Bid to Quiz Manson Witness Is Stymied
Tuesday, June 23rd, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Jun. 23 – Defense attorneys at Charles Manson’s murder trial persisted yesterday in attempts to talk to a young woman who may testify against the cult chieftain and his clan.
Although the move was allowed by Superior Court Judge Charles H. Older, the defense lawyers remained stymied because the jurist said they could interview Linda Kasabian only if her attorney allowed it.
The move, not the first since it has been reported Mrs. Kasabian will turn state’s evidence, was initiated by Daye Shinn, representing 21-year-old Susan Atkins.
Miss Atkins was on trial for the slayings last summer of actress Sharon Tate and six others, along with Manson 35 and Patricia Krenwinkel 22. Another defendant, Leslie Van Houten 19, is charged with two murders.
Mrs. Kasabian, a 20-year-old mother of two also was supposed to be a co-defendant in the case, but her trial was separated from the others. The sixth co-defendant, Charles Watson 24, is fighting extradition to California from Texas.
Judge Older told Shinn that he had no right to order “anyone” to speak with the defense attorneys, unless they or their attorneys consented.
Shinn said he tried to see Mrs. Kasabian last Friday, but officials at Sybil Brand Institute for Women would not allow it unless approved by her attorney, Gary Fleischman.
He complained Fleischman sent him a letter saying if Shinn tried once more to talk with Mrs. Kasabian, “he would report me to the State bar.”
Irving A. Kanarek, Manson’s lawyer, also urged Judge Older to allow defense attorneys to speak with Mrs. Kasabian. Paul J. Fitzgerald and Ira Reiner, representing Miss Krenwinkel and Miss Van Houten, did not comment.
Shinn, who claimed Fleischman’s letter to him was an “implied threat,” contended the defense could not prepare its case properly unless Mrs. Kasabian were interviewed.
“We have a right to go into her background for reason of credibility when she takes the stand,” he said.
Kanarek, meanwhile, wanted the judge to “order” the prosecution to say whether Mrs. Kasabian would testify under immunity.
Judge Older denied the request, pointing out the court had no jurisdiction in the matter.
Kanarek had claimed the prosecution was holding Mrs. Kasabian like a “sword of Damocles over our heads.”
This prompted Deputy District Attorney Aaron H. Stovitz to reply sharply. “Counsel has a big mouth. We’re not obstructing justice and we want the court to know this.”
Shinn also said Miss Atkins wanted to waive a jury trial, but the motion was declared moot by the judge after the prosecution refused to go along with it.
A non-jury trial is permissible only if the prosecution agrees. Other defense attorneys also had indicated they would oppose the non-jury trial for Miss Atkins.
Shinn told newsmen he felt Miss Atkins, whose alleged story to a cellmate resulted in Manson’s and the others’ arrests, had a “better chance” if a judge decided her fate instead of a jury.
The trial, in the jury selection stage, began last Tuesday. Jury selection was proceeding slowly, with a total of 23 prospective jurors excused yesterday. This makes 37 prospective jurors dismissed since selection begin Tuesday afternoon.
Most of those were excused because serving on the trial would constitute a hardship to them or their families. Judge Older has announced he plans to confine jurors to a hotel for the duration of the trial once a panel is selected.
Four prospective jurors have been dismissed because they were unalterably opposed to the death penalty and four because pretrial publicity has influenced their opinions about the case.
Jury selection will resume when court reconvenes at 9:45 a.m. today.
By SANDI METTETAL