• Manson and ‘Family’ — Trial Begins This Week

Manson and ‘Family’ — Trial Begins This Week

LOS ANGELES, Jul. 19 – His long, brown hair hangs to his shoulders — snarled and unkempt, hiding his face.

His beard, at times clean cropped but more often growing uninhibited by a razor, shields a youthful face.

Spectators and newsmen from throughout the world watch his every move.

Ohio tourists, in Los Angeles for only a day, forego Hollywood and Disneyland to sit in the courtroom and watch. A representative from the United Nations “drops by.” County, city and state officials try to appear blase as they stop to catch what’s going on.

They all come to see one thing.

Charles Manson.

He has mesmerized the world — as they charge he mesmerized five of his cult “followers” to kill.

He sits at the far end of a long counsel table which is covered with the books and elbows of six attorneys. his head is usually bowed, writing or listening to decisions which could mean his life.

He labors — as he admits often to judges — over his writing, mouthing the words as his pencil moves.

When he turns to look at spectator or stare at a speaker, his eyes are soft. They scowl seldom.

He has been called the most demented, cold-blooded killer the world has produced. And when his smile fades, his eyebrows arch and his eyes focus on someone with disapproval, it’s easy to believe.

But there are two faces of Charles Manson.

More often his eyes twinkle into a smile which is quick to come and quick to go. He winks, smiles, cocks his head to friends in the press and spectator section, but is stopped by two deputies sitting nearby if he attempts to stage-whisper or mouth messages to them.

The courtroom — in which Manson, his three girl friends, legal talent, jury and some 50 news media representatives will spend their next four months – is dark. The over-shined mahogany is broken by panels of beige and gold patch-working the walls.

Hanging white neon fixtures detract from the high, white ceiling. Improvised baffles shoot out from one wall in a vain attempt to stifle the noise of air conditioners.

County stores issue linoleum tile, well-burned with cigarette butts and scuffled with heels, covers the 92-seat spectator section. On a blood-red carpet, behind a polished but well-warn railing, walk the court participants.

Across this carpet Manson paddles back and forth to the judge’s chambers or to a holding tank adjacent to the courtroom. Wearing jail-issue scuffs or go-a-heads, he walks with his hands folded behind his back, resting between two stark-white patch pockets on the back of his jail fatigues.

He walks with an accomplished shuffle — one acquired after 22 years in jails and prisons. His actions are slow, deliberate, careful…and in direct contrast to the quick, chattering oft-high pitched laughter of his three girl co-defendants.

Susan Denise Atkins’ long, dark hair covers a fragile face. But there is nothing else fragile about the girl whose “statements” brought about the arrest of the other “family” members.

She bounces into court usually leading the other two girls and well ahead of the female deputies assigned to guard her. She walks and sways with the movements of a burlesque queen – a profession in which she excelled in San Francisco. She smiles and stares at various men on the jury and in the spectator section and mouths “wow” when she sees something particularly attractive.

“Her whole life is sex” one of her attorneys commented.

Her dresses – plunging necklines, tight pronounced bosom design and at times braless — complement a full figure.

She usually drops into a chair behind her attorney, swivels it around to give her an unobstructed view of the spectators. When she’s satisfied, she reaches for a large legal tablet, her head bows and she starts to work on psychedelic drawings — a pasttime she has mastered since her trial for murder began four weeks ago.

Sitting next to her, long brown hair dropping to her waist is Patricia Krenwinkel, the girl charged with wielding a knife and barbecue fork in both the Tate and La Bianca homes.

Although considered the “most deadly” of the girls, she is also considered one of the most intelligent.

Her knowledge of the Bible, attorneys admit, is what her leader, Manson, depends on.

But, if true, that’s all the dependence the cult chieftain has. His girls depend on him – hang on his every word, his smiles, his frowns.

What he does, they do. And it is usually the long-nosed 22-year-old “Katie” Krenwinkel that leads the girls. It was she who first stood in the courtroom to turn her back to the judge — just, as Manson had done a few seconds earlier.

And it was she who boldly raised her arms in a crucifixion pose, giving the others the courage they needed to follow their leader.

Slender and attractive, but with a glandular condition that causes unsightly hair to grow all over her body, the girl appears manly.

She is in direct contrast to the third girl member of the “family” charged with murder – Leslie Van Houten.

Although long-haired and prison-pale, as her two “sisters'”, the wide-eyed willowly girl shows a marked difference. Demure and appearing shy, she glances sheepishly around the courtroom but smiles broadly if she finds a friendly face.

A high school homecoming princess, A-student and church choir member, her background shows through the two counts of murder against her. She dresses modestly when not wearing family made clothes.

But, background or not, she proudly wears the often gaudy and unique fashions designed by girls still holding the remnants of the “family” together at the Spahn Ranch.

Unlike Susan Atkins she pulls down and straighten her skirt as she walks out of the courtroom. But like “Sadie” she sits almost transfixed when Manson speaks, her wide eyes glued to his face and her own expression mirroring his. If he smiles, she smiles. If he frowns, she frowns.

When first brought to court, her hair was curled and tied with two ribbons. Family members, sitting in the courtroom, mentioned to her to let her hair hang down. It has ever since.

The girls sit clustered around their attorneys, but seem to pay little attention to what’s happening in court. They all sit, heads bowed, carefully sketching psychedelic designs on legal pads.

Manson pays more attention.

He notices little things…a look of sympathy…a friendly smile…the new lock barring the usually swinging gates leading towards an outer door and freedom…a new face in the press corps…the ring of one of the more than two dozen press telephones that line the walls outside the courtroom.

Perception — awareness – he has said in the past comes through pressure.

“A coyote is more aware than a dog – a black man more aware than a white.”

His background – the discarded son of a prostitute who has spent more than half his life in jails and prisons – qualifies him.

“Your background is what you are. It’ll either make you or break you,” he has said.

But “like a diamond develops under pressure,” Manson feels he has had similar pressure and has developed.

Prosecution witnesses begin the slow trek to the witness box in Los Angeles Superior Court’s Department 104 this week.


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