Monday, February 20, 2017

Manson Family Connections to San Luis Obispo (CA) County

My bucolic home county of 13 years, San Luis Obispo, CA, is, strangely, an area of much Manson related activity.  The city of SLO (population 45,000) and SLO County (population 276,000) is located just about half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, about a 3 ½ drive to either city.  It’s an area of gently rolling hills, beautiful beaches, and wineries.

The Manson connections are numerous.  Taking them somewhat chronologically:

While on his way to SF, Beausoleil was arrested on 8/6/69.  He was driving Gary Hinman’s car, and the murder weapon was contained in the car.  Not too bright, our Bobby.  He was parked, probably napping, on the northbound side of the 101 freeway, about 100 yards from the “Cuesta Motel.”  Finding the exact location of the arrest has been challenging, because the Cuesta Motel is no longer extant.  The Chamber of Commerce has been able to provide me with the former location of the motel.  It’s now a real estate office, about half way up the Cuesta Grade, the hill that separates SLO from its north county bedroom communities of Atascadero, Paso Robles, etc. There is indeed a turnout about 100 yards south of the former motel.

The former Cuesta Motel

After his arrest, Beausoleil was taken to the SLO County Jail.  The location is the same now as it was then.  The building has been remodeled in the intervening years (no surprise), but I’m told that it looks nearly identical from the outside.

SLO County Jail today

When he was finally extradited to California, Watson refused to eat or communicate much, and they took him to ASH (one mile from my house) for observation and to force feed him.  ASH is a maximum-security facility that houses mentally ill criminals.  Security is at the highest level.  No one escapes, though staff members and inmates are injured with some regularity.  Notable inmates include Edward Allaway, who killed a bunch of people in the library at Cal State Fullerton in the 70s (while I was in the building), and Jim Gordon.  Gordon was a session drummer in L.A. and famously was the drummer in Derek and the Dominos, Eric Clapton’s band that recorded “Layla.”  He played both drums and piano on that track.  He was also on Joe Cocker’s famous Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, played on Pet Sounds, and many more records.  In 1983, after hearing voices, attacked his mother with a hammer and a butcher knife, killing her.  People around town see Clapton every now and then, and the rumor is that he is here to visit Gordon.  In 2012, it was reported that Manson’s attorney, DeJon R. Lewis, wants Manson moved to ASH, because he needs treatment, not punishment.

Atascadero State Hospital

Beausoleil, Watson, and Bruce Davis spent varying lengths of time at this all-male facility.  Davis is still there.  Located on Hwy 1 between Cal Poly University and Cuesta College (where I teach), the prison opened in 1954.  Maximum capacity is 3800, but it presently houses 5100 inmates (all of California’s prisons are overcrowded.)  Security level is presently listed as “minimum to medium.”  Beausoleil was there for a time in the ‘90s.  Watson arrived in the 70s.  They moved him in ’93.  As I understand it, all three Manonites were working together in the chapel, and this was seen as a no-no, so they moved BB and CW, leaving Davis there.  Watson was married there and had his conjugal visits there.  BB’s wife lived near the prison while he was there.  Other well-known past inmates of CMC include Timothy Leary (who escaped), Charles Keating of banking scandal fame, Ike Turner for drug offenses, “Hollywood” Henderson, and the Black Panther Huey Newton.  Jim Gordon (see above) was at CMC for a time, until they figured out that he is insane and he was then sent to ASH.    Personal stories:  One of my retired colleagues took the Cuesta Jazz Ensemble to CMC in the 80s.  On arrival, my colleague was met by a prison representative, who introduced him to his “inmate escort” who would stay with the band, answer questions, etc.  The inmate offered his hand and said, “Hello, I’m Charles Watson.”  My colleague reports that a huge chill when down his spine, and he’s sure that both of the other men had to notice his reaction.  A few years ago, I had a CMC guard in a night class that I taught.  Of course, near the end of the semester, I asked her about Davis.  She said that she can’t say much about inmates (for obvious reasons), but she said that she could tell me that “Bruce is just a nice little old guy, a deep thinker, fun to talk to one-on-one but quiet in groups, good to everyone he encounters.”

California Men's Colony today

Doris Tate at CMC for a Watson parole hearing.  photo:  SLO Tribune

Watson parole hearing at CMC   photo: SLO Tribune

Watson preaching at the CMC chapel.  photo:  SLO Tribune

If any of you find yourself in our little corner of the world, please do make contact through this blog's administrators, and I’ll be happy to show you around.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Is Linda Kasabian’s Account of the Second Night Credible?

A 1969 Chevron/Standard road map of greater Los Angeles. Spahn’s Ranch was just off the map, slightly northwest of the intersection of Topanga Canyon Blvd. and Devonshire Street at the upper center/left-hand side of the map. 

