Judge Tightens Attorney Gag in Tate Murder Case
Saturday, June 27th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Jun. 27 – The gag applied to defense and prosecution attorneys in the Tate-LaBianca murder case tightened Friday as the trial ended its second week.
As the slow process of jury selection continued, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older officially ordered all in-chambers and at-the-bench conferences kept secret and evidence introduced in open court also kept away from public scrutiny.
The order, unprecedented in the county, was immediately challenged by Dis. Atty. Evelle Younger who instructed his deputies handling the case not to participate in any sessions that are “in chambers”.
The District Attorney’s order, however, appeared to be a battle of semantics since the judge could order the “off the record” sessions held in open court – but without jury and press present, the deputies conceded.
Judge Older, in a related move, said the news media could not view evidence introduced in a hearing challenging the petit jury system. The “evidence” was a two-page handwritten series of questions by hippy leader Charles Manson which were to be asked of prospective jurors.
The questions were part of a routine challenge of the petit jury system by the hippy cult leader’s attorney, Irving Kanarek, charging that no ill-educated, nomadic types — Manson’s peers — were considered for the jury. Kanarek claimed it was “most significant” that a representative of his client’s way of life be on the panel judging his guilt or innocence.
Although Judge Older refused to allow Manson to testify at the brief hearing, Superior Court Jury Commissioner William A. Goodwin testified. Decision on the motion has been delayed by Judge Older, who also has yet to rule on several other motions — including one to dismiss the entire case because of pre-judicial publicity and another to censure Deputy Dist. Atty. Aaron Stovitz for “laying the prosecution case out In the news media.” All the motions are expected to be ruled upon in chambers and the decisions unavailable to the press.
Meanwhile, all four defense attorneys, although passing 11 members of the jury, challenged “for cause” one member of the prospective panel, Los Angeles County photographer Lawrence Reynolds who conceded he felt that “there was some doubt of the innocence” of any person arrested for a crime.
Reynolds, a California State College at Long Beach graduate, admitted after questioning that: “If I were on trial I would not want a juror sitting in my case in my frame of mind.”
He is expected to be excused from the panel after court resumes Monday.
Manson, on trial with his three girl “followers” — Leslie Van Houten, 20, Susan Atkins, 20, and Patricia Krenwinkle, 22 – continued to sit quietly taking notes and watching spectators and press representatives who crowded the courtroom. Although he had instructed his attorney to remain “mute — and offer no defense” — he made no move to stop the burly barrister when he questioned the prospective panel Friday. The attorney, however, was obviously following a “script” prepared by his client, in the questioning session.
Two other defense attorneys, Paul Fitzgerald and Ira Reiner, were threatened with “firing” by their clients if they questioned the panel. The two, however, did methodically query the prospective jurors.
By MARY NEISWENDER