Manson, Judge Play ’20 Questions’
Thursday, March 12th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Mar. 12 – Accused “mastermind of murder” Charles Manson Wednesday played “Twenty Questions” with a judge, blocking for a time a simple change of attorney motion by his ex-girl friend turned accuser.
Manson, stroking his beard and “playing dumb,” refused to answer Superior Court Judge William Keene’s questions on whether he would object to a substitution of attorneys. Los Angeles attorney Daye Shinn was to replace Beverly Hills lawyer Richard Caballero in the defense of Susan Denise Atkins, the member of the Manson “family” whose testimony before the county grand jury led to the indictment of Manson and five other members of his nomadic hippie tribe.
Manson sat at the counsel table with Miss Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkle, both accused of the Tate-La Bianca murders. Miss Atkins was wearing a puff-sleeved purple dress with a plunging neckline.
Attorney Shinn told Judge Keene he visited both Miss Krenwinkle and Manson in jail, but could see no conflict of interest in handling the defense of the Atkins girl.
Judge Keene attempted to get Manson’s feelings on whether there would be a conflict of interest, but the long-haired cult leader toyed with the answer.
“I think we’re all going to need as much help as we can get,” Manson said, evading the answer, “but there isn’t anyone here I don’t like.”
At one point Manson threw a pair of glasses across the counsel table, saying, “You take my glasses and I’ll take yours, and you look at the judge and you’ll see him in a different frame than I do.”
Manson, apparently talking to his court-appointed attorney, Charles Hollopeter, then took the attorney’s hand and whispered: “You’re a good man.”
Finally, after almost 20 minutes of direct questioning; Manson said: “I have no objections” to the appointment of Shinn as Miss Atkins’ attorney.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Aaron Stovitz, who remained silent during the lengthy byplay, asked for assurance that the trial will proceed on the March 30 date set.
“We want all defendants tried at the same time — we don’t want any musical chairs played,” Stovitz said.
Hollopeter then jumped to his feet, telling Judge Keene it was “entirely possible for Manson’s case to be severed,” and “I want the district attorney on notice that I’m not standing by silently to let him run the case.”
Public defender Paul Fitzgerald, handling the case for Miss Krenwinkle, concurred.
Manson, dressed in a long-sleeved, flowing white blouse, appeared solemn during the hearing but smiled as he nodded to several of his “family” members in the spectators’ section.
As the hearing concluded, Manson turned to Judge Keene and said: “May I object, your Honor.”
As he walked from the courtroom past the judge’s bench, he muttered: “I’ve got 300 gallons of gas buried in the desert.”
Following the court session, Manson’s attorney admitted that it would be “difficult” to handle Manson’s case but said he would try.
“He’s mad at the world, and I guess I’m part of it,” Hollopeter said.
By MARY NEISWENDER