One of the most horrifying aspects of the Tate-LaBianca case is the randomness of the murders. These murders were not committed because of personal animosity or for any hope of material gain from the victims. They were committed simply out of the need for them to be committed in order to establish a copy-cat pattern that would cause the police to believe that Bobby Beausoleil had not committed the earlier murder of Gary Hinman and thereby release him from jail. The identities of the victims were irrelevant to their fates. 

The randomness and scope of the atrociousness of the Tate-LaBianca murders have been reinforced by claims of a city-wide "murder search" that allegedly occurred on the night of August 9 before and after Manson et al. arrived at 3301 Waverly Drive. The importance of establishing the bona fides of this supposed random search for murder victims was important to the prosecution, for, as Vincent Bugliosi later said of the search in his bestselling book Helter Skelter, "Thus far [before the group's arrival at the LaBianca residence], their wanderings appeared totally at random, Manson seemingly having no particular victims in mind. As I’d later argue to the jury, up to this time no one in the vast, sprawling metropolis of seven million people, whether in a home, a church, or even a car, was safe from Manson’s insatiable lust for death, blood, and murder.” (Helter Skelter, page 357) 

Since Charles Manson's "insatiable lust for death, blood, and murder" is what this case is all about, it is worth questioning the validity of the story of this city-wide search for random murder victims.

The earliest public account of what happened on the night of August 9-10 that gave any inkling of  nefarious doings beyond the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca was given by Susan Atkins during her testimony to the Los Angeles County grand jury on December 5, 1969, just days after news of the arrests in the case broke.  In that testimony Atkins recalled stopping in Pasadena at a house with pictures of children on the walls inside, a house that Manson supposedly vetoed as murder target because he didn't want to harm children. But Atkins mentioned nothing else (including the post-Waverley trip to Venice after stopping to get gas and ditch Rosemary LaBianca's wallet in the restroom of the Standard Station at Sylmar. She said she fell asleep and woke up back at the ranch. She also remembered that Charles Manson had a gun when he left the car at Waverly Drive and that he returned to the car and told everybody that he had the LaBiancas tied up inside the house. This alleged gun has never been accounted for before or since the evening of August 9, and Charles "Tex" Watson claims in his book Will You Die For Me? that he tied up the LaBiancas.).

A second and much more extensive account of the murder search came from star prosecution witness Linda Kasabian, beginning with the trips she made around Los Angeles with Bugliosi and other law enforcement officials in March of 1970 when the district attorney's office was preparing her to be a witness at the trial. 

Linda Kasabian in a car

On a March 15, 1970 trip around L.A. with Bugliosi and other investigators she told of the following alleged murder attempts. (All in all she was taken out three times to try to find murder attempt locales. This was in March 1970, a full three months after the publication of Susan Atkins' grand jury testimony with its mention of the murder attempt with the kid pics.) In addition to the house with the pictures of children Kasabian also remembered one house that was considered for murder but rejected because it was too close to neighboring houses; a church where Manson supposedly tried the back door in an effort to gain entry and kill the presumed priest or minister inside. (This plan was scuttled only because the church door was locked.); a couple getting out of their car (an idea also abandoned due to the proximity of potential witnesses); and an individual in a white sports car at at stop light on Sunset Boulevard (spared only because he sped away when the light turned green before Manson could get over to his car and shoot him).  

Susan Atkins, as we have seen, only recalled the incident at the house with pictures of children on the walls in her grand jury testimony. In her 1977 memoir Child Of Satan, Child Of God, after perhaps having time for her memory to have returned -- or to have become familiar with the "official" account of August 9 as recited by Linda Kasabian into the court record, the record that law enforcement accepts as being "true" -- she remembered the church, the house with pictures of children, and said that Manson asked Kasabian about an actor in Venice as a possible victim and that they then went to Venice in a futile attempt to murder him.

In her final testament, The Myth Of Helter Skelter, Atkins vaguely alludes to the attempt to kill the actor in Venice but mentions no other murder attempts. 

In Will You Die For Me? Charles "Tex" Watson not only remembered the stop at the house with the pictures of children, he also remembered going up the house and peering into the window with Manson and seeing the pictures himself. He remembered the house too close to the neighbors, the church, the couple getting out of their car, the incident on Sunset Boulevard with the sports car, and then the group's arrival at Waverly Drive. (Interestingly, Watson's memory coincides almost precisely with Kasabian's testimony at his murder trial, where she recounted the house with the pictures of children, the couple by their car, the "too close" house and the church -- but not the incident with the white sports car.)

Steve Grogan is not talking and has never, to my knowledge, given any account of his or the others’ activities on the night of August 9-10. I would say the same for Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. (If any reader could direct me to any material to the contrary I would appreciate it very much!)

