Monday, October 26, 2020

Reporter Dave Smith on the Family

Dave Smith was a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.  His article on the Manson Family, written after the Tate/LaBianca trial, is a departure from what other publications were writing at the time.  The article is insightful and there is plenty of food for thought and discussion.

The Manson Family

Through A Glass Darkly

Some reflections on how they got that way

By Dave Smith

West            June 20 1971

"Gaze not too deeply into the abyss, lest the abyss gaze into you."  Friedrich Nietzsche

"Don't look back. Sump'n may be gaining on you."   Satchel Paige

On Monday, March 29, a Los Angeles jury voted the death penalty for Charles Manson and three female disciples- Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten- for the Tate-LaBianca massacre of August, 1969.  In the nearly two years since, people have kept asking: Why did they do it? How did they get like that? Are there more?  (Apparently yes- in Yuba City, for example.)  Underneath shivers the normal man's horror of the kind of murder taught us lately by Starkweather, Whitman, Speck, Oswald, Smith, Sirhan, et al:  Death may come anytime, and not exactly from your proven enemy, but from some stranger who springs up and slashes, killing you without saying why.

The Manson trial was shot through with the vague sense of a lesson to be learned, somehow.  One juror offered her own summation: "I hope this verdict will be a lesson to young people of this country- that you just can't go into a person's house and butcher them up..."

I wouldn't want to gainsay that, though I have my doubts.  Since February I have talked to a variety of behavioral scientists- psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, social historians and lay counselors at hippie clinics- in an effort to extract some meaning from the brutal affair.  Several of those I consulted see Manson as embodying the growing existentialism and nihilism of our time.

By and large, behavioral scientists have paid too little attention, I think, to the Manson case, for it is they who might help explain how the "family" got that way.  (The danger of ridicule to the profession- underlined by the psychiatric donnybrook of the Sirhan trial- kept them away from the Manson trial in droves, though four belatedly appeared for the defense and one study has begun since the conviction.)

Some of the experts I chatted with saw a connection between the Manson and Calley cases: a society at war inside and outside itself may tend to influence the defectives among us toward a compulsion for violence.  It is a debatable analogy, beyond proof or refutation, but an intriguing one.

But an hypothesis is only a stand-in for verifiable facts.  And maybe no one can ever know the whole truth about anything anyway.  But a really good writer once told me, "Don't try to illuminate the whole subject for all time.  Just part the curtain."

Fair enough. To pull the curtain over the Manson case is to deny ourselves any possible hint of where the beast may come from next, and so remain afraid of things that go bump in the night, the way we were in August of 1969.

I remember that incredible weekend when the savagely butchered bodies of actress Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent were hauled away from the charnel house.  (There would be two more killings to go, and earlier ones yet to be learned of.)

Case-hardened as we may have since grown on the subject, then we were stupefied at the viciousness and lack of meaning in the crime.  Our bewilderment kept us transfixed by the Manson family far more than we might have been had the defendants been clearly insane and, therefore, too freakish to be duplicated.

We have kept on wondering how they got that way.  The experts I consulted- most asked not to be identified- agree that the answers sprawl beyond the borders of any field of expertise, into genetics, environment, family background, sex, booze and drugs, conscious reconditioning, group pressures, the anti-intellectual countercultures so prevalent today and whatever it is about an establishment society that seems to turn off so many of its young people.

For their part, Manson and his ardent true believers have explained away their crimes, and perhaps their self-doubts, in a flood of circular, pseudo mystical gab that covers everything- or nothing.  But at times, however unlikely or suspect the source, some points hit home, if only by accident.

Charlie on child rearing: These children that have come at you with knives, they are your children.  You taught them, I didn't teach them.  I just tried to help them stand up.

Leslie on the human condition: We are all murderers; we are all capable of murdering; we are all animals; that is part of all of us.

Psychiatrist Joel Hochman, of UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, on Leslie's condition:  I think, in fact, that this is not inaccurate from a psychological point of view- that murder is a potential in all human beings.  The remorselessness?  With a certain class of person, or value system, it's unusual.  With another, not so unusual.  The first time I ever encountered such an attitude was in The Stranger by Camus.  It was about a man who killed for no reason, to test an existential point.

