It is copied here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
As part of the Jon Hopwood Recovery Project
Incarcerated since October 1969 and convicted of murder and sentenced to death the following year, Charles Manson had his original death sentence commuted to life in prison in 1972, when the California Supreme Court struck down extant death penalty laws in 1972. Since that date, the only whiff of gas Charlie has had to contend with comes from the prison chow.
Under the direction of Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins (a.k.a. "Sadie Mae Glutz") and two other female members of the troupe of "Garbage People" that Charles Manson gathered around him in the California desert, brutally murdered Hollywood movie star Sharon Tate on the night of August 9, 1969. It is one of the most infamous crimes in American history. Tate, who was eight and one-half months pregnant, was slaughtered along with three of her friends and a teenage visitor to her Cielo Drive estate in Los Angeles.
Tex and Susan's accomplices in that night of infamy were Patricia Krenwinkel (also convicted and given a death sentence) and Linda Kasabian, who turned state's witness after prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's original deal with Atkins fell apart. Kasabian claimed she was merely the lookout for the gang, and that she merely witnessed the death of Voitek Frykowski at the front door, seeing Jesus in his eyes as he died. (Like his friend Roman Polanski, Frykowski had survived living in wartime Poland under the brutal and genocidal Nazi regime, but was no match for the fury of Tex & Co.)
The following night, Tex Watson's new crew, which substituted Leslie Van Houten for Atkins & Kasabian, massacred supermarket owner Leno LaBianca and his wife. Manson broke into the LaBianca residence with Watson, and the two tied Leno up. Manson then went back to his car and ordered Krenwinkel and Van Houten to join Tex. (Van Houten originally was sentenced to death; retried and reconvicted in 1977 and sentenced to life in prison.) Manson then drove off.
Atkins and Kasabian, a relatively new recruit to the troupe, were dropped off by Charlie near the apartment of the Lebanese-American actor Saladin Nader. They were accompanied by "Family" member Steven Grogan (a.k.a. "Clem"), who eventually would be convicted of a murder allegedly masterminded by Charles Manson. (Along with Manson and Tex Watson, Grogan was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering Spahn ranch hand Donald "Shorty" Shea. In 1977, he revealed the whereabouts of Shorty's body and was paroled in 1985. He is the only member of the Manson Family to be released from prison.) Nader, most famous for having played 1960's cult icon Kahlil Gibran, the poet of "The Prophet" fame, in a 1962 movie made in Lebanon, had picked up Kasabian and another Manson doxy while they were hitchhiking.
Saladin Nader was spared when Linda Kasabian took the crew to the wrong apartment, consciously she said to the authorities. Probably still high from the previous evening's slaughter -- Sadie Mae reportedly been full of yuks when news of the Cielo Drive killings was broadcast on TV -- she evacuated her bowels in the staircase of Nader's apartment building.
Although Charles Manson never directly participated in the actual killing, and indeed, has never been shown in a court of law to have killed anyone, Los Angeles prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi had him charged as the ringleader and indicted under the concept of contingent culpability, under which he was as guilty for the murders as the perpetrators. He was also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy being a blanket charge popularized during the crackdowns on labor unions and reds. When all else fails, get 'em for conspiracy. Charlie denied having ordered the murders, and many aficionados of the career of the wayward country singer and small-time pimp think there's good reason to believe that he was framed. Whether he deserved to be framed is another question.
Tex Watson, who in a tactical sense was the true ringleader of the murders, had skipped off to Texas, and was tried separately due to the exigencies of extraditing him from Texas -- or so the L.A. Prosecutor's office said. Instead of waiting for the Lone Star State to send back this fine example of a Native Son to the sunny California, the Prosecutor's Office decided to go ahead with the trial of Atkins, Manson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten, with Linda Kasabian as their star witness, and damn the expense of having to try Tex Watson separately. For you see, if Tex Watson had been tried along with Charles Manson, Charlie's public defender Irving Kanarek might have been able to shift the blame to the Native Son, the man who actually captained both crews of murderers.
