Charles Manson


Was the Alleged Architect of the "Helter Skelter" Murders Truly a Sixties Svengali or in Reality Just a Small-Time Pimp?


This article was written by Jon Hopwood
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.

Plea Bargain

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.

Brain Cancer

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."

However the Manson Massacres are so infamous, partly due to Vincent Bugliosi's deft handling of the case and the media as prosecutor -- and due to his book Helter Skelter, the best-selling true crime book in publishing history -- all of the sentenced members of the so-called "Manson Family" (a term that Charles Manson never used but that Bugliosi popularized) have repeatedly been denied parole since their death sentences were commuted. Susan Atkins-Whitehouse, who claims she is a born-again Christian and has remorse for her crimes, has regularly petitioned the California Board of Parole Hearings for release. She had been denied parole 11 times before the Board of Parole unanimously rejected her request for a compassionate release.

"No Mercy"

In that the crimes were so notorious and still are so alive in the public consciousness (a new movie about the Manson Family, The Manson Girls, is in the works), in so much as the case continues (murder has no statue of limitations), it was an uphill battle for Atkins to secure release. Of 60 requests for compassionate request adjudicated in 2007, only 10 were granted. The case still has the ability to elicit extremely strong emotions.
The Los Angeles Times, the biggest newspaper in Southern California, believes that Susan Atkins should remained incarcerated. In an editorial entitled "No Mercy," the Times editorial board recommended that the parole board deny her a compassionate release, even though it acknowledged the repentant killer is no longer a threat to society.
According to the Times, "Atkins gravely wounded our collective peace, and society has a right, even the obligation, to exact vengeance. For some criminals, including Atkins, the crime is so great that the price should be imprisonment until death."
Susan Atkins did not receive a sentence of life without parole, however. When her death sentence was vacated, she was re-sentenced to seven years-to-life, with possibility of parole. The fact is, Vincent Bugliosi did his job so well, in his attempt to get Charlie Manson into the gas chamber, that he has created a myth that persists nearly 40 years after the crime.
What opened my eyes to Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter being a bag of the old bully bull-bullish is the fact that Virginia Graham, the woman who "happened" to hear Sadie Mae's confession(s) as she "felt sorry" for her, had actually visited 10050 Cielo Drive. Graham was a career prostitute in stir for a bad check. What are the odds that a prisoner who had actually been at the death scene would find herself in the same cell as a suspect in the slayings? The L.A.P.D., the L.A. County Sheriff and the L.A. District Attorney's Office obviously knew more -- and at a much earlier time -- than Bugliosi has let on in Helter Skelter.
Virginia Graham obviously was a plant to get a jailhouse confession from Susan Atkins. The odds of her winding up in a cell with Atkins are astronomically. Of course, Vincent Bugliosi defends the Warren Commission in his next to last work, and the "magic bullet" theory that is highly improbable, but possible.