I once asked Manson about the city-wide search for murder victims before and after the group arrived at Waverly Drive. He declined to go into any detail but contended that he didn’t think there was enough time to have done all the driving that was alleged to have happened. Kasabian says that the group left Spahn's Ranch after dinner on the 9th. Earlier examinations of "the Family's" eating schedule have concluded that they usually ate "after dark." It has been previously established on this site that on August 9 it got dark just before 9:30 p.m. Kasabian later estimated that the group arrived at the LaBianca residence just after 2:00 a.m., jibing with the testimony of the newspaper vendor who sold the the doomed couple a newspaper shortly before that time. If the carload of people left Spahn's Ranch in Chatsworth at 9:30 p.m. and drove to Pasadena, around Pasadena, and then far enough west to then be heading back up Sunset Boulevard from the ocean (Helter Skelter, page 357), could it have arrived at Waverly Drive at just after 2:00 a.m.? Probably, and especially so since Kasabian's estimated time of arrival is just that -- an estimate. The car could have easily arrived later than two. 

Still, what really happened during all of that driving? Aside from Kasabian's trial testimony (and other reminiscences that are possibly based on that testimony) there is no accounting. But if we examine Kasabian's version of events it quickly becomes apparent that there is absolutely no corroborating evidence to support the conclusion that the "murder search" ever even happened. 

In an effort to corroborate Kasabian's account Bugliosi had her try to locate the places where the alleged murder attempts occurred. The results of her efforts are telling. According to Bugliosi she could find all of the locations except one. But did she really?

She said she found the house that was supposedly too close to other houses to commit a mass murder. But realistically she could have pointed out any house that matched her vague description. So her "identification" of that house proves nothing.  

Ditto for the church. 

She couldn't find the house with pictures of children on the wall. This is especially interesting and convenient, for if she had pointed out such a house it would have been a simple matter for a competent defense attorney or investigator to question the residents of the house and determine whether such pictures were ever visible. Unfortunately, she could not locate this house, and thus no one would ever be able to determine whether pictures of children had hung on the walls or not to either prove or disprove her allegation.

As for the incident with the sports car, I don't know whether Kasabian ever pinpointed the exact location on Sunset Boulevard where this is supposed to have occurred, but one wonders why Manson, who allegedly nixed an earlier murder scenario at a house because it was too close to the neighbors, would suddenly decide to stop the car and get out to fire an extremely loud .45 caliber pistol (this according to Charles Watson's description of the weapon) at an intersection on Sunset Boulevard on a Saturday night.

The same goes for the couple getting out of their car. This supposedly occurred just down the street from where the house with the pictures of children was -- another location that Kasabian couldn't find. Were the couple supposed to be murdered right in the street in front of any number of potential witnesses, or were they to be followed to an unknown location (which could have been a residence full of other people) to be dispatched?

Regarding the encounter with the resident of the Venice apartment one floor below that of intended murder victim Saladin Nadar, police investigators were never able to locate anyone in this precisely placed location who had been awakened early in the morning of August 10 by an attractive young blonde who said, "Sorry, I have the wrong apartment." Now I'll grant that if you wake me up at three in the morning for thirty seconds it's very likely that I won't later remember anything that happened. But one could wonder exactly how much of a chore it would have been for someone in the apartment to be awakened and get to the door. Was there a doorbell? Did Linda knock loudly and persistently? How far was the apartment's bedroom from its front door? How much ruckus would have accompanied the brief "Sorry, wrong apartment" encounter at the doorway? 

Most puzzling, perhaps, is an alleged encounter described by Kasabian between her and Manson with the two law enforcement officers on the beach in Venice. Despite the fact that it should have been relatively easy to determine which pair of officers was on duty in that area at the time, none could be found to corroborate the encounter. Is this believable? Police officers are especially trained to be observant and recall everything that happens while they are on duty. Is it likely that not one but two police officers would fail to remember questioning a suspicious couple at three-thirty or so during a graveyard shift, especially on such a memorable night as the one after the slaughter on Cielo Drive? To me this is highly unlikely. 

Aside from the grand jury testimony of Susan Atkins, given at a time when she was providing other spectacular and attention getting (but since denied) lurid murder details such as drinking Sharon Tate's blood and personally stabbing Tate to death, the only corroboration of Linda Kasabian's testimonial claims of a city-wide "murder search" comes from…. Linda Kasabian herself. (And from a legal point of view it's worth noting that normally testimony from a crime partner against their accomplices in a crime is not admissible without corroboration -- but this inconvenience was eliminated here by having Kasabian granted immunity and removed from the indictment before the trial started, thus eliminating her "accomplice" status and allowing her uncorroborated testimony against her fellow participants in the night of August 9 to be admissible into the trial record as "evidence.")

 So, what is the answer to the answer to the question, is Linda Kasabian’s account of the second night credible? Well, I would have to admit that it’s credible if one is determined to believe that what Kasabian says is the truth. On the other hand, if a person takes into account the total lack of corroboration, Kasabian’s character, and the fact that she had been promised immunity for seven counts of first degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder for her “truthful testimony” at the Manson/Girls trial and all future M-related trials, then it wouldn’t be at all unreasonable to suspect that the account could be largely exaggerated or even totally false.