Attorney Paul Fitzgerald:  There is, in mankind, some underlying homicidal urge?

Hochman:  No.  I think there is, in mankind, rage which can become differentiated into a variety of acts, one of which is murder, another which is war.  We have killed 50 million people in the last 30 years in the world.

Fitzgerald:  Is it possible to unprogram somebody, as it were, from some belief that murder is wrong to a belief that murder is right and OK?

Hochman:  I think we try to do that with every soldier we send out.  I think historically the easiest way to program someone into murdering is to convince them they are alien, that they are them and we are us, and that they are different from us.

Dr. L. J. West at NPI has a theory about the "universal stranger."  He theorized that we project upon the stranger all the impulses we forbid in ourselves, and all the characteristics.  It is easy to be angry toward them.  That is what mankind has done traditionally, made the other person into an object, not like us, with flesh and blood.

Fitzgerald:  Well, that might be a recognized characteristic on a national or international scale, but it's extremely unusual on an individual basis, isn't it?

Hochman:  I think it happens every time someone murders an individual.

(In the past and present wars we have fought "spics," "krauts," "wops," "nips,"  and now "gooks," "chinks," and "slopes."  At home, our freaks call our cops "pigs."  To the Manson family, their victims were "piggies.")

The Manson family was unquestionably more than the sum of its parts, if only because each member, taken separately, is rather an ordinary type of sick person seen often in this so-called age of alienation.  The ordinariness of it is the horror of it, and we write of it in clichés.

In the past decade especially, we have got used to the ugly experience of crazed individuals wreaking private vengeance on the world, but a prime fascination of the Manson crime was that it was done as a grisly parody of togetherness.  (A deranged leader and his witless maenads, howling out of the desert, when are they coming for me...?)

Charles Manson may be insane-we don't know- but whatever he is, a similarly wretched mental condition could be inferred about many men with such backgrounds of long imprisonment.  Yet it is the girls who are most interesting.

Testimony at the trial indicated the girls were not legally or even medically insane.  Neurotic, you bet; psychotic, no.  Up to the time they fell under Manson's influence, they lived lives that pass more or less as normal, in the permissive context of today.  And even then, without anyone noticing, they were being warped by forces that hammer just as mercilessly on thousands of other girls- who will commit no crimes.  Not all the girls Charlie met agreed to go with him.  Why did these?

In court Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme tells of her unhappy life at home and adds, in a tone of incredulity, "In fact, I was taught I was ugly!"  The jurors blink, embarrassed; alas she is merely plain.  After a pause, Squeaky adds quietly, "A dog goes to somebody who loves it and takes care of it."

Susan Atkins is asked why she devoted herself so fixedly to Charlie, and she asks right back: "Can you imagine what it's like- a girl who never had much attention?"

And Katie:  "I felt ugly.  I always had too much hair on my body.  He began to tell me what I wanted to hear.  'Everything is all right,' he would tell me..."  It just might be that simple.

In court, this infamous Charles Manson stands disappointingly small for a legend, just over five feet.  At 36, his face still has an innocent quality.  Untouched.

It has been an adolescent boy's dream, this trial.  His girls have testified over and over again- not just to him but in court for all the world to read- about his manhood.  Charlie is love.  Charlie is all man, the first real man I ever met. Oh wow.

The records may say he was an abused, rejected child; his mother insists he was spoiled rotten by the women of their family.  Both claims are probably true; he wouldn't be the first child bewildered by grown-ups blowing hot and cold.

One thing for sure: for all that is said of his way with girls, and for all the girls that say they love it, Charlie hates women.  One of his favorite sermons is how women take away manhood, how mothers weaken their sons, wives their husbands.  Charlie and his girls. Wow.

Charlie, the coolest and sickest of them all, really pretty humdrum if we could know the whole story, but now, undeniably fascinating in the way- as novelists and movie-makers so well understand- mentally sick people are so often more fascinating than healthier ones.

