The Trials of Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Susie Atkins, Patricia Krewinkel, and Leslie Van Houten (1970-1971)
On June 15, 1970, Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krewinkel were brought forward before a judge to stand trial for the murders of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Steven Parent, Voytek Frycowski, Leno LaBianca, and Rosemary LaBianca - A total of 7 counts of murder and one count of conspiracy. Leslie Van Houten, another prominent “Family” member, was charged separately for 2 counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to murder. Linda Kasabian, another prominent member, offered herself as a witness to the prosecution, in exchange for immunity - she could not be charged for the crimes.
In the early stages of the trial, Manson was granted the privilege to act as his own defense. However, Manson acted inappropriately in court with rude outbursts, something that would continue throughout the trial. Manson was no longer permitted to act as his own counsel, and Irving Kanarek was appointed as lead defense attorney. In protest, Manson carved a swastika into his forehead.
During the trial, Kasabian was brought to the stand by Vincent Bugliosi, the lead prosecutor, and described in detail all of the murders which had taken place. Kanarek objected, saying that Kasabian was incompetent and insane; the judge overruled the objection.
President Richard Nixon declared that Manson was guilty; during testimony, Manson produced a newspaper with the headline, “MANSON GUILTY, NIXON DECLARES.” The defense moved to throw the trial by Presidential prejudice; the objection was overruled by merit of the jury swearing not to be influenced by the declaration.
Once the prosecution closed their case, the defense immediately closed theirs as well. The women of the defense protested, claiming they wanted to testify as well. The defense’s argument was that they would not incriminate Manson - they would take all the blame for the murders and leave Manson out of it. Despite the protests of Kanarek and his team, the defendants were permitted to testify; however, Kanarek refused to question Atkins. Van Houten’s attorney refused to allow her to take the stand; the next day, he did not show up for court. He was eventually found dead, rumored killed by the Family.
Charles “Tex” Watson was charged separately in August 1971, and convicted of seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy.
The jury for the main case found all defendants guilty on all counts. The jury came to the conclusion of the death sentence; however, in 1972, in the California Supreme Court case, all defendants’ sentences were commuted to life in prison.