Lawyer New Hero To Defendants
Monday, August 17th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 17 – The three young women ignore Charles Manson and sit clustered in court around a slim young attorney – whispering, giggling and passing him notes.
Paul Fitzgerald gives the women defendants in the Sharon Tate murder trial hope and encouragement. He voices hopes of being able to get them off.
“Women have a vastly better chance of getting acquitted,” says Fitzgerald. “It’s a reflection of our society as a whole. Only two women have ever died in the California gas chamber.
“If the jury should decide that but for Manson these offenses might not have occurred, they might give the girls a break.”
Fitzgerald, 33, who quit his $25,000-a-year job in the public defender’s office to represent Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel, 22, says he has become caught up in the cases of all four defendants – but particularly the three women.
Charged with murder-conspiracy along with Miss Krenwinkel and Manson are Susan “Sadie” Atkins, 21, and Leslie Van Houten, 20. The state says the women killed at Manson’s command. They are charged in the Aug. 9, 1969, slayings of the beautiful actress and four visitors and the killings the next night of wealthy market owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
“The conduct of these girls is more consistent with innocence than guilt,” says Fitzgerald. “They are vibrant and exuberant. The jury will have a hard time believing that these little girls went out and committed these crimes.”
The lanky, brown-haired attorney, a native of Minneapolis, was graduated from the University of Minnesota law school in 1965. He joined the Los Angeles County Public Defender and rose to the post of assistant chief of felony trials. Assigned from the public defender’s office to represent Miss Krenwinkel, he soon resigned in a disagreement with his superiors over Miss Krenwinkel’s defense and took the case as a private attorney.