• Susan Atkins Pleads Innocent in Tate Deaths



Susan Atkins Pleads Innocent in Tate Deaths

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 17 – Slim, dark-eyed Susan Denise Atkins — whose testimony led to the indictment of herself and five other members of a hippie band in the Tate and LaBianca slayings — pleaded innocent Tuesday to murder charges.

She was the first member of the Charles Manson “Family” to enter a plea in the Tate-LaBianca case.

As a woman sheriff’s deputy held her by one arm, she quietly said “innocent” when Superior Judge William B. Keene asked her how she wished to plead to the charges against her.

She was indicted on seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder — charges based largely on her own testimony before a County Grand Jury which indicted her, Manson, and four other young people.

Pleading guilty now would mean a plea to guilty of first-degree murder. It is possible her attorney may wish to change the plea later, or that — because of her cooperation the prosecution might reduce the charges or at least not seek the death penalty against her.

Miss Atkins, 21, went to court in a pink velvet dress with puffed sleeves and a miniskirt which showed a pair of shapely legs. She seemed more amused than impressed by the legal procedures, smiling broadly at her attorney and briefly at her guard, Dep. Sheriff Ann Nore.

Keene set the case for trial on Feb. 9 in the courtroom where he will be presiding after the first of the year.

He said he did so after conferring on the matter with both Presiding Judge Joseph A. Wapner and Superior Judge George M. Dell, who will be Keene’s successor next year in the master calendar criminal court.

Because of the number of defendants — five are charged in the Tate case and six in the LaBianca murders — it would appear unlikely that the trial will be held that soon.

Two of the defendants, Charles D. Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel, still have not been returned to Los Angeles. They have been resisting extradition.

Watson’s Texas attorney successfully obtained a governor’s hearing, set for Jan. 5 in Austin, at which he will oppose extradition of Watson.

In Alabama, Gov. Albert Brewer has signed a warrant approving California’s request for Miss Krenwinkel’s extradition. A hearing on the extradition will be held Friday in Mobile, where she is jailed.

Three others also indicted — Manson, Linda Kasabian and Leslie Van Houton — all are scheduled to enter their pleas before Keene on Monday.

All six are members of the bizarre cult of wanderers who allegedly killed on the command of their leader. Manson, an exconvict with a long criminal record.

Miss Atkins, with approval of her court-appointed attorney, Richard Caballero, waived her right to be tried within 60 days of the return of the indictment.

It was at Caballero’s request that Judge Keene set a February trial date. He presumably will select the same date for the other defendants if, and when, they plead innocent.

Attorneys for some of the defendants may, before a trial setting, make motions for dismissal of the charges, or for separate trial dates.

Dist. Atty. Evelle J. Younger announced last week that he has instructed the two prosecutors he assigned to the case, Dep. Dist. Attys. Aaron H. Stovitz and Vincent T. Bugliosi, to seek a joint trial for all six defendants.

All but Miss Van Houten are charged with the five Tate slayings and the two LaBianca killings. Miss Van Houten is involved only in the murder charges naming the LaBiancas as victims.

At this time, only Miss Atkins and Manson have been provided lawyers by the court.

The county public defender’s office has been appointed to represent Manson, but is expected to announce next week, if the bearded defendant has not by then made other arrangements, that it cannot continue with the assignment because of a conflict of interest.

A deputy public defender is representing Robert K. Beausoleil in the slaying last July of musician Gary Hinman in his Topanga Canyon. home.

Beausoleil, like Miss Atkins, who also is charged with Hinman’s murder, reportedly is a former member of Manson’s Family.

Although many private attorneys are said to have been visiting Manson, presumably to offer their services, he reportedly has shown the most interest in three lawyers — Luke McKissack, Ronald Hughes and Lawrence Steinberg — he has been seeing regularly. It is understood they are working together.

Mrs. Kasabian and Miss Van Houten both have retained private attorneys to represent them.

Watson’s case now is being handled by William Boyd, a Texas attorney, who reportedly has been in contact with Karl Ransom, a lawyer here, to at least represent Watson in the preliminary stages.

Miss Krenwinkel has retained an Alabama lawyer, M. A. Marsal, who reportedly has been conferring about the matter with Richard Moser, who practices in Gardena.

In Santa Monica, meanwhile, Superior Judge Edward R. Brand found Shelly Joyce Nadell innocent on charges of forging a drug prescription — a charge which was pending when she shared a jail cell with Miss Atkins at Sybil Brand Institute last November.

The judge said earlier that Miss Atkins told Mrs. Nadell of taking part in the Tate murders, and Mrs. Nadell relayed the information to authorities.

When she came to trial Tuesday, her attorney submitted her case on the basis of the preliminary hearing transcript, and Judge Brand, after studying it, freed her.


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