Cult Leader To Handle Own Case
Thursday, December 25th, 1969
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 25 – Charles M. Manson, leader of the hippie-style nomads charged with murdering actress Sharon Tate and six others, has received permission to defend himself when he goes on trial, but he will have to do so without professional courtroom advice.
Manson, 35, smiled under his ample, but neatly trimmed, mustache Wednesday as he heard Superior Court Judge William B. Keene declare: “I find that you are competent to defend yourself.”
But Keene said Manson could have no counsel.
“You’re going to call all the shots yourself,” Judge Keene told Manson, but said he could seek legal advice outside the courtroom from anyone he wishes.
Keene had tried for an hour to talk Manson out of waiving his right to counsel, warning: “It is this court’s opinion that you are making a sad and tragic mistake.
“But you are not going to be talked out of it,” Keene said. “And I find that you have a full and complete conception of the consequences of acting as your own attorney.”
He gave Manson three weeks to study two volumes of grand jury testimony, ordered him to enter a plea Jan. 14 and granted him access to the county jail’s law library, telephone, typewriter and a runner to handle errands as he prepares his case.
The judge’s decision was decried by two lawyers who had represented Manson in previous court appearances, Lawrence Steinberg and Luke McKissack. They also are handling an appeal for Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, convicted killer of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
Steinberg told the judge he was committing a “grevious error.” Trying Manson without defense counsel, said McKissack, “will be a disaster.”
Manson said he and Joseph A. Ball, former head of the California State Bar Association appointed by Keene to advise Manson on whether he should be his own attorney, “had a nice talk.” But Manson said he disagreed with Ball’s advice to obtain counsel.
“Mr. Ball understands maybe all there is to know about the law but he doesn’t understand the generation gap. He doesn’t understand the ‘free love’ society. He doesn’t understand people who are trying to get out from under,” Manson said. “I don’t think there is anyone who can give me a defense, because I don’t have a defense left.”
“My advice is that you do not represent yourself,” Keene said.
“I respect your opinion as a person,” Manson said, speaking softly and articulating each word. “But all my life I’ve sat in front of judges and said ‘yes sir, yes sir’ and then I’ve sat in jail and said ‘yes sir, yes sir.’ I see love and sincerity in your mind but not in that robe you wear.”
Manson has a 20-year record of prison and probation for offenses including car theft, robbery, white slavery, forgery and parole violation.
Manson and four others, who police say are members of his hippie-style band, are charged with murder in the killings last August of Miss Tate and four visitors to her Bel Air mansion. They and a sixth defendant also are charged with murdering a wealthy market owner and his wife. All are charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
They were arrested after a raid on their military-style commune near Death Valley, where Manson was known to members of his “family” as “God” and “Satan.”
Manson appeared for the hearing wearing gold pants and a purple shirt open at the neck. At one point, he stroked the hair on his chest. His shoulder-length locks were parted atop his head.