6 Lawyers, 4 Judges, Defendants: Manson ‘Circus’ in Court
Saturday, April 18th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Apr. 18 – The three-ring circus featuring the Manson Family previewed in Los Angeles Superior Court Friday with a cast of characters that included six attorneys, four judges and an equal amount of defendants.
When the dust cleared and the hectic session ended, the trial of hipple cult leader Charles Manson and five of his “family” had been postponed from April 20 to June 15.
But that wasn’t the only thing that happened as the case switched from courtroom to courtroom.
— Judge William Keene, who bad been expected to preside at the trial, disassociated himself from the case, ruling that a motion of prejudice filed by Manson’s current attorney, Ron Hughes, and a new attorney, David Aberson, was valid.
— Judge Adolph Alexander, appointed by Judge George Dell as the case switched to the Master Criminal Calendar courtroom, to handle the case in place of Judge Keene, was immediately challenged by attorney Daye Shinn, representing Susan Atkins. He was ruled out.
— Judge Charles H. Older was then named to handle the case.
A motion, again, to serve as his own attorney by the bearded, long haired Manson, was denied by Judge Dell. However the defendant is expected to renew the motion the day the trial is expected to open.
The firing of his attorney, Ron Hughes, by Manson was rejected by Judge Dell with the statement that Hughes entered the case “with your eyes wide open,” and Manson had no other attorney he wanted.
Although the results of the bizarre court hearing were concrete, the activities during the half-hour session seemed unbelievable in a court of law.
“Mr. Manson feels he is ready for trial and objects to a continuance,” Hughes, the attorney for the hippie leader said.
“I didn’t know I was supposed to make a motion, but I will,” Paul Fitzgerald, the attorney for Patricia Krenwinkel told the court in referring to a continuance.
Manson interjected: “I have always objected to a continuance and I still do.”
When Hughes said he would not be ready for trial April 20, Judge Dell asked the bearded attorney when he would be ready.
“1984” Manson interrupted, then added, “I would like to dismiss this man as my attorney.”
It was at this point that the usually calm judge admonished Manson that he was not serving as his own attorney, then turned to face Hughes:
“You took this case with your eyes wide open. No one forced you to take this case. You should be ready by June 15 or thereabouts.”
Then turning to Manson’s motion to serve as his own attorney, Judge Dell informed the jammed courtroom that he had “gone over” the motion for proper status.
“Mr. Manson has demonstrated conclusively that he cannot represent himself. There is a practical limit to what the court will put up with. Initially a public defender was appointed. Then an internationally-known criminal lawyer was named to talk with Mr. Manson, who proved conclusively he could not represent himself.
“Charles Hollopeter, another outstanding criminal lawyer, was appointed, but Mr. Manson decided to select still another attorney…and he picked the attorney with the least experience in Los Angeles County. He (Ron Hughes) was Mr. Manson’s selection, and Mr. Hughes came in with his eyes wide open.”
The June 15 date, which Manson again said he “objected” to, will be the final continuance, Judge Dell promised.
Meanwhile, back in Texas, Charles (Tex) Watson, the final “family” member charged in the Tate-Labianca murders, still was fighting extradition.
A hearing has been set April 22 in Austin, Tex., before the highest court in the state, the Court of Criminal Appeals, on Watson’s appeal. Decision should be delivered April 29, Deputy Dist. Atty. Aaron Stovitz said. If the appeal is denied, Watson has until May 14 to appeal, but on that date a Los Angeles police officer will be on hand to take the young Manson “family” member into custody.
He is expected to be prosecuted with the rest of the “family” members – Manson, Miss Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel – Leslie Van Houten, for the killings. The other member of the family, Linda Kasabian, is expected to be granted immunity for her testimony for the prosecution.
By MARY NEISWENDER