There have been a few court hearings over Manson's estate since we last visited this subject. The past couple of court hearing have Channels submitting a motion to have Freeman's DNA tested. The judge said that he would need to explore whether or not it was possible for the court to demand DNA from Freeman.
Freeman has declined to voluntarily produce a DNA sample but said he would, if the court ruled that he had to submit his DNA.
I think this might be a precedent setting decision by the judge because the decision does not cite any previous cases on the subject of DNA. But I will let our resident attorneys weigh in on that aspect.
Here is a transcription of the judge's decision-
SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA, COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
Probate Division Stanley Mosk Dept. - 9, Stanley Mosk Dept. - 9
In re: Manson, Charles M. - Decedent
August 30, 2019
Honorable Clifford Klein, Judge
Janelle Brooks, Judicial Assistant Not Reported, Court Reporter
NATURE OF PROCEEDINGS: Ruling on Submitted Matter
The following parties are present for the aforementioned proceeding:
Out of the presence of the court reporter, the Court makes the following findings and orders:
The Court having taken the above captioned matter under submission on Thursday, August 22, 2019 hereby rules as follows:
Motion to Compel DNA Testing
Ruling on Submitted Matter:
This case concerns the estate of Charles Manson. He was admitted to state prison in 1971 and died on November 19, 2017. His estate is now at issue.
Charles Manson Jr.’s, a.k.a. Charles Jay White, statement that he was one of Charles Manson’s children is notcontested in this case. Mr. White predeceased Manson, dying in Colorado in 1993. Jason L. Freeman states he isthe son of Mr. White, and thus the grandson of Charles Manson. This petition alleges that that the decedent died intestate, that Freeman is an heir and is entitled to Letters of Administration. Freeman nominated Dale Kiken to
act as administrator, per Prob. Code § 8465.
Michael A. Channels filed an Objection to the Petition. On January 22, 2018, Channels filed his own Petition,seeking to probate a will allegedly executed by Manson in 2002, which expressly disinherited his sons as well as any other known or unknown children, and which purportedly give his entire estate to Channels.
This motion concerns an allegation by Channels that Freeman is not the decedent’s grandson. The motion is to compel Freeman to undergo DNA testing. The decedent’s DNA is reportedly available from the Department of Corrections or the Kern County Coroner where the autopsy was conducted. There is no evidence that a sample of the DNA of Charles Manson Jr./Charles Jay White, Freeman’s alleged father, is available.
Although White does not appear as the father on Freeman’s birth certificate, a 1986 default family court judgment of the state of Ohio provides that it is “ORDERED ADJUDGED, AND DECREED” the Defendant Charles Jay White aka Charles Millis Manson, Jr., “shall be, and hereby is, determined to be the natural father of Jason Lee Freeman.” The court order stated that White was served by “certified mail”, but does not indicate there was any postal documentation that he received the mail, nor that he received the notice of the court’s judgment. White resided in Texas and did not appear in the case. Court records do not indicate what contacts White had in Ohio, although this court presumes the Ohio court had legal jurisdiction. There is no record that this order was ever enforced, that the child support payments ordered were ever collected, that Mr. Channels was served with notice of this proceeding, or that he appeared. This raises the question of whether this Court is bound by the default judgment of paternity.
Basic intestate succession law provides that the estate of a deceased person shall, if the deceased is unmarried, pass to their children, or to the issue of their children. (See Prob. Code § 6400 et seq.) Parenthood is thus relevant to establishing intestate succession. Probate Code § 6534 provides for how a parent-child
relationship may be established for purposes of probate:
For the purpose of determining whether a person is a “natural parent” . . . :
(a) A natural parent and child relationship is established where that relationship is presumed and not rebutted pursuant to the Uniform Parentage Act (Part 3 (commencing with Section 7600) of Division 12 of the Family Code).
(b) A natural parent and child relationship may be established pursuant to any other provisions of the Uniform Parentage Act, except that the relationship may not be established by an action under subdivision (c) of Section 7630 of the Family Code unless any of the following conditions exist:
(1) A court order was entered during the parent’s lifetime declaring parentage.
(2) Parentage is established by clear and convincing evidence that the parent has openly held out the child as that parent’s own.
(3) It was impossible for the parent to hold out the child as that parent’s own and parentage is established by clear and convincing evidence, which may include genetic DNA evidence acquired during the parent’s lifetime. (Prob. Code § 6453.)
Per section 7636 of the Family Code, “the judgment or order of the court determining the existence or nonexistence of the parent and child relationship is determinative for all purposes except for actions brought pursuant to Section 270 of the Penal Code.” (Fam. Code § 7636). Family Code § 7646 does provide that a
judgment establishing paternity may be set aside or vacated based upon genetic testing in some circumstances inapplicable to the facts in this case.