When one considers the morality of Vincent Bugliosi, consider this: When Linda Kasabian, who had skipped out from the "Family" after the LaBianca killings, surrendered in Concord, New Hampshire and was extradited back to California, her attorney tried to make a deal with Bugliosi. He turned her down. He had Susan Atkins, a.k.a. Sadie Mae Glutz in the prosecutorial fold, she having turned state's witness and testifying before the Grand Jury that handed down the murder indictments. When Atkins balked and withdrew her Grand Jury testimony, Bugliosi then went to Kasabian's lawyer and cut the deal. In his summation at the trial, Bugliosi -- who originally had wanted nothing to do with her hen he had Sadie Mae as his prize witness -- praised her.
When one reads what transpired at Cielo Drive that night, divorcing it from Vincent Bugliosi's "Helter Skelter" scenario, isn' it likely to ask oneself if what Tex Watson and the girls were really engaged in what is now called a "home invasion" style robbery? That when Jay Sebring lunged for the gun that Tex held and was shot in the armpit and drop-kicked in the face by the excitable Texan as he fell, did the crime at that point unravel into a frenzy of murder?
The "hippies" who invaded 10050 Cielo Drive were drug-addled to the point of lunacy. Tex Watson announced to the terrified denizens of Cielo Drive that he was the Devil, there to do the Devil's work. This was his own improvisation, and quite distinct from any claims that a stoned Charlie Manson might have made that he was Jesus Christ, God, or both.
A major question (if not doubt) arises from a perusal of the trial transcripts: Were the deaths of Sharon Tate, her unborn son, and her three friends actually planned, as Assistant District Attorney Bugliosi claimed, or was it a matter of Tex losing his head, like he had with Gary Hinman and then Lotsapoppa? We'll never know as by engineering Tex Watson's exclusion from the trial, Manson's lawyer Kanarek wasn't able to adequately raise the matter, though he did claim during the Manson-Atkins-Krenwinkel-Van Houten trial that the gals had been in love with Tex.
In theory, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty in a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. By keeping Tex Watson out of the trial, didn't Bugliosi engineer it so as to minimize the doubts that the defendants' attorneys could raise in the minds of the jurors?
Social Definition of Reality
Vincent Bugliosi's "Helter Skelter" theory of Manson as the original "Love Guru" preaching a racial Armageddon in the desert seems almost as far-fetched as some of the John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorists Bugliosi disses in his 1,600-page tome Reclaiming History, which was written as part of his involvement in show-business. He had originally started delving into the assassination as part of a BBC-TV special that would stage a mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man the Warren Commission claimed was the sole assassin. The book on the JFK assassination, in which Bugliosi makes the outlandish assertion that Lee Harvey Oswald was proved to be JFK's lone assassin beyond a reasonable doubt, has been acquired by Tom Hanks to be made into an HBO miniseries. Not even Arlen Specter, the author of the "magic bullet" theory would claim that.
As the great counselor-at-law Edward Bennett Williams* explained, defending the Warren Commission -- it's all a matter of legal theory, a type of legal theory that Bugliosi, in his 2007 book debunking JFK assassination conspiracy buffs, likes to engage in himself.
As Mr. Williams -- successful enough in defending Jimmy Hoffa and other assorted mafiosi to not only own a football team (the Washington Redskins) but a baseball team to boot (the 1983 World's Champion Baltimore Orioles) -- it is improbable thatLee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin, and that one bullet could be fired at a downward angle into the back of the President, traveling then upward to exit through his neck where it then entered the body of Texas Governor John Connally, sitting in front of JFK on the jump seat of the big Lincoln with the suicide doors minus its bubble top, then traveling through the torso of Dishonest John**, and then down his thigh, where it miraculously fell out on the stretcher at Parkland Hospital, still in pristine condition -- it is IMPROBABLE, but not IMPOSSIBLE.
Since this is the theory advanced, and there is no other theory that could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then it has to be accepted on legalistic grounds. For a layman, it's all a bunch of the ol' bully bull-bullshit, and one has to remember that the Warren Commission refused to investigate Jack Ruby's links to the Mob or the made-Mafia member picked up in Dealy Plaza right after the shooting, picked up while exiting the building to the rear of the limousine after it turned right and transited the plaza on its way to the highway. This has to be brought up to show that Vincent Bugliosi, the author of the "Helter Skelter" scenario, is an admirer of other legal fantasists.