The Joys of Jailhouse Confessions

In the autumn 1969, Virginia Graham met Susan Atkins at the Sybil Brand Institute for Women. Graham, who later was one of the whores profiled in the book Tricks of the Trade : The Joys of Hooking as Told By Nine Happy Hookers, was a 36-year-old prostitute incarcerated for passing a bad check. Both Graham and Atkins served as "runners" for the prison guards, which gave them opportunity to meet each other. The fact that a runner would be a type of trusty indicates that Graham was in league with the prison authorities, and that Atkins -- hardly the type of person to be given a position of trust -- had been set-up for a "jailhouse confession." Atkins was being held on suspicion of having participated in the murder of Gary Hinman, the first death attributed to the Manson Family,
In an interview published in June 2008, Graham was of the opinion that Atkins should not be granted a compassionate release. "Absolutely not," Graham told the L.A. Weekly. "Why should she?...She murdered in cold blood a woman who was going to have a baby. I will never forget the joy and glee when she was telling me how it was done."
Atkins allegedly told Graham that she stabbed Sharon Tate to death, then tasted her blood. Graham was a key prosecution witness in the Tate-LaBianca Trial.
"She told me this thing with great glee," said Graham said. She had been put in the same cell with Atkins, who she described the woman then calling herself Sadie Mae Glutz as a "young silly ass teenager" who was remorseless.
When Graham asked Atkins why she was incarcerated, Sadie Mae said she was in the joint for murder. Within a day or two, she was confessing to the Tate murders at Cielo Drive.
"She was somewhat proud," Graham said. "She believed by killing these people that she was sending them to another world and that you really had to love them to kill them."
Along with the testimony of Linda Kasabian, whom many believe actually took part in the killings, it was the testimony of Graham that gave Vincent Bugliosi the evidence needed for a murder conviction.
Graham feels no mercy at all for Susan Atkins, 39 years after the crimes. She believes that her religious conversion is phony.
"I know she was young," Graham told L.A. Weekly, "but this born again stuff. They all find Jesus when they go to jail. I am not a cold lady...but this was so terrible. Why in the world should she be given any compassion? What goes around in life comes around. I wonder what Sharon Tate must have gone through. I have no empathy for this one at all. Hasta la vista baby."
The problem with jailhouse confessions gi ven to informants for the police is that it is easy for an informant to gather information about a criminal and the crime and fabricate a confession. Additionally, there is an incentive for the informant to do so: They will get special treatment from the authorities, perhaps, even their release. A 2006 San Jose Mercury News investigative report into the practice revealed that the use of jailhouse confessions by prosecutors in Los Angeles County once was prevalent, but the County cracked down on their use after a notorious informant blew the whistle to the press on how easy it was to fabricate one.
"'In the 1980s, jailhouse informants were routinely used in major criminal trials,'" the Mercury News report revealed, quoting Los Angeles Chief Deputy District Attorney John K. Spillane. "'But in the past five years, the office has used them in five out of more than 12,000 criminal trials.'"
Virginia Graham's testimony likely would not have been used in 2008.


Vicent Bugliosi's use of the term "robots" when attacking those non-family members who oppose a compassionate release for Susan Atkins is interesting: He accused Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten of being "robots" in his final summation to the jury during the first Tate-LaBianca trial.
"On the evening of August the eighth, 1969, when Charles Manson sent his robots out on a mission of murder," Bugliosi told the jury. Later, he called Atkins, "Not just a robot, but a bloodthirsty robot. Bloodthirsty robots. Can you believe that? Susan Atkins is tasting Sharon Tate's blood. Unbelievable."
Perhaps it all was a little too "unbelievable," the picture that Bugliosi drew for the jury.
Vincent Bugliosi's "Helter Skelter" scenario and his depiction of the Manson "Family" as victims of Charles Manson was partly motivated by his desire to reduce the culpability of star witness Linda Kasabian in the eyes of the jury. As Bugliosi admitted in his final summation, Kasabian was equally as guilty of the murders, according to California law. (She had been granted total immunity by Bugliosi after Susan Atkins, whom he called a "little bitch" during the trial after she scattered his notes as he delivered his summation to the jury, had reneged on a deal to turn state's evidence in return for a promise not to seek the death penalty against her.)
Bugliosi's robots-in-service-to-The Pied Piper scenario also smacked of Cold War fears of the Manchurian Candidate and brain-washing, which held that communistic and anti-social beliefs could be a result of indoctrination, in which the individual abdicated his/her free will. Though it seemingly would be a relic of the Cold War, the idea of being "possessed" and losing one's free will continues to be popular in America, originally among depictions of troubled women. People are not personal responsible for their acts, as they were seduced or indoctrinated by other individuals, by society at large, or by the media. This reasoning frequently is used to condone bad behavior.
Vincent Bugliosi explained away anomalies in Linda Kasabian's character by saying, for instance, that she stole $5,000 under orders from "Charlie." Despite the fact that she had known Charles Manson for a little over a month before she engaged in the murders, and a week-and-a-half, according to Manson, before she stole the money, that's all it took: 10 days in the charismatic force-field of Charles Manson's personality, and Kasabian was ready to steal for him. A month, and she was ready to kill for him, except that now that she was the state's star witness, she wasn't really ready to kill for him.
It is very far-fetched, as is most of Bugliosi's "Helter Skelter" story.
Ironically, while this "brain-washing" scenario could have been seen as making Susan Atkins and the rest of the Manson Girls less culpable in the eyes of the public, their behavior during the trial, where they seemingly WERE under Manson's control, made them pariahs. Susan Atkins and the other Manson Girls never gained the sympathy of society, partly due to the heinousness of the murders, but also because of their outrageous behavior. That their behavior might have been a result of a quickening, that is, that they molded their behavior in response to the expectations of the public and of Bugliosi, playing out the scenario defined for them, has not been seriously considered.


Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins & the Manson Girls violated the deepest taboo of society: It's desire for order. Vincent Bugliosi, by crafting the "Helter Skelter" scenario (its very name being synonymous with disorder), doomed Atkins to a life behind bars, as she is a symbol of anarchy and an individual's loss of control. In some ways, Susan Atkins can be considered a witch, to be burned at the stake, for the sins of the countless of individuals who have sinned, and then came back from the brink, guilty and relieved to have saved themselves, and willing to blame it on The Other that led them astray.
Charles Manson became the ultimate symbol of The Other, the darkness that persists in the human psyche despite thousands of years of civilization. Susan Atkins, through her behavior at the trial, showed that she was one with The Other. Linked to this ultimate symbol of The Other, the dark anarchic side of the human personality, Susan Atkins was condemned to die at the hands of the state back in 1970, and was condemned to die in the hands of the state in 2008. Was justice served? It's for our individual consciences to make that judgment.
Vincent Bugliosi said, in declaring his support for Susan Atkins, that those people not kin to the victims who opposed a compassionate release for Atkins were behaving like "robots." Since he is the person who created and promulgated the robot theory, does he have special insight into the Atkins case?
Charles Manson, Susan Atkins and the other Manson Family members did not receive sentence of life without parole, though that is what their sentences have become. When their death sentences were vacated, they were re-sentenced to seven years-to-life, with possibility of parole. The fact is, Vincent Bugliosi did his job so well, in his attempt to get Charlie Manson into the gas chamber, that he created a myth that persists nearly 40 years after the crime. He created a myth of Charles Manson as a Dr. Mabuse of Hippiedom, turning Tex Watson, Susan Atkins and the other Manson Girls into soulless robots, who killed on his command. This is the image that society cannot shake.
Was Charles Manson Framed?
Was Charles Manson framed by Vincent Bugliosi? Probably not. At least, Manson's treatment by the legal system differed only degree, not kind, from the justice dispensed to other miscreants.
Legally, to prove the guilt of Charles Manson & Co., Vincent Bugliosi wasn't required to prove a motive for killings. The Tate killings at 10050 Cielo Drive might have been a bungled home invasion-style robbery: Linda Kasabian testified that she believed that they were merely going out to break into homes, as the crew had done before. (She then contradicted herself by saying that Manson had declared the dawning of "Helter Skelter" before they went out and committed the Tate killings, buying into Bugliosi's Helter Skelter scenario. There's reason to believe that she was coached.) Or it could have been premeditated murder, as the Manson Family wanted to commit "copy cat" type murders to create a shadow of doubt to get Bobby Beausoleil off for the Gary Hinman killing.
Charles Manson was afraid of retaliation from the Black Panthers for the shooting of Lotsapoppa Crowe, whom he erroneously believed was a member of the organization. In his drug-addled state, he could have thought he was also sending an intimidating message to the Panthers, or wanted to implicate the Black Panthers in spectacular crimes, so that the L.A.P.D. would bust them.

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"

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