Per section 5604 of the Family Code, “a previous determination of paternity made by another state, whether established through voluntary acknowledgment procedures in effect in that state or through an administrative or judicial process shall be given full faith and credit by the courts in this state, and shall have the same effect as a paternity determination made in this state and may be enforced and satisfied in a like manner.” (Fam. Code § 5604 [emphasis added].) A default judgment for paternity in Ohio would therefore have the same effect as a valid judgment of paternity in this state and would therefore hypothetically be determinative under Family Code § 7636. However, while Fam. Code § 7636 provides that such a judgment would be “determinative for all purposes,” Prob. Code § 6524 simply provides that a “natural parent and child relationship” may be established pursuant to the Family Code. Moreover, despite the “full faith and credit” language of Fam. Code S 5604, case and statutory law requires the judgment of paternity to have been valid and the alleged father to have been given a reasonable opportunity to be heard. “If a valid judgment of paternity is rendered in Ohio, it generally is binding on California courts if Ohio had jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter, and the parties were given reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard.” (Estate of Griswold (2001) 25 Cal.4th 904, 922 [emphasis added].) If the Ohio judgment was “void” then under C.C.P. § 473(d), the Court may “set aside any void judgment or order.”
Channels argues that the Court is neither bound by nor should give full, force, and credit to the Ohio default judgment, because the Ohio court lacked jurisdiction over White and that White was not sufficiently notified and given an opportunity to be heard. It has not been established that White actually received reasonable notice
and an opportunity to be heard and had a fair opportunity to litigate the issue. Even if White was present or received notice, Channels was not present, did not receive notice, and thus argues that he should not be bound by a court decision that had no foreseeable relevance to an issue of heirship in a future estate proceeding in California.
Although the Ohio court found “that service [had] been properly completed by certified mail,” for purposes of res judicata for the probate proceeding in California, actual notice cannot be presumed. A subsequently enactedOhio statute requires proof of actual service (Ohio Code section 3111.06 (B). This was a default judgment that was not contested. As White lived in Texas, and apparently ignored the judgment if he learned of its existence, he may have been indigent and seen no reason to travel to Ohio to contest its validity and to incur the further expense of retaining an attorney. Regardless of the actual blood relationship between the parties, White may have felt it unnecessary to contest such an issue, especially when the child support order might never be enforced against him.
In addition, had Channels or any other possible heirs received notice of the Ohio hearing, they may have decided that the relationship between White and Freeman was important for purposes of inheritance. This would be different than a court hearing to enforce the child support obligations against another person. Channels never had any notice or opportunity to contest the relationship of Freeman for purposes of intestate succession. This does not make the default judgment void for purposes of family support. However, applying this nebulous default judgment against a nonparty to the family support case could defeat the purpose of California’s intestate succession laws.
The question of the disposition of the remains of the decedent was litigated in the Kern County Superior Court. Kiken argues that the decision of the Kern County Court to release the remains to himself is res judicata on the issue of paternity. The issue in the remains proceeding involved the validity of the various wills submitted in the case, rather than paternity. The court’s finding was that “No sufficient probative evidence was provided to this court to refute Freeman’s claim.” This court does not find this limited ruling to constitute res judicata on the question of whether Mr. Freeman is the son of Charles White.
The recently enacted California Family Code sections refer only to DNA testing to establish a parent-child relationship, rather than establishing a grandparent-grandchild relationship. Although there is no explicit legal authority to require DNA testing with grandparents, the DNA of Mr. Freeman’s purported father, Charles Manson Jr., is not available. It is also impossible to consider evidence that either Manson as the grandparent or Charles White as the parent held out the child as that parent’s own due to the grandfather’s life imprisonment and Charles White’s death in 1993. Technically speaking, parentage of Freeman could be established by genetic DNA evidence acquired during the parent’s lifetime, as such evidence from the decedent Charles Manson most likely would have been acquired during the lifetime of Charles White. If one considers a broader definition of “parentage”, the word is defined in American College Dictionary, Third Edition, as “descent from parents; lineage”, and lineage is the precise issue in this probate case. However, this technical construction should not be required as the legislative intent to permit DNA testing to determine the identity of a parent would logically be expanded to include grandparents.
The Court is not bound by either the Ohio court’s judgment of paternity or the Kern County Court’s decision as to the disposition of the decedent’s remains. DNA testing may provide probative and relevant evidence. The motion to compel DNA testing of Jason L. Freeman is granted.