Susan Atkins, alias Sadie Glutz, mother of Zee Zo ZeZe Zadfrack (named by Manson, fathered by whom?).

Set adrift by and unloving mother who died, a father and step-mother she didn't like, Susan recalls a self-fulfilling prophecy: "My family kept telling me, 'You're going downhill, you're going downhill, you're going downhill,'  So I just went downhill."

Sadie is the one who snitched.  Separated from the Manson family for a few days, she faltered and then talked, to two cell mates, then in a long interview later she tried to take it all back.  (Did her eyes dart about then, I wondered, the way they do now in court?)

With a little girl's mischievous smile and bright eyes that peek and wink and flick about, Susan is the most expressive and vulnerable of the three girls.  Watching her behavior- bold and actressy in court, cute and mincing when making eye-play with someone, a little haunted when no one pays attention- I get the feeling that one day she might start screaming and simply never stop.

Patricia Krenwinkel, alias Katie.  Earth mother of the family.  Quiet, competent, the Rock of Gibraltar to Susan.  Heavy.

We know she was born in her parents' middle age, that her mother wasn't well, that an older sister, now dead, was troublesome, that her parents were divorced when she was 18, and that from birth until Charlie, her best friend was her father.  (Joe Krenwinkel remembers that time as happy, and says three different times:  "She was such a good little guy.")

But she was overweight and hairy for a girl, and didn't have any dates.  She used to come home crying from school; these were the people she'd have to grow up with and live among; she couldn't be her father's best buddy her whole life...

Today she seems quite at peace.  There were bad moments after her arrest in Alabama, where she ran to, but then she was reunited with the family, and Charlie's philosophy rushed back into her soul, filling all the empty spaces.

A psychiatrist, A.R. Tweed, talked to her for hours, but never got through to her.  He called her Alice in Wonderland and she giggled and agreed.  She made his head spin with her magic word castles of homemade mysticism and secondhand religion: Everything is love, there is no pain, no death, only love, and when love is all I am, everything I do is perfect, so don't be upset, Dr. Tweed.

Dr. Hochman believed she was a schizoid personality- not schizophrenic and insane, merely ill with a schizoid tendency that deepens as she walls herself off from reality.

He may have been right.  She moves through the trial with an increasingly awesome serenity.  She strikes me as a person who is moving away.  They'll never get through to her.

Leslie Van Houten, the most All-American of the lot.  Normal, happy childhood, two big brothers, parents who adopted two younger Korean children, good grades, being chosen homecoming princess by the football team, a groovy boyfriend, almost everything.  Yay-y-y.

The pot, LSD with her boyfriend, pregnancy at 15 , an abortion she couldn't forgive her mother for.  High on LSD one day, seeing her parents as cold, unloving, mother domineering, father giving in.  Then divorce, and her curious lack of caring about it, and efforts to find herself- in Self-Realization Fellowship.  Bust.  In a Victorville commune.  Bust.  In San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury.  Bust.  Then Charlie.  Bingo.

Clear-eyed, articulate, theatrical and just a little bitchy at times, Leslie seemed hard enough to make one suspect she is still capable of wanting.  Hochman thinks she could be reached with treatment.

But this she will not get.  She hung onto her cool, and society made its judgment.  Less of a fantasist than the other girls, she will simply grow harder and bitchier, I suspect, knowing better than they what the coming down of helter skelter really means, but unable to say a word of apology.

Charlie took them all away from their misery, like Peter Pan to Never-Never Land.  First was Susan, grubbing around blearily in San Francisco, dancing topless in North Beach and making it with old men for money, strung out on LSD and booze at 18, and genuinely hurt over a broken engagement to a nice young man whose brother convinced her she wasn't good enough to marry him.

Then Patricia, drudging fatly through the days as an insurance clerk, experimenting occasionally with drugs introduced to her by her own sister, yearning always for something good to happen, and then, at her sister's, meeting a houseguest named Charles Manson...

