Manson Switches Counsel for Novice
Thursday, March 19th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Mar. 19 – Bearded cult leader Charles Manson, the accused mastermind behind the massacre slayings of six people, today fired his attorney and substituted a bearded and longhaired novice lawyer with no courtroom experience.
In a Los Angeles courtroom session which left most observers speechless, Manson exchanged dialogue with Superior Court Judge William Keene and ended up throwing a copy of the Constitution of the United States into the wastepaper basket.
The session began with Manson smiling amicably with three of his co-defendants, Leslie Van Houten, 19, Patricia Krenwinkel, 22, and Susan Denise Atkins, 20. When the courtroom session ended 15 minutes later, Manson continued to smile at his former girl friends but attorneys representing the defendants and the state appeared dazed.
Manson’s attorney when the hearing began, Charles Hollopeter, presented three motions to Judge Keene. The first motion for a psychiatric examination was immediately granted by Judge Keene.
Dr. George Abe, head of the Metropolitan State Hospital at Norwalk, was appointed to examine Manson to ascertain his mental capacity to deliberate, premeditate and harbor malice, a prerequisite of a first-degree murder conviction.
The order was later vacated by Manson’s new attorney, Ronald Hughes. The 35-year-old lawyer admitted later to newsmen that the murder trial will “be my first case.”
A graduate of UCLA a year ago, Hughes formerly worked in the public defender’s office and became acquainted with Manson while visiting him in county jail.
When Hollopeter made a motion for severance of Manson’s case from the other four charged in the Tate-La Bianca murders, Manson spoke up:
“I’d like to change this counsel before we go any further. I disagree with all the motions. I find it hard to concede that one man can represent another. If a man is a man, he represents himself. But if I am forced to have an attorney I’d like to allow Mr. (Ira) Reiner (attorney representing the Van Houten girl) help me get my proper status back.”
Without comment Judge Keene answered, “motion denied,” but apparently became flustered and jumped from the severance motion to a motion for continuance also filed by Hollopeter.
Manson became irate again, saying “Last week you said I could change attorneys. Have you changed your mind?”
Judge Keene said the change of attorney could come only on a formal motion, at which time Manson pulled from a pile of papers a blue-jacketed typed motion which asked substituion of Hughes for Hollopeter.
Following a short recess during which Hughes was allowed time to talk with his new client, Hughes said he would “go along with a motion for continuance of the trial until April 20,” but felt he was “being forced to go along with the court.”
During a sharp exchange between Judge Keene and Hughes, Manson rose to his feet, saying, “With wisdom and knowledge of myself I am forced to accept Mr. Hughes. But here’s your Constitution.”
At that point he walked up to the bench and threw the book into the wastepaper basket, adding: “I was going to throw it at you but I thought I might hit you and I don’t want to do that.”
In another facet of the case, Manson said Wednesday it was no surprise and did not make him angry that a former “family” member is reported to have turned state’s evidence in return for immunity from prosecution.
“I didn’t really know Linda (Kasabian) too well,” he said in an interview.
“I didn’t know her well enough to tell her to go out and kill eight or 10 people — or however many it was.”
“Linda was just at the ranch about two weeks. Then she stole my car and left her baby,” He said she returned to the Spahn Ranch two months later to pick up her baby but never returned his car.
Mrs. Kasabian is reported to have offered to testify against Manson and four others involved in the murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in return for immunity from prosecution. Both her attorney and the prosecution lawyers deny the report.
“The girl (Mrs. Kasabian) has been under pressure from the district attorney’s office for the past three weeks that I know of,” Manson contends. “In fact, her attorney has convinced her that he loves her and when the case is over he will buy a boat and they’ll get her two children and sail off into the sunset.”
One or Manson’s biggest complaints is that he was never allowed to talk with Mrs. Kasabian, even when he was conducting his own defense. But channels of communications between the two, as well as between other members of the “family,” have functioned nevertheless.
“This isn’t really a surprise,” Manson said. “It’s the same thing they did to Sadie (Susan Atkins, the informant whose testimony led to the indictment of Manson and five other family members).”’
By MARY NEISWENDER