The "murder search" route?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Disabled vet needs flood relief

Most of you know this guy as Doc Sierra. Please donate Generously.

Hi everyone. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this.

I'm a 54 year old disabled veteran. I served as a Navy Corpsman and served with the 3RD MAW FMF PAC. I got banged up pretty good and now I'm unable to work. The VA gives me a good pension and medial care that is 2nd to none.

My home has flooded for the 3rd time in less than a month and I need to find a new place to live. My pension doesn't leave much by the end of every month and my savings are nothing to boast about.

I've always been proud of my ability to adapt and make things happen but due to health issues that's not an option anymore.

My pride has, for most of my life, kept me from asking for or borrowing money. Now I have to swallow my pride and ask.

Between 1st and last month, security deposit, moving conpany and paying new deposits for utilities I am estimating about $7,000. I have no family to help and I've helped plenty of people in my lifetime. I'm hoping that Karma wins out and I can get help as soon as possible. Thanks again for taking your time to read this.

Help spread the word!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

So-Called Journalist Elias Spreads Fake News

So one of the most faithful followers of the TLB case, CieloDrive, tweeted today a link to a new opinion piece in THE UNION.   In it he whines like a mope about all the parole hearings the killers keep coming up for, oblivious to the fact that they are simply availing themselves of the law.   If he doesn't like the law he should fight to change it.  That would be work though, and not get him attention.  As disinherited daughter Debra Tate can tell you, the cameras only pay attention to you when you whine not when you try to get laws changed.  Not glamorous enough.  (like her nude teen photo sold last week on ebay)

Here is a link to the screed by admittedly pre-senile dementia afflicted writer Thomas Elias.

As true scholars thirsting for TLB knowledge you will see lots of obvious errors that 3 minutes with google would show you.  Or a 12 year old editor.

So The Col wrote to Thomas.

Not sure Shea bought Clem clothes.

It was "Healter Skelter" on the refrigerator not a wall. The misspelling is actually extremely important since it helped convict her. 

And for godsakes man spell her name right-Krenwinkel. 

For all that outrage a Google search would've taken you five minutes.

I mean I was just being helpful.  Sure I was curt but I was doing his fucking job was I not?  His reply was a stunner!

Sorry, but I saw it on a wall. And was there. Apologies if there was a misspelling. Can you tell me where you saw the column?
tom elias

It took me several emails to conclude he seems to think he was in the LaBianca house.  Maybe he was.  But he is so determined to stick with his bullshit I doubt his name is Elias.  So I wrote.

I assume you are joking.  Transcripts confirm fridge.  And a photo from Bug's novel shows fridge. 

And it's not if there was a misspelling there was a misspelling. As an assumed journalist one would think you would appreciate the errors pointed out.

Noted Blogger/site tweeted the article. 

You would think he would stop there.  He's been struck down twice with pesky facts.  But no.

I already apologized for any misspelling, which might be just a simple transposition of letters. But I will go with my memory on the scrawls on the wall.  Wonder where that website got my column, as I have not yet seen it in any of my client newspapers...

A simple transposition of letters?   You mean ranting about someone and not spelling her fucking name right?  And you will note he apologized by saying IF he misspelled.  Like he might not have. "I will go with my memory" was just incredible to cannot help stupid I guess. 

I wrote back-

Great reporting.  You stick to your memory.  Very Trumpian. 

It said "Death to Pigs" on the wall.

It said "Healter Skelter" on fridge.

If you are going to get paid to write something about this vile killer who will never be released being riddled with errors is bad enough. Doubling down is shameful. 

Yet, when someone confronts this amazing asshat with actual facts he STILL responds with the "neener neener I was there so what are you?" response.

 I was there, and I wrote about it at the time. Were you?

As a logical scholar, seeking the truth (not trying to establish Manson Brand Martial Arts Schools ala Tom O'Neill) you can seem my jaw hit the ground.  Surely this asshat will hit Google and see that he is mistaken. Or maybe he is ill.  I reply-

So then shall we attribute your errors to early onset dementia?

He replies

You can attribute the typos to being that. The other is no error. 

So I send him a picture of the fucking fridge.  And silence. Because that is how asshats roll.

Of course a second read of his bizarre rant revealed even more errors...Death to Pigs in Gibby's blood?   Ummm no.....

I looked at this guy's profile pic (posted above) and saw the liver erosion in his face and the sad reliance on lies and I realized who I was reminded of-

  People like this make things harder for scholars/  Like the Bug they spread lies and then double down on them.  Caveat Emptor.

Monday, February 6, 2017

So Manson Didn’t Kill Anyone.