But it was Bugliosi's job to slap the asses of Charles Manson and his so-called "Family" in the gas chamber, and he went about it with great gusto. It made him, as he knew it would, in terms of reputation and finances.
He offered the world his version of the "Magic Bullet" -- in this case, called "Helter Skelter" -- and without Tex Watson on trial, there was no countervailing argument to rebut it. Combined with poor counsel and Charles Manson's fatalistic acceptance of the fact he was going to be royally screwed by "The System" (which he seemed to welcome), it proved a success.
The Anglo-Saxon system of justice uses an adversarial system based on cross-examination of witnesses: It differs from the Continental legal system, in which a "preponderance" of evidence paradigm is used. In the Continental system, the evidence is weighed and considered, and a conclusion is reached. In the Anglo-Saxon system, there is the legal fiction that a person is innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases.
Hannah Arendt, in her book The Human Condition, stated flatly "Reality is socially defined," which is a reasonable proposition. In an Anglo-Saxon court, reality will not be sussed out as in a continental court, but will be socially defined. Individual and idiosyncratic interpretations of rules of evidence and cross-examination will delineate, via a series of negotiations between attorneys and the bench, a social reality. That reality may be based on the exclusion of such facts as prior criminal behavior that may prejudice a jury, or in the case of the Manson Trial, a co-defendant who may prove troublesome.
Vincent Bugliosi is not so much a perversion of the Anglo-Saxon system of justice as its perfection. That Manson, high on drugs, may have engaged in flights of fancy as concerns his own ego-inflation as well as his interpretation of Beatles lyrics is quite possible, but whether he had actually defined this as the social reality that governed the behavior of the "Manson Family" is doubtful to this writer. Charlie was a fantasist, and at trial, he was done in by one of his own kind: Vincent Bugliosi, a legal fantasist.
* Edward Bennett Williams revered Earl Warren, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who was tasked by new President Lyndon Baines Johnson with legitimating the cover-up. LBJ, on the very day of the assassination, was in the hot seat as the Senate grilled his bagman, Bobby Baker, who had ties to the Mafia. This was the very same LBJ who claimed to Earl Warren, who did not want the assignment, that if they didn't disprove that Lee Harvey Oswald, late of the USSR, was not a Soviet agent and was not a part of a conspiracy, it could mean World War III.
**John Connally later was successful defended by Edward Bennett Williams in what many perceived was an open-and-shut case for taking kickbacks from the milk industry when the man who drew JFK down to Texas had reinvented himself as the favorite Democrat of Richard M. Nixon, who was in Dallas on November 23, 1963 on business for Pepsi Cola.
Helter Skelter: It Comin' Down Fast!
Along with the breakup of The Beatles, a band beloved by Charlie Manson, the Manson Massacres were marked as the true end of the 1960s, the on-going "Summer of Love" which, in reality, as Manson told the court, was a time of brutal violence: The War in Vietnam that had claimed the lives of over 30,000 soldiers by the time of the Manson trial, race riots, a police riot in Chicago, etc. etc. Manson told the court that whatever the "children" that had flocked to him had done, it was a reflection of the society at large.
When one reads the trial transcript dispassionately, understanding that Manson was a small time career criminal who'd done way too much dope (he and Tex Watson dealt drugs), particularly too much acid. He likely had been made into a psychotic by more than half-a-lifetime in-stir, and it was probable, certain not impossible, that he was being doped by the prison authorities, as he claimed. He also was being driven to the edge of his already tenuous sanity by Bugliosi's bogus "Helter Skelter" prosecution scenario.
In the trial transcripts, one can see glimpses of an acute critic of "The System" that all "Hip people" were supposed to be on the outs with, circa 1969, until they were scared shitless by the Manson Massacres. Don't feel sorry for Charles Manson, though. He had a hand in the imprisonment and murder of small-time drug dealer Gary Hinman, a murder for which he, Atkins, Tex Watson and the others were also convicted. Manson surely was guilty of that crime under the doctrine of having participated in the crime which led to Hinman's death, the imprisonment of Hinman in his own apartment for three days, while Tex, Sadie Mae and other Family members tried to shake him down for cash, likely considered "owed" to the Manson "Family" for having dealt them bad dope.
