Sunday, June 5, 2016

Charles Manson and Helter Skelter, Part 2

Last week’s post looked at the influence of the Beatles’ White Album on Charles Manson and his followers, known as the Family, and the Tate and La Bianca murders. Today’s post continues that story.

The police at first thought that the Tate murders were part of a soured drug deal and therefore did not link these murders, and the messages on the walls in blood, with the Hinman and La Bianca murders. Each of the Tate murders and the La Bianca murders had separate teams of detectives. Although some detectives began to notice links with the Beatles White Album, and although Manson and followers had been arrested at the Spahn ranch as suspects in an auto theft ring and released due to a misdated warrant, it wasn’t until a person who shared a dorm with Family member Susan Atkins tipped off the police that the investigation moved to the right direction. Atkins was arrested and confided her involvement to other inmates, who also passed on the information to the authorities. Eventually Manson and Family members were arrested and charged. (Manson was already in custody for vandalizing part of a national park).

Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Kasabian were all charged with seven counts of murder and one of conspiracy. Van Houten, who had only participated in the LaBianca killings, was charged with two counts of murder and one of conspiracy.

Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten

Atkins had made a deal with the prosecution whereby, in return for her testimony against her co-accused, the prosecution would not seek the death penalty against her. However, she repudiated the statements she had given and the deal fell through.

The prosecutors then cut a deal with Kasabian, who had not participated in the killings: immunity in return for testimony.

The trial began in June 1970.

Lawyer Ronald Hughes was assigned as Manson and Van Houten's attorney but decided to drop Manson in favor of defending Van Houten, who he thought could convince the jury that she was under the influence of Manson. Before he was able to deliver his closing arguments, Hughes disappeared while camping. His decomposed body was found several months later, believed to be a killing by members of the Family as retaliation for betraying Manson.

On the first day of testimony, Manson appeared in court with an X carved into his forehead. He issued a statement that he was "considered inadequate and incompetent to speak or defend [him]self" – and had "X'd [him]self from [the establishment's] world." 

Over the following weekend, the female defendants also carved crosses into their foreheads as well, as did most Family members within another day or so. They also shaved their heads.

Leslie Van Houten

Manson later carved the X into a swastika.

The trial was characterised by disruptions and deliberate attempts by Manson to derail the proceedings, including an attempted physical attack on the judge by Manson when he was denied the right to personally cross examine a witness. The sentences were automatically commuted to life in prison after Californian's Supreme Court invalidated all death sentences prior to 1972.


Charles Manson

Manson was denied parole for the 12th time on April 11, 2012. Manson did not attend the hearing where prison officials argued that Manson had a history of controlling behavior and mental health issues including schizophrenia and paranoid delusional disorder and was too great a danger to be released. It was determined that Manson would not be reconsidered for parole for another 15 years, at which time he would be 92 years old.

Charles Manson in 2014

Susan Atkins

Mugshot 1969

Susan Denise Atkins (1948 – 2009) was also known as Sadie Mae Glutz and Sexy Sadie. Atkins’ death sentence was commuted to life in prison, where she remained from 1969 until her death in 2009, exactly one week short of 40 years. She was the longest-incarcerated female inmate in the California penal system, having been denied parole 18 times. Her last word, whispered, was “Amen”.


Leslie Van Houten

Leslie Louise Van Houten (1949 - ) repeatedly dismissed defence lawyers for blaming her actions on Manson's control over her. She also confessed to a murder she had not committed in an attempt to clear Manson. Houten was sentenced to death but a year later all death penalties in the state were commuted to life imprisonment. Due to the death of her lawyer during the trial, Van Houten's convictions were thrown out on appeal, and she was granted a new trial. At this trial, her main defense was diminished responsibility from chronic use of hallucinogens having made her susceptible to Manson's influence. The jury could not agree on a verdict. At a third trial, she was convicted, and sentenced to two concurrent life sentences. 

In relation to her case, courts ruled that in deciding to deny parole, the crime committed by an inmate could outweigh any evidence of their subsequent reform. On April 14th, 2016, the California state parole board voted to free Van Houten.


Linda Kasabian

Linda Kasabian (1943 - ) was a key witness in the prosecution of Manson and members of the Family after striking an immunity deal in return for her testimony. Following the trials in which she gave evidence, she dropped out of sight and declined media interviews. She divorced her husband, continued raising her 2 children and remarried. 

In a September 2, 2009 live interview on CNN's Larry King Live, Kasabian recounted her memories of the murders at Sharon Tate's home. To help her maintain her now-quiet life, Kasabian wore a disguise provided by the program during her interview. She told King during the interview that after the trial she had been in need of, but had never obtained, "psychological counseling", and that during the previous 12 years, she had been "on a path of healing and rehabilitation." When asked about the degree of remorse she felt for her participation in the crimes, Kasabian said that she felt as though she took on all the guilt that "no one else [who was involved in the crimes] felt guilt for", apparently referring to the fact that, even during her own court testimony, the co-defendants in the case showed extreme nonchalance when faced with such gruesome murders.

Linda Kasabian 1970

Patricia Krenwinkel

Patricia Krenwinkel (1947 - ) also had her death penalty commuted. She remains in jail and, following the death of fellow Manson gang member, Susan Atkins, is now the longest-incarcerated female inmate in the California penal system. Krenwinkel has been denied parole thirteen times; her last hearing was in January 2011. The two-member parole board said after the hearing in Los Angeles that the 63-year-old Krenwinkel would not be eligible for parole again for seven years. The panel said they were swayed by the memory of the crimes, along with 80 letters which came from all over the world urging Patricia Krenwinkel's continued incarceration.

Former Manson family member and convicted murderer Patricia Krenwinkel leaves after being denied parole at a hearing at the California Institution for Women in Corona, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011.

Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme

Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme on arrest, 1975

Fromme, a member of the Family, achieved notoriety in 1975 for trying to assassinate US president Gerald Ford. She was sentenced to life imprisonment for the attempted assassination and was released on parole on August 14, 2009, after serving 34 years. She remains one of only two members of the Family who have not renounced Manson, steadfastly maintaining her allegiance to him.


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