Judge Releases Manson Girl for Testifying
Friday, July 24th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Jul. 24 – Mary Brunner, the first member of Charles Manson’s “family,” the mother of his child and an admitted murderess, walked out of Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday a free woman.
The Wisconsin University librarian, indicted for the murder of musician Gary Hinman, successfully won her freedom by claiming immunity granted her for her testimony in the case was still effective despite the fact she had changed her mind several times.
Following a two-day hearing, Judge Kathleen Parker agreed, ruling the district attorney’s filing of murder charges against her were “premature since, up to now, she has complied with the conditions of immunity.”
Miss Brunner, Judge Parker pointed out, testified before the County Grand Jury in the case against Robert Beausoleil, testified at his trial and again went before the grand jury, which indicted three more family members — including Manson himself.
At one point in the penalty hearing for Beausoleil — who was sentenced to die for the murder of Hinman — Miss Brunner recanted her testimony. She later changed her mind again and repeated her story of the torture killing of the musician at his Topanga Canyon home last July.
“Up to this point Miss Brunner has, although with reluctance, complied with the conditions of the immunity,” the woman judge ruled.
“She still has to testify in the case against Charles Manson, Susan Atkins and Bruce Davis, but that case has not been called and she has not yet been asked to testify, if she doesn’t testify when that case is called, then you have a different situation.”
Criminal attorney James E. Patterson, representing Miss Brunner, had argued the DA’s office had “gone to the table, cast their dice, but changed the rules of the game.”
“It’s far better that this woman go unpunished than the prosecution be allowed to play fast and loose with the law,” he said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Burton Katz, who had successfully prosecuted Beausoleil for Hinman’s murder, argued unsuccessfully that the girl had “done everything she could to undermine the conviction of Beausoleil and attempted to thwart justice” by recanting her testimony and then again changing her mind.
On the stand in the Beausoleil case, Miss Brunner, 26, of Eau claire, Wis., said she had aided in the killing of Hinman by holding a pillow over the dying musician’s head in order to stifle his last gasps.
Although she told newsmen she had no plans for the future, she said she would return to Wisconsin to visit her son, Michael Manson, now in the custody of her parents.
“I’m happy…excited….but I have no plans except to go to Sybil Brand (Women’s Institute) and be officially released,” Miss Brunner said.
“Family” members, however, had plans:
“We’ll take her back to the Spahn Ranch for the night, but don’t tell anyone. We don’t want to be bothered.”
By MARY NEISWENDER