And Leslie, tripping vaguely through California, her father remarried and lost to her, her boyfriend gone religious and lost to her, now with a new beau, and some girls who talked about a dude named Charlie, who sounded real heavy.

Charlie took them all way, dressed them in kicky clothes, gave them clever new names, and off they went- to the woods, to the deserts, to any old town, playing their games together, their magical mystery tours, their creepy-crawling, everybody sharing food, work, sex, and play, so sharing (like the shared rituals of a child's gang or as college fraternity or a men's lodge) became a bond among them, and the more outrageous the initiation, the more tightly they were bound together against the world outside.  From isolated children they grew into a family, with Charlie carefully dispensing love and beautiful talk they all wanted to find somewhere.

At this point, they are still not so obviously different from many thousands of others, wanting to find love and beautiful talk.  The hippie movement is in full flower around 1967, and dropouts, runaways, acidheads and flower children are a common sight from the East Village to the Haight.

Charlie is the most memorable one of his group, and two specialists at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, Dr. David E. Smith and research assistant Alan J. Rose, do a brief study of Manson's "group marriage commune."

Their research, finished 15 months before the Tate massacre but not published until after Manson's arrest, deals chiefly with Manson's role as a sexual omnivore and charismatic Big Daddy, but makes no mention of any predilection towards violence in his group.  They describe Manson in 1970 as "probably an ambulatory schizophrenic."

But few others in the Hashbury scene would have said anything that heavy in 1967 or '68.  Everybody was entitled to do his thing, and it wasn't very cool to put down somebody else's trip.  You might have thought Charlie was a little more spaced-out then the average, but you wouldn't have called him crazy- not against the background that embraced nearly everything, from transvestites to speed freaks, that gave protective coloration to such incipient sociopaths as the Manson family. 

The decade containing the two Kennedy murders, the King slaying, the Calley case, the Manson family and our first generally unpopular war has given Americans a bitter taste of lessons other nations down through the years have boggled at, each in its turn, ever since Cain slew Abel and helter skelter came down for good.

Maybe they're wrong, at those super-aware gatherings where they beat their breasts a while and say, "We're all guilty.  We are a violent people," but really only worry whether they have wetness.  Maybe it's really true, the part of our national anthem that goes: "Then conquer we must,/ for our cause it is just,/ and this be our motto,/ 'In God is our trust.' " Maybe.

Whether our history has been nonviolent, or just recently violent, or covertly violent all along- or all three - is still a moot question, although historians suggest the extremes of good and evil have co-existed in all nations.  But the past decade had indisputably been a shocker who believed his high school American history textbook; this is particularly true of the young, who are less experienced at adjusting to the discrepancy between ideals and realities.

The point is that since the Depression and World War II, the great majority of the young Americans- older Americans too for that matter- have grown dissatisfied in differing ways and degrees with American life.  Not that youth hasn't rebelled before, but seldom to this extent.

When those crises ended and affluence began to flourish, and still out Utopian dreams were deferred by more wars, more technology, more taxes, then the movements began in earnest on a broad scale.  The beatniks fanned out from Greenwich Village.  Martin Luther King caught a bus.

He was not alone.  John Kennedy offered a New Frontier, Lyndon Johnson proposed a Great Society, Robert Kennedy sought a Newer World and Martin Luther King had A Dream.  Well, a funny thing happened on the way to reality, and many are now turning inward with their dreams, scaling them down, perhaps closer to life-sized or, at least, to what they feel is possible.

Affluence and technological capability climb steadily, but as social evolution fails to keep pace, at least as many people seem to be intimidated by the potential of the time as they are inspired by it.  The empty-handed still want a piece of the action and go after it with anger that has rocked every American city in the last decade.

Meanwhile, the children of the affluent middle class- the first generation raised wholly within the gelid gaze of the television (which Buckminster Fuller calls "the third parent") and perhaps exposed and over sensitized as older generations were not- decide the status quo isn't worth the grief.  Having had it, they can't reject it.  And they drop out- with a little walking around money, of course- a pervasive sadness and insecurity fueling their search for alternatives to a society they find unresponsive and undesirable.

