Fitzgerald Heads Defense In Tate Case
Wednesday, November 18th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 18 – The defense in the Sharon Tate murder trial is planned as a joint effort — an “umbrella defense” — but the four attorneys agree that they often disagree.
“At this moment in time, we are in agreement,” says one. “But I can’t tell you what will happen tomorrow.”
The agreement, as the defense case opens Thursday after a two-day recess, is to let one attorney — Paul Fitzgerald — take the helm, calling and questioning witnesses who will testify for all four defendants. Other attorneys will move in for witnesses whose testimony relates specially to their individual clients.
The four represent Charles Manson, leader of the hippietype clan, and three women followers charged with murder-conspiracy in the slayings of Miss Tate and six others. The trial entered its 23rd week Monday with the state resting its case.
Arguments for dismissal of charges are set, for Thursday followed by opening of the defense case. The defense plans to call about 40 witnesses.
Squabbles during the trial have erupted around the unpredictable Manson and his unpredictable attorney, Irving Kanarek. Frequently, Manson has arisen and asked the court to fire Kanarek and let him be his own attorney. The requests — including one Monday backed by two other defense attorneys — were turned down.
Other attorneys have complained about Kanarek’s tactics and at one point accused him of trying to “dump” the girl defendants by eliciting testimony helpful to Manson but harmful to the others. At various times each attorney has moved to sever his client’s case from one or more of the others.
“There are still disputes among us,” a team member said Tuesday. “It’s only natural in a joint trial.” But he added that the team still aims for “an umbrella defense in which all defendants stick together. As the defense case opens this is the lineup:
— Paul Fitzgerald, 33, former public defender who quit his $25,000-a-year job to represent Patricia Krenwinkel, 22. The tall, curly haired Fitzgerald has dominated the defense team from the start, acting as public spokesman and presenting major motions and legal arguments.
Articulate and intense, the boyish-looking attorney is an obvious favorite of the four defendants. The three girls cluster around him at the counsel table and Manson often whispers in his ear. Fitzgerald argued in Manson’s behalf Monday when the clan leader said he wanted to represent himself.
The defense team lets Fitzgerald do most of the steering because of his experience in crimnal trials. A 1964 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Fitzgerald represented 400 persons on felony charges and 21 persons on murder charges, while public defender. Only one murder defendant got the death penalty;
“I’m sort of an optimistic pessimist,” he says. “I know the odds are about 750 to one against acquittal for these defendants. But I still think we have a chance.”
— Irving Kanarek, 52, a one time chemical engineer who switched to law 13 years ago and took Manson’s case after five other attorneys quit or were fired.
An enraged district attorney tried to have him ousted from the case, saying Manson hired Kanarek because he wanted the worst attorney in town.”
Kanarek fired back, “I’m the worst attorney for the prosecution. The district attorney’s office is actually scared of me.”
The squat, frizzy-haired Kanarek, a native of Seattle, doesn’t deny his reputation for longwinded cross-examination. “It isn’t whether something is long or short,” he says, “it’s a matter of getting the job done.”
— Ronald Hughes, 35, a novice lawyer whose first case is the defense of Leslie Van Houten, 20. Hughes, a burly 250-pounder with a beard and a halo of long blond hair falling from a balding pate, has been called the ‘hippie lawyer” of the team.
His role has been cross-examining former Manson followers on aspects of hippie life and the drug culture. Hughes admits, to having experimented with hallucinogenic drugs in the past.
He says he is a pauper, has no office, and operates out of his home — a two-car garage where he sleeps on a mattress on the floor.
— Daye Shinn, 52, a specialist in immigration law representing Susan Atkins, 22.
Shinn, six times married and of Korean descent, has been the nearly silent partner of the defense. His cross-examinations were brief, and he rarely interposed objections.
Shinn hasn’t denied that he will he the only defense attorney to profit from the case. Miss Atkins’ purported confession to the crimes was published in book form, and Shinn is said to have received $18,000 from the royalties.