Charles Manson was convicted of seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit
murder. Manson didn't kill anyone on August 9th or August 10th and was never near the murder scene on August 9th. It is probable Manson relied on these facts when he orchestrated the murders, assuming he could not be convicted of a crime he did not actually commit. Legally, however, Manson didn’t need to kill anyone to go be convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder and if convicted of either he was going to end up exactly where he is today.

A Little Background

A trial involves two components: the facts and the law. The jury (if there is a jury) is the fact finder. The jury decides the facts of the case. The judge tells the jury how to apply those facts to the law. In order to be convicted of a crime the DA must present facts to the jury which prove each element of the crimes brought against the defendant. The proof must reach the level of being beyond a reasonable doubt or to a 'moral certainty'. The jury decides whether the DA was successful. 

At the end of the trial after both sides have finished what is typically called closing argument or summation the judge ‘instructs’ the jury on the law applicable to the crime: he tells the jury what the DA needed to prove. This process is known as instructing the jury or charging the jury and occurs through what are known as jury instructions. The jury then retires and deliberates applying the facts (evidence) to the instructions (law) to determine guilt or innocence.

The jury doesn’t return from deliberating and say ‘why’ they reached their conclusion. They simply state their conclusion. So, for example, if, as in this case, the jury is instructed on both first degree murder and felony murder the jury does not tell the court which crime they believe the defendant committed. They simply say guilty. 

The jury in the Tate-LaBianca trial was given several avenues by which to convict Manson of murder and Manson may have been convicted under any of them. We will never know. In fact, Manson didn't even need to be convicted of murder to end up in prison for the rest of his life (or on death row).

The Jury Instructions

What follows are several of the actual instructions read to the jury by the court. My thanks to Cielodrive for providing this. The instructions are in quotes. The rest are my comments.

Circumstantial Evidence

A lot has been made of Bugliosi’s use of ‘circumstantial’ evidence. This is what the law says on the subject as recited to the jury.

“Circumstantial evidence means evidence that proves a fact from which an inference of the existence of another fact may be drawn.

An inference is a deduction of fact that may logically and reasonably be drawn from another fact or group of facts established by the evidence.

It is not necessary that facts be proved by direct evidence. They may be proved also by circumstantial evidence or by a combination of direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Both direct evidence and circumstantial evidence are acceptable as a means of proof. Neither is entitled to any greater weight than the other.”

The argument Manson was only convicted on circumstantial evidence and thus should not have been convicted is not well taken. Direct evidence is not necessary. 


Here is what the law said on the subject of motive in 1971.

“Motive is not an element of the crime charged and need not be shown. However, you may consider motive or lack of motive as a circumstance in this case. Presence of motive may tend to establish guilt.

Absence of motive may tend to establish innocence. You will therefore give its presence or
absence, as the case may be, the weight to which you, find it to be entitled.”

The instruction explains why Bugliosi wanted to establish a motive. Remember, the motive could have been any of the motives discussed on this site. It need not have been Helter Skelter (HS) for the same instruction to be read to the jury.

Bugliosi in his book points out that he didn't need to prove motive. He also spends his time focusing on HS as a motive. However, he's being a little bit dishonest when he discusses the importance of HS. HS served a more important role in Bugliosi's case then simply being the motive. HS, in essence, is the conspiracy and without HS it is highly unlikely he could have proven a conspiracy to commit murder. 


This was the instruction given on the murder charges.

“Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, with malice aforethought.

"Malice" may be either express or implied.

Malice is express when there is manifested an intention unlawfully to kill a, human being.

Malice is implied when the killing 'results from an act involving a high degree of probability that it will result in death, which act is done 'for a base, antisocial purpose and with a wanton disregard for human life or when the killing' is a direct causal result of the perpetration or the attempt to perpetrate a felony inherently dangerous to human life.”


"Aforethought” does not imply deliberation or the lapse of considerable time. It only means that the required mental state must precede rather than follow the act."


All murder which is perpetrated by any kind of willful, deliberate and premeditated killing with malice aforethought is murder in the first degree. The word "deliberate" means formed or arrived at or determined upon as a result of careful thought weighing of considerations for and against the proposed action. The word "premeditated" means considered beforehand."

At first glance it would appear to be rather difficult to convict Manson of murder under this instruction if he didn’t actually kill anyone. How can he be guilty if he didn’t ‘kill a human being’?

Aiding and Abetting Murder

Here is the first way Manson could be found guilty of murder and actually kill no one.

“All persons concerned in the commission of a crime who either directly and actively commit the act constituting the offense or who knowingly and with criminal intent aid and abet in its commission or, whether present or not, who advise and encourage its commission, are regarded by the law as principals in the crime thus committed and are equally guilty thereof.

A person aids and abets the commission of a crime if he knowingly and with criminal intent aids, promotes, encourages or instigates, by act or advice, or by act and advice, the commission of such crime.”