Subcultures, countercultures, alternative cultures- in themselves are nothing new, of course.  From long before the Brook Farm experiment to today's Hells Angels, there have always been groups which, with greater and lesser hostility toward the establishment world, sought to escape it.  Christ Himself, it appears, belong to such a group. 

Some communal efforts- such as the Shakers- survived quite a long time and made valuable contributions, while others simply ran out of gas, fell to bickering over who slept with whom or whose turn it was to clean the privy, or found themselves ideologically bankrupt when the society they despised stubbornly refused to collapse on their departure.

One such commune of separatist Christians was lead by a holy man named Guiteau, whose son Charles grew up to assassinate President Garfield.

Success or failure of early communes was often related to whether the group dropped out of society to fight or punish it, as some revolutionary and counterculture groups seem to be doing, or whether it simply wanted to do things differently, no hard feelings.

The very term "counterculture" suggests a force whose power derives chiefly, if not solely, from its adversary role.  The term also implies that the group is still defining itself, like it or not, on the establishments terms; the umbilical cord still ties the child to the parent.

Historically, deranged individuals were not welcome in communes which often shared a communal neurosis as well, and thus needed no lunatics to worsen their heavy sledding in a hostile world.  Isolated psychopaths generally burned themselves out young, their high degree of visibility dealing most of them into prisons or madhouses.  The less obvious, more clever of them, according to many sociologists, sometimes channeled their violence into vigilante groups like the Klan, while some even found social acceptance through the institutionalized violence of war, or on occasion, in police work. 

But the variety of experiences available on the contemporary scene afforded those like Manson and his girls both an atmosphere in which they could move comfortably without attracting much notice, and a rhetoric of anger and alienation, with which they could reinforce, even aggravate, the personal problems that had brought them to the brink in the first place.

To further aggravate an already dangerous emotional imbalance, there were the drugs.  LSD research has a long road ahead to go before we can identify all of its properties for certain. But most experts agree that LSD, depending on the social context in which it is used, can exert a powerful influence on shaping the personality of an individual whose sense of himself and whose hold on reality have been flimsy.

The experts also agree that in such a case as the Manson killings, LSD was a catalyst- not a casual agent.  It apparently stripped the thin veneer of civilization off a murderous, unchanneled anger that bubbled just below the surface in each of the family's members.

Above and beyond drugs, anti-intellectualism is a matter of deep concern to many behavioral scientists who have followed the Manson case.  It is not the anti-intellectualism of the stupid, but rather of the skeptical, articulate, well-educated young dissidents whom question what all our intellect has done for us.

"Reality is a crutch," announced a recent bumper sticker, and perhaps  that is the core of the neo-romantic, anti-intellectualism of today.  One psychologist has pointed out, "Intellectualism is reality, and anti-intellectualism is a form of denial- in this case a denial of reality that is painful.  These pseudo philosophical systems, the interest in ESP, astrology, prayer, drugs- these appeal to people who want to take the easy route, who want to deny old guilt, adult responsibility or the pain of facing reality.

On UCLA's Dickson Court, between the brick grandeur of Josiah Royce Hall and the Powell Library, a young man is blowing bubbles.  Long, tangled hair streams down behind his multicolored shirt, which billows tent-like in the breeze.  He dips his plastic bubble wand negligently in a pan of soapy water, waves the wand negligently, talks negligently to a friend, his eyes darting with studied carelessness about the court.

Finally a small crowd gathers to watch. and the young man's gestures grow suddenly graceful.  His friend, disregarded, ambles away.  The young man wields the wand slowly now, inflating large opalescent globes that waver off on the air, undulating, shape-changing, until their flimsy beauty bursts against the hard brick fortress of intellect that glowers down on the grassy court.

For more than an hour the young man and his fluctuating audience enact this ritual, observing each little death with small ironic smiles.  They well know the fate that awaits beauty and feeling in collision with the rational established order.

