had the District Attorney's office or any other agency of the police made any promise of lesser sentence, reward, or immunity in order to induce Miss Atkins to enter the plea, to your knowledge?

MR. SHINN: No.

MR. KATZ: Your Honor, does your Honor have any further questions before I take the plea?

THE COURT: Yes. Miss Atkins, you understand that there will be no trial, either a court trial or a jury trial, if the Court accepts this plea?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, I do.

THE COURT: Do you understand that, should there be a trial, however, that you -- one of the rights that you would have would be to have your attorney represent you throughout the trial? You know that?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

THE COURT: You would have the right also to subpoena witnesses and to subpoena evidence on your own behalf, and to the processes of the Court to do so; do you understand that?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

THE COURT: Do you give up all of those rights, and the privilege against self-incrimination, for the purpose of entering this plea of guilty?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, I give up all those rights, and the privilege or self-incrimination.

THE COURT: Yes. Now, Mr. Katz has asked you about whether or not you gave some thought to what you were doing when you engaged in this killing of Gary Hinman. Did you know what you were going at the time? And knowingly engage in it?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Did I know what I was doing? I know the motions that I was going through, your Honor.

THE COURT: Yes. And you knew that those motions would result in his death?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, because they were -- the motions were obvious, that it would result in his death.

THE COURT: Yes.

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Not anything -- I want to explain. Not anything prior to -- to the beginning of my motions, that -- that would involve any -- into his death.

THE COURT: I don't understand that last statement. Would you explain it to me?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Well -- uhh --

THE COURT: You know --

DEFENDANT ATKINS: I knew what I was doing.

THE COURT: And you knew what the acts that you were doing would probably result in his death?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: It did, because that was my intention.

THE COURT: Very well.

MR. KATZ: May we also --

THE COURT: Now, this -- pardon?

MR. KATZ: May we also inquire as to whether or not Miss Atkins --

Did Mr. Hinman provoke in any way or attack you, or did you intend, without reference to anything that Mr. Hinman did, to kill Mr. Hinman?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Mr. Hinman attacked.

MR. KATZ: At the time that you did the act to which -- which you say you knew would result in his death, he was not attacking you, was he?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: No.

THE COURT: As a matter of fact, did you use a pillow in order to muffle his -- or, to cut off his breath?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Your Honor, I don't understand this cross examination.

THE COURT: Well, the Court has to determine whether or not there's a factual basis. I won't accept this plea of guilty unless I know that you are in fact guilty; do you understand that?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes. I -- I wouldn't be making this plea, your Honor, unless in fact I knew I was guilty. Do you understand that?

THE COURT: Yes, I understand it. But I have to have some basis for -- in fact, that's what I'm talking about.

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Your basis of fact is on the prosecution's assumptions.

THE COURT: All right. Well, let's get to the point now. Did you in fact do that?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

THE COURT: That which I am talking about, --

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

THE COURT: -- with the pillow?

With the pillow?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

THE COURT: All right. You understand that it's the recommendation -- I understand, gentlemen, that it is the recommendation of the District Attorney that the Court sentence to life imprisonment, rather than death, in this case; is that correct?

MR. KATZ: Yes, your Honor. We --

THE COURT: And what are your reasons for that?

MR. KATZ: The reasons are two-fold. One, based upon the evidence which is presently available to the People, we believe that the evidence would show that Miss Atkins did not wield the death weapon, but rather is guilty of first degree murder on an aiding and abetting theory, and on a conspiracy theory to commit murder and robbery of Gary Alan Hinman.

Point number two, the fact that Miss Atkins convicted of seven counts of first degree murder, for which she has received seven death sentences -- and perhaps eight, as I understand it; there was a conspiracy to commit murder -- also indicates in the interest of justice that, in this case, Miss Atkins receive a life imprisonment sentence.

THE COURT: All right. The Court will hear the plea.

MR. KATZ: Thank you.

Miss Atkins, to the charge in Indictment Number A-267861, Count I thereof, which charges you with the crime of murder, in violation of Section 187 of the Penal Code, in that it is alleged that on or about the 27th day of July, 1969, at and in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, you, Susan Denise Atkins, did wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously and with malice aforethought murder Gary Alan Hinman, a human being, the killing being Murder in the first degree, how do you wish to plea to that charge?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Guilty.

MR. KATZ: And to Murder in the first degree?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

MR. KATZ: Also, do you consent?

MR. SHINN: Yes, your Honor.

MR. KATZ: Does the Court approve of the plea?

THE COURT: Yes, the Court will approve the plea and will order that the plea of guilty to Murder in the first degree be entered. Is the defendant ready for sentence?

MR. SHINN: Yes, your Honor.

THE COURT: Does she waive time for sentence?

MR. SHINN: She so waives, your Honor.

THE COURT: Does she waive arraignment for judgement, and is there any legal cause why sentence should not be pronounced?

MR. SHINN: No legal cause, your Honor.

THE COURT: Does she waive the - the consideration of a pre-sentence report?

MR. SHINN: Yes, your Honor.

THE COURT: You understand that you have a right to have a pre-sentence report prepared, and to have me read and consider it?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes, I do.

THE COURT: Do you give up that right?

DEFENDANT ATKINS: Yes.

THE COURT: Do you wish to say anything further, Mr. Shinn, or Mr. Katz?

MR. SHINN: Nothing.

MR. KATZ: I would just ask, through the Court, your Honor, if Mr. Shinn has any legal or statutory grounds to state at this time as to why formal judgement should not now be pronounced.

THE COURT: He has already stated that there are no legal causes why --

MR. SHINN: That's correct.

THE COURT: -- or there is no legal cause why sentence shouldn't be pronounced. Is that correct?

MR. SHINN: That's correct, your Honor.

MR. KATZ: Thank you, your Honor.

THE COURT: All right. The defendant is sentenced to the State Prison for the term prescribed by law. That is, the term of her life.

The court believes, from having read the record in this case of the Grand Jury Indictment, that she is a person who would be dangerous to any community, and the Court believes that, for the guidance of the Adult Authority, that she should spend the entire term of her life in custody.

The Court orders that the Sheriff take her into custody and deliver her to the Director or Corrections, Institution for Women, Corona, forthwith.

MR. SHINN: Thank you, your Honor.