From this instruction you can see why Bugliosi wanted Manson’s statements in evidence such as ‘now is the time for Helter Skelter’ or ‘go with Tex and do what he says’ or ‘get a knife and a change of cloths’ and even his statement to ‘leave something witchy’.  The instruction also reveals the significance of Manson driving the car, entering the LaBianca house and tying the couple up with a leather thong. All of this aids, promotes, encourages or instigates the commission of a crime.

Felony Murder

Bugliosi also had the court instruct the jury on felony murder.

“The unlawful killing of, a human being, whether intentional, unintentional or accidental, which occurs as the result of the commission or attempt to commit the crime of burglary or robbery, and where there was in the mind of the perpetrator the specific intent to commit such crime or crimes, is murder of the first degree.

The specific intent to commit burglary or robbery and the commission or attempt to. Commit such crime or crimes must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“If a human being is killed by any one of several persons engaged in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate the crime of burglary or robbery, all persons who either directly and actively commit the act constituting such crime or who knowingly and with criminal intent aid and abet it its commission, or, whether present or not, who advise and encourage its commission, are guilty of murder of the first degree, whether the killing is intentional unintentional, or accidental.”

This is the second way Manson could have been found guilty without killing anyone. The defense objected to this instruction and on appeal argued it was not proper because Bugliosi had ‘relied’ on HS during the trial. The appellate court disagreed. Instead that court said "whether Watson harbored the requisite animus furandi [intent to commit robbery] prior to entering was a question of fact for the jury." and noted "[t]he trier of fact is not limited by any hierarchy of theories selected by the prosecution". 

I quote the appellate court  to show how an appellate court reviews a jury verdict: they give complete deference to what the jury ‘might’ have found and don't speculate about what they did find. Note also that the jury could choose any theory in arriving at guilt or innocence, not just those offered by the prosecution. 

What we learn from this is that the courts are not going to guess how the jury got to their verdict. The felony-murder instruction would have allowed the jury to find Manson guilty of first degree murder even if the murders were all accidental. Again, Manson didn’t have to kill anyone. 

Manson climbing in the car the second night and driving at least part of the way (or directing the driver) or entering the LaBianca house or tying them up with the thong are all sufficient acts to convict Manson of felony murder. In fact, any one of these acts is sufficient just like the driver of the getaway car who never enters the liquor store where his accomplice shoots the clerk. 

Conspiracy to Commit Murder

Here are the instructions.

“A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit any crime, and with the specific, intent to commit such crime, followed by an overt act committed in this state by one or more of the patties for the purpose of accomplishing the object of the agreement
Conspiracy is a crime.

In order to find a defendant guilty of conspiracy in addition to proof of the unlawful agreement, there must be proof of the commission of at least one of the overt acts alleged in the indictments. It is not necessary to the guilt of any particular defendant that he himself committed the overt act, if he was one of the conspirators when such an act was committed.

The term "overt act” means any step taken or act committed by one or more of the conspirators which goes beyond mere planning or agreement to commit a public offense and which step or act is done in furtherance of the accomplishment of the object of the conspiracy.”

“Each member of a conspiracy is liable for each act and bound by each declaration of every other member of the conspiracy if said act or said declaration is in furtherance of the object of the conspiracy.

The act of one conspirator pursuant to or in furtherance of the common design of the conspiracy is the act of all conspirators. Every conspirator is legally responsible for an act of a co-conspirator that follows as one of the probable and natural consequences of the object of the conspiracy even though it was not intended as a part of the original plan and even though he was not present at the time of the commission of such act.”


“It is not necessary in proving a conspiracy to show a meeting of the alleged conspirators or the making of an express or formal agreement. The formation and existence of a conspiracy may be inferred from all circumstances tending to show the common intent and, may be proved in the same way as any other fact may be proved, either by direct testimony of the fact or by circumstantial evidence, or by both direct and circumstantial evidence.”


“In Count VIII the defendants are Charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Violation of Sections 182.1 and 187, Penal Code of California, a felony, as follows:

That on or about the 8th through the August, 1969, at and in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, Charles Manson, Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Leslie Sankston (whose true name is. Leslie Van Houten), the said
defendants, did willfully, uawfully, feloniously and knowingly conspire, combine, confederate and agree together to commit the crime of murder, a violation of Section 187, Penal Code of California, a felony.

It is alleged that the following were overt acts which were committed in this state by one or more of the defendants for the purpose of furthering the object of the conspiracy:

That on or about August 8, 1969, the said defendants, Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian did travel to the vicinity of 10050 Cielo Drive in tha City and County of Los. Angeles.
That on or about August 8, 1969, the defendants, Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins did enter the residence at 10050 Cielo Drive, City and County
of Los Angeles.
That on or about August 10 1969, the defendants, Charles Manson, Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Leslie Sankston (whose true name is Leslie Van Houten) did travel to the vicinity of 3301 Waverly Drive, City and County of Los Angeles,
That on or about August 10, 1 969, the defendants, Charles Manson, Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Sankston (whose true name is Leslie Van. Houten) did enter the residence at 3301 Waverly Drive, City and County of Los Angeles.”

