Monday, July 29, 2013

How Dare The Void Waste Ron Hughes?

*A little about Ron Hughes from various online sources.  According to vital records Ronald William Hughes was born March 16, 1935 in Los Angeles County.  The 1940 US Census says that he had one older brother and one younger sister.  His parents were named John and Anita and his father was employed as a draftsman in the oil industry.  They lived at 2807 Badan Ave. Los Angeles.

Ron was a Korean War veteran having served in the Army.  He graduated from UCLA.  He was admitted to the California Bar Association June 1969.   He was employed by the public defenders office and became acquainted with Manson while visiting him in jail.  He was Manson's attorney for a short time before becoming Van Houten's attorney.  The Manson case was literally Ron's first court case.

This is an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Free Press December 11, 1970, page 3.  It is NOT an article that is included in "The Charles Manson Report" compiled by the Freep and available for download at .  (This is a great resource and you should download it for future reference)

It's a wonderful tribute article to the man that was Leslie Van Houten's attorney.  Hughes body had not been found at the time this was written.

Ed Sanders

We were returning from the Sespe Hot Springs area past the freshly oozed-together mounds of silt and the pink-ended living tree trunks scattered in the chaos of the river bed and the boulders pushed down the gorge by the idiot rain-flood, knowing that Ron Hughes, gentleman and friend, was dead.  In his honor, as we drove down the muddy road, we were violating H11 530 of the California penal code, filling our lungs with the sweet smoke of Ra.

The ardent cause of his death was an intense spew of rain, 12 inches in 18 hours, that caused a punk little creek to rise up and widen and sweep him off his feet as he attempted to carry some transcripts of the trial from his mud-marooned VW back to his camp.  Evidently he tried to ford the rising waters and God stomped his face.  In the incidence of those Boy Scout several years ago, some were washed down to the sea many miles away down Sespe Gorge to the Santa Clara River to the Oxnard confluence.  Thallata!!!  Thallata!!!

In a box in Ron's marooned VW, were several books, among them: Criminal Law and Its Processes, Attorney For  The Damned -- Clarence Darrow, The Death Penalty in America and a book on organic food structures.  He was sorely human, attired in his sharp suits from the MGM props sale of last summer, as the trial progressed and Judge Older slapped him into the slams for a jive contempt of court charge, and one observed him investigating and preparing his case.  His client, Leslie Van Houten, had the best chance to win her freedom and he was totally aware of it -- and he worked hard on her behalf.  He brought into court what seemed like half of the staff of the Patton State nut hatch wherein had recently resided Diane Lake, the chief witness against Miss Van Houten.  He brought the staff members into a court hearing to try to show that her mind was out to lunch as of being able to remember events during August 69 chop-time.  He transcribed hours of tapes of the various police interrogations of such as Danny De Carlo and Miss Lake (AKA Snake, Diane Bluestein and Diane E Mak), seeking data with which to save the life of his client.

He was not a robot; he took his time.  He had the greatest knowledge of dope-lore one has encountered.  It was thrilling to watch the jurors jotting down notes as Ron cross-examined Linda Kasabian about trimming the strychnine hairs off a peyote plant.

He had a great sense of humor, as when he described the jury, when asked by the media  just after the jury was "chosen", as being like a bad acid trip.  Or when he asked the Polanski maid, Mrs. Chapman, if Peter Sellers had made any calls to the Cielo Drive residence on August 8, 1969.  Or when he seriously discussed making pregnant, thru some sort of courtroom sperm transference, the female defendants, just before the penalty phase of the trial so as to arouse emotions of life and pity in the jury. 

He was a new form of radical lawyer.  There was one point last summer when he was going to wear a white toga (from MGM Ben Hur props, buddy) to court - but it was made apparent to him that Judge Older's mind was not dialed anywhere near such an event.

It was refreshing when he brought several of R Crumb's comic books, including  Snatch #2, into court for the girls to read.  He was a great guy, with no hostile edges.  I never heard him say a cruel word about anybody.

Last June he and I went together to Inyo to visit the Barker and Myers Ranch, talk to the local miners, and generally go on hole patrol.  We drove one of the automobiles from his West L.A. automobile graveyard - black hulk of impending desolation that severally he had parked by his house.  In the middle of the Mojave desert in the middle of the night: wshoomp! the hood of the Stude fell away and sailed into the night and we spent a bit of time scouring on the hood.  Later we walked all over Barker ranch area looking for lost dune buggies, hidden camps and the layout of Manson's last stand.  It was a marvel to see him stalking in his tennis shoes down desolate canyons speaking data into his tape recorder.  He was great.

The greatest tribute to Ron Hughes came from a close friend who has back packed into the Sespe Hot Springs area almost daily looking for signs of him.  Often he was carted around thru the mud in Ventura County Sheriff's vehicles as he searched.  In spite of the close proximity of the police, Ron's friend nevertheless carried with him a waterproof jar with some rolled Ra weed joints so that should he find Ron safe, he could rejoice and hold a communal ritual of happiness.

How dare the void waste Ron Hughes?"


orwhut said...

Good going, Deb. I enjoy Ed's writing.

Matt said...

It must have been like an acid trip for this guy. His first case ever and he lands right in the national spotlight.

Korean war veteran and was 36. I'm guessing he went to law school on the G.I. Bill? Doing quick math in my head says he knocked around for a few years after Korea deciding what to do.

Unknown said...