Charles Manson is a violent psychopath, and is where he wants to be. He shot another drug dealer, Bernard "Lotsapoppa" Crowe, whom he believed he had murdered, in order to prevent retaliation over the theft of Lotsapoppa's drugs by the hotheaded and stupid Tex. If Bugliosi didn't keep Charlie Manson in hoosegow, the diminutive demon -- listed as 5'7" tall on his driver's license, but Bugs the Prosecutor claimed he was only 5'2" in his best-selling book Helter Skelter, and his line-up photo from 1969 seems to bear this out -- he likely would have caused more murder, even if not on quite the apocalyptic scale as the Manson Massacres or the "Helter Skelter" hokum dreamed up by the prosecutor for professional reasons and for profit. (This was a marquee show trial, "The Trial of the Century" a generation before the O.J. Simpson trial, which Bugliosi also cashed in on, writing a book about that miscarriage of justice.)
The Manson "Family" was back in the news in March, around the time that Susan Atkins was hospitalized, when a team of forensic experts began searching for bodies in the desert around the Spahn Ranch where Manson and the Garbage People lived. They found nothing.
According to a Web site maintained by Susan Atkins' husband, James Whitehouse (educated at Harvard Law, he is also her attorney), she is suffering from terminal brain cancer. Her request for a compassionate release in order to go home to her loved ones and die with her family was denied by the California Board of Parole on July 15, 2008. Currently, she is under treatment at a hospital in California's Inland Empire region, with two guards constantly watching over her.
Paralyzed on the right side, Susan Atkins has had her left leg amputated, and with less than 90 days to live, she hardly could be considered a threat to anyone. Even Vincent Bugliosi came out in favor of her release.
The Los Angeles Times, whose editorial board came out against Atkins' release, reported that Vincent Bugliosi had provided a declaration to the Board of Parole advocating a compassionate release for Atkins due to her health problems.
Bugliosi sent an email to Susan Atkins' attorney stating "just because Susan Atkins showed no mercy to her victims, we therefore are duty-bound to follow her inhumanity and show no mercy to her."
Buglisoi believes that, "Mercy is already built into California statutory law, because if it weren't, we would automatically give the death penalty for every murder case, which we don't. My point is, what mercy are we giving her? It's not like she has six months to live, and we're letting her go home and she's going to have fun with her family. My view is that anyone who opposes her request, other than relatives of the seven Tate-La Bianca victims . . . is either being robotic or extremely callous."
Bugliosi finished up his case for a compassionate release for Susan Atkins by stating, "The mercy being requested now is almost too minuscule to speak of because she's in bed and she's going to die."
The Joys of Jailhouse Confessions
What I believe is that Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter scenario was fabricated for the purposes of selling a Charles Manson conviction to the jury and selling Vincent Bugliosi book publishers -- and to the public, which continues to believe in The Manson Myth.
Associated Press, "Release denied for dying Manson follower"
CNN, "Prison boss opposes release of ailing ex-Manson follower"
Crime Magazine, "The Manson Myth"
International Herald-Tribune, "Four holes dug, no bodies found, but questions left unanswered about Charles Manson murders"
L.A. Weekly, "Beverly Hills Matchmaker Spills about Manson Family Member Susan Atkins"
Los Angeles Times, "No mercy for Tate murderer; Susan Atkins seeks release from prison because she is dying. But she deserves her sentence"; "Protests against Susan Atkins' release request expand"
Press Enterprise, "State Parole Board to hear Atkins' case for compassionate release"
San Francisco Chronicle, "Dying Manson follower Susan Atkins denied parole"
San Jose Mercury News, "The trouble with jailhouse informants"
University of Missouri, Kansas City Law School: "The Trial of Charles Manson "
Family Official Web Sites & Resources:
Official Sites of Charles Manson: ATWA: Air Trees Water Animals; Manson Page on Myspace; Manson Direct (Music); Manson Speaks
Official Site of Charles D. "Tex" Watson: "Abounding Love"
MySpace: Linda Kasabian's Page
MySpace: Page of Manson Family Member "Gypsy"
You Tube: "Tex Watson & Susan LaBerge Vs. Doris Tate"
You Tube: "Tex Watson's Ministry"
Wjhonson's Knols - Total Pageviews - Independent Counter