The penalty if convicted of conspiracy to commit murder is the same as first degree murder. Regardless of whether Manson was convicted of murder or conspiracy to commit murder he still would have faced the death penalty. As the jury was instructed:

“If you return a verdict, of guilty of murder in the first degree as to any particular count or
verdict of guilty of conspiracy to commit murder as alleged in Count VIII, then the matter of punishment as to those counts will be considered and determined in a separate

The separate proceeding is the guilt phase of the trial. If Manson is convicted of conspiracy to commit murder he is still headed towards the gas chamber. 

Helter Skelter: The Conspiracy

So what was the conspiracy? The answer is the Family’s agreement at Manson’s direction to fulfill Manson’s prophecy: Helter Skelter. This is the true importance of HS, one downplayed, in my opinion, by Bugliosi in his book. In fact, I would argue that without HS there is no conspiracy. 

The fact we might describe the notion that they could start a race war by murdering upper middle class or wealthy white people, then hide in a bottomless pit in Death Valley and emerge years later to rule the world as fantasy is irrelevant. A conspiracy need not be either achievable or even logical. 

A conspiracy seldom can be proved by some recorded conversation between the co-conspirators. It typically has to be proven by their actions, especially those actions that demonstrate their relationship as co-conspirators or confederates operating in unison. Here, that is the evidence of the interrelationship of the family members with Manson and in particular those elements of the testimony that demonstrated his control- or put another way- those elements that demonstrated Family members’ willingness to engage in activities at his behest.

Bugliosi effectively presented the story of how Helter Skelter grew in the mind of Manson  and his followers culminating in his statements during the summer of 1969 that directly implicate him in the crimes. The appellate court in People vs. Manson summed up the conspiracy this way:

“Manson spoke of Helter Skelter constantly. With the passage of time, his concern became intense. He finally proclaimed he would have to cause the revolution. There is specific evidence that Manson declared the belief that he would have to show the "nigger" how to do it. Family member Dianne Lake testified that in the summer of 1969 Manson told her "... we had to be willing to kill pigs to help the black people start revolution Helter Skelter." In the presence of Lake and of the co-appellants Manson said, "I am going to have to start the revolution." By the summer of 1969, the time he predicted Helter Skelter would begin, he talked about it more and more. Quite obviously, a fundamental part of life in the commune entailed exposure to Manson's obsession with Helter Skelter.”

Once Manson is convicted of conspiracy to commit (first degree) murder the penalty is precisely the same as if he had carried and used the gun at Cielo Drive. 

Can the DA get a conviction? 

The DA needs to prove an agreement. This comes from the very organization and activities of the Family, including the murderers. Orchestrated sexual activity, the 'sermon on the mount' type sing-alongs with Manson on the rock, the commune lifestyle and most importantly embracing the concept of Helter Skelter and accepting the idea as fact all infer agreement. Frankly, Manson’s courtroom antics probably sealed the deal for most of the jurors. It’s not his control per se. It is the ‘group-think’. How could anyone reach any other conclusion but that the four defendants in the courtroom (and other Family members) were of like mind.

The DA also has to show that the agreement included the specific intent to commit first degree murder- the unlawful taking of life with malice aforethought. It did. The plan, according to Bugliosi, was to start a race war by killing white people. Manson's own words and the subsequent events- the murders- are sufficient to establish the requisite intent. 

Perhaps Leslie Van Houten described the conspiracy the best when interviewed by her attorney on December 29, 1969 (Thanks again Cielodrive):

MR. PART: Now, as you know, Charles Manson, along with yourself and a lot of others, are in great
jeopardy in this trial.

And there are many indications that if Manson is convicted of these first degree murders, that he may die in the gas chamber.
Have you ever had any thoughts that perhaps this would be like a second crucification?

MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah, many times.

MR. PART: Tell me about it.

MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, it seems strange that it would happen again, seeing as he already died once; but if it did it would be all right; because what we did was because of this part of the plan that we have no control of.

MR. PART: Now that you mentioned “the plan that we have no control of,” tell me what you mean.

MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, it seemed like after we knew what was going to come down we tried talking to leaders, you know, black leaders, and we saw that they were stalling.
And it was almost as though we had to make the first move for it to continue to develop, to get bigger so that it would happen because the black man loves us so much that he would be our slave and do everything we said, let us beat him and mistreat him for so many years that he almost doesn’t want to do what he has to do, but he sees that he has to do it.
And so it was up to us to start it.

MR. PART: Now, you say that you talked to some black leaders.
Who were these black leaders?
And you say it was up to us to start it.
Now, what do you mean by starting it?