Unorthodox. Where'd the Family find him? Wonder what his salary was or maybe he only received compensation if he won the case? (All Public Defenders made the same salary?) The other Attorney said he lost $40K by taking Atkins or Krenwinkles case and he was broke. Thanks for link.

Farflung said...

It’s always interesting for me to read another’s perspective and try to glean a better and typically more complex understanding of a situation. Sometimes it arrives in a micro-burst like the way Barker’s Ranch is described as having a swimming pool in the back. This is clearly a suburban viewpoint since the ‘pool’ would be called a ‘tank’ as it’s for the storage of water for livestock or more likely people. But since suburban kids know water magically arrives by twisting a knob on a faucet, and there are no storage tanks, transfer systems, or pumps; any outdoor container of water MUST be a pool or spa. Just like how anything with four legs spotted in a field is a ‘cow’, and with the more terminally suburban inhabitants they are more often called ‘moo cows’. I have adopted the less cumbersome term moo cow, in favor of cattle, heifers, calves, steers or bulls. Although I haven’t displayed the behavior of rolling down the car window and shouting that phrase at the unsuspecting animals as I drive by….. yet.

So how did the void ‘waste’ Ronald Hughes? Was Hughes simply reviewing court documents when an unknown force placed a tractor beam upon him which led to his demise, much the same way UFOs have molested grazing moo cows for decades past? Was it some cosmic alignment of bad luck and his number was up? Or is this the end result of a chain of decisions, which would have occurred without the interference of extraterrestrials, or anything approaching the cosmic? Let’s review.

Hughes had just received his law license and was a little older being a war veteran, and employed as a law clerk previously. I admire those who can accomplish something like obtaining a JD while supporting themselves as it is an indicator of determination. Being somewhat older should lend one a little more wisdom and thoughtfulness as well. So would a thoughtful and worldly person take on a capital case as their first or second assignment? Would a person with a brand new medical license make their first operation the separation of conjoined twins? There are more than a few check valves which would have to be ignored in favor of ending up in that situation, regardless of the client’s wishes.

Farflung said...

Thanks to mere ‘providence’, Hughes found himself variously in the employ of Manson and Van Houten, and working on a capital crime. What would be the best thing to do before closing arguments? Go camping… in a wilderness area… in the winter… on a weekend with forecast extended foul weather. What could possibly go wrong here?

Being in a wilderness area, one must hike some distance from the parking area and ford a teeny weenie little trickle of water, which just happens to have massive, smooth, round, water polished boulders capable of obliterating a house, daintily balanced in the middle. Gee Wally, I wonder how those got there? Doesn’t matter because you want to camp and be one with nature (read: get high).

So it starts to biblically rain with pairs of animals beginning to gather and saunter out of that remote canyon. The two teenagers who gave Hughes a ride to the area decide to leave, along with all the other campers near the springs, but Hughes decides to stay. Near the edge of that trickle of water which is on the opposite side of the trail, which leads to the parking area. Now alone, potentially communing with nature (code for: high), and in excess of one hundred pounds overweight, Hughes obliviously waits for the final chapter of his life to be written.

That chapter includes the cosmic stuff with his death described as mysterious by the press. The Manson clan in their usual fit of being classy, hint that they were responsible for the demise of their advocate. Nice.

Hughes is certainly a tragic footnote and ultimately served his client (Leslie) well in death since she was granted a new trial. Of course the less fortunate members of the ‘Family’ who had defense attorneys which survived the trial, filed ineffective assistance of counsel suits. I’m sure Hughes had many fine traits; he was generous, and kind, but those aren’t what typically cause one to get pimp slapped by nature. Hughes probably viewed Sespe like that swimming pool behind the ranch, and thought he had interpreted it properly. But this was one of those times when knowing the difference between a moo cow and a bull, or a cloudburst and flashflood mattered.

Max Frost said...


Something tells me farflung has already, or is writing a book.

If not, you should (about ANYTHNG).

Patty is Dead said...

He could tell us things, but then he'd have to kill us. High security CIA secrets are like that.

HellzBellz said... Hi nothing to do with Ronald Hughes but more in relation to Robert Crumb and or Underground Frisco Comic related to Charlie...... Ohww..and also this one Scroll down a few and there you have San Fransico Comic, seen before here a week or so ago. More down is ,Legions of Charlies, too. For sale.... For those interested, enjoy. Beye All !!

orwhut said...

Panamint Patty,
I ran across the url given at the end of this message and it occurred to me that, you haven let out a 'woot' in a long time. If you've run out of woots, you might get a fresh supply here.

orwhut said...

Your sales pitch, at the end of the last post, pushed me over the edge. My Eviliz Special arrived today and Inside the Manson Gang is now in my DVD player. Thanks for the shove.

Patty is Dead said...


orwhut said...

Just like old times.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

I think it was when you folks were planning to come to LA, I said when you got here I would by you a beer (a 1950's gesture for welcome)

I have to say: Farflung's comment on Ron Hughes is spot on. I came to the same conclusion long ago. It's another event like "Zero" More questions than answers. Of course that's what makes the Manson case study so interesting.

I can add that Ron was very upset at the time. the Family had talked him into marrying Brenda to emanceipate her. I was going to film the wedding at Spahn's. When someone willingly tests nature as he did, it usually means they are willing to die -just to escape something terrible. The Family said they let him off the hook, but knowing how excited they were about the filming of the wedding- I don't know. I can't believe the others left him alone. Makes me realize how desparate I must have been to be all alone with the most dangerous living gansters - at the time.

Patty is Dead said...

Wow about the wedding...Patty has never heard that.