MISS VAN HOUTEN: I don’t know. All I know is his name is John and he — he’s pretty big in government. And I don’t know. He may not be, you know. But we thought he was.
And starting — starting it was that — to just start killing people. Because it’s going to be blood for blood.

MR. PART: Now, did you believe that the — that the black people would to have to start killing the white people?

MISS VAN HOUTEN: No, it wouldn’t be that way.
White man would kill white man. The black man would sort of be there, too, helping him along.
Because we — it was — it’s like white man is divided, you know. We aren’t united in our thoughts. And the black man is more together. They are more one in their thoughts, you know.
They’re — they’d — in here I’ve gotten a lot of talk about how they call each other sister and each other brother. But very seldom do two white girls say, “Hey, sister,’ you know.
They greet you when you come in, you know. Say, “Say, sister, come on in. Want a cigarette?” You know.
They don’t do that.
And so white man would kill white man for their beliefs. If they didn’t believe the same, they’re going to knock each other off.
And then black man would be there to sort of help them.
Crawling in the night.

MR. PART: Well, how were you going to start the this revolution?

MISS VAN HOUTEN: By killing. 

MR. PART: Could you explain that?

MISS VAN HOUTEN: By doing a murder that had no sense behind it, and by putting words that would make people scared. Because the more fearful the people get, the more frantic it will get, and the faster it will happen.

Finally, the DA needs an 'overt act' in furtherance of the crime. These are set forth in OVERT ACTS III and IV above. 

Could the same result have been obtained under other motives? Yes, planning copycat murders is a conspiracy. Getting revenge for a drug burn or trying to muscle in on someone's territory is still the basis for a conspiracy. Bugliosi, in part due to his own blinders in seemingly ignoring the Hinman murder, had scant little evidence for any of these theories- or just missed it. He had to prove HS was the motive, in my opinion, not because he needed a motive but because he needed a conspiracy to commit murder. 

Getting In the Car

A while ago I was rightfully called out for a comment I made. This was the comment: “You may not like the laws, lawyers, judges, juries but unless you have some pretty good evidence Manson never got in that car the second night the moment he did a DA straight out of law school could have put him away.”

Ok, maybe not straight out of law school but I still think the concept is accurate. 

Climbing into the car the second night leads Manson directly to prison (or death row) for the rest of his life given the heinous nature of these crimes. 

On the morning of August 8. 1969 Manson is guilty of nothing related to the Tate-LaBianca murders. It is not a crime to think about murdering people or even talking about it (with some exceptions). 

In fact, an argument can be made that Bugliosi would have had a very difficult time convicting Manson (if Manson put on a defense and actually woke up and asked for a separate trial) as of the morning of August 9th. Even after the Cielo Drive murders I think it would have been more difficult to convict Manson.

But the minute Manson climbs in that car with the murderers from the previous night and those who would murder that night (except Clem) and proceeds to Waverly Drive Manson is convicted. 

1. He has now directly aided and abetted the crime of murder. 

2. He has now participated in a robbery or burglary where a murder occurs. 

3. He has handed the DA an 'overt act' in furtherance of the conspiracy (something missing until then- look at III and IV above). 

Does the rest of the evidence including statements attributed to Manson by Kasabian, Lake and others help seal the deal? Of course it does but at that moment when Manson made the decision to climb in that car he stepped onto the gallows. 

What About 'Clem'?

In my opinion Steve "Clem" Grogan is guilty of conspiracy to commit murder after the LaBianca murders. There is really little doubt about it. So why wasn't he charged in Tate-LaBianca?

Here is what Bugliosi says on the subject:

"At this time we were unaware that Susan Atkins had made some significant omissions in her grand jury testimony— including three other attempts at murder that night. Had we known of them, we probably would have asked for an indictment of Clem. As it was, however, all we had against him was Susan’s statement that he had been in the car. And we still had a slim hope that his brother, whom we’d contacted at the Highway Patrol Academy, might persuade him to cooperate with us."

Bugliosi, Vincent; Curt Gentry. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (p. 223). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition. 

To me this logic doesn't make sense. After they lined up Kasabian they clearly had the exact evidence Bugliosi says he was missing to get the indictment. He could then go get one. He sort of leaves the impression it was somehow too late by then (which is not true) and then seems to say 'well, we got him anyway for Shea'.

I think the real answer is found here:

"If the psychiatrists had examined one of Manson’s followers and, on the basis of such responses, found him insane, what of his leader?"

Bugliosi, Vincent; Curt Gentry. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (p. 163). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

At the time Bugliosi thought Grogan could get off on an insanity plea and that his own witnesses like DeCarlo and Springer would help accomplish that result. Bugliosi wanted to avoid that possibility and the impact Clem's presence might have on the trial. Look at the history of Van Houten. Outside the original trial her diminished capacity defense almost worked. In fact, it worked so well the DA changed his approach to felony murder during her last trial.