I am momentarily moved to suggest that they should take their ceremony to a beach or grassy hillside, but I am wrong: that would miss the point entirely.  There, they would have no hulking towers to break  the bubbles or their hearts against; here in this citadel of learned responses, they are more keenly attuned to the bittersweet symbolism, and with each pop they are drenched in significance.

It is just real profound.

And harmless, perhaps.

But further down the scale, the split between romance and reality takes on an eerie edge.  For instance in this prose poem.

I went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror and I saw myself.

I'd look away, and then I'd look at myself again.

And I saw myself.  I saw my father and his age, and everything that he had ever told me, on my face.

Then I began to grow older, right before my very eyes.  I began to get old and wrinkled and my hair began to get gray.

And I looked at my hands, and my hands got age spots on them, and then got arthritis in them.

And I grew old and I died right before my very eyes.

It was quite an experience.

Then I couldn't get away from the mirror.  I would want to go away from the mirror and the reality of what I was seeing.

And I went to bones.  My skin fell off.  I went to bones.

Then I closed my eyes, and I wasn't really thinking too much about anything, since I was dead.

And I opened my eyes and it was like I was reborn.  It was like I never- there was nothing on me.  I was nothing but pureness.

A moving experience, beautifully expressed.

And its author, describing from the witness stand a 1967 trip on LSD, is Susan Atkins.

Similarly moved on a later occasion, she plunged a knife in and out of the beautiful, living, pregnant body of Sharon Tate.


starviego said...

"Joe Krenwinkel remembers that time as happy, and says three different times: "She(Patricia) was such a good little guy." "

Not as bad as being forced to wear a dress to school(re Charlie), but creepy enough.

Matthew said...

I would be interesting to know how long after the death sentence this written. Interesting how he is predicting how the girls may end up at an older age. It took me back in time and almost felt like I was seeing the future because I knew how they would be in their older age. I don't think it ever really answered the beginning question of what would make seemingly normal kids murder but he did dance around it beautifully.

Gorodish said...

I read this article decades ago; it's pretty good. And I get that the article was more philosophical than forensic. However, almost a half-century later, what jumps out at me the most?
Tex Watson- without his wired-up, doped-out, athletic, manic, murderous presence- there would have been no slaughter on Cielo Drive. Manson couldn't have pulled it off. The girls could have never pulled it off. Neither could have Bobby, Bruce, etc.
It is amazing how Tex Watson-the lynchpin of the whole massacre-has flown under the radar for these murders for over a half-century.
Bill Boyd really knew what he was doing.

DebS said...

Matthew, the death sentence was handed down March 29 1971. The article was published June 20 1971 but could have been and probably was written earlier. It may have sat on the editor's desk for a time before being published.

DebS said...

Gorodish, I thought the same, not one mention of Tex! But then I looked up some dates. Tex was convicted Oct. 12 1971 and sentenced Oct. 21 1971. Since this article was published June 20 1971 it would have been a no-no for him to be included in the article and may have caused a mistrial if he was mentioned.

ColScott said...

The press cannot cause mistrials

Peter said...

They could, but not by mentioning Tex.

Peter said...

I mean, if you look at the change of Venue motion files in the Manson Trial, there are like 3 boxes of news articles and radio and tv transcripts, and that didnt even get them a new venue.

Monica said...

Nice, Deb. This is a very interesting article. So many sentences got me distracted from my unending workday Zoom meetings - especially this one: "[LSD] apparently stripped the thin veneer of civilization off a murderous, unchanneled anger that bubbled just below the surface in each of the family's members." Closest to a cause (not a motive) that I've heard. But I've never done LSD, so what do I know.

DebS said...

Looking through some newspaper articles it looks like Tex pled innocent and innocent by reason of insanity on May 11 1971. The trial began Aug 2 1971. Maybe the LA Times did not want to assume his guilt before he was tried and convicted. I bet Tex not having been convicted at the time the article was published had something to do with him not being mentioned in the article. I could be wrong.

brownrice said...

Interesting article. Thanks, DebS

Monica said...
"[LSD] apparently stripped the thin veneer of civilization off a murderous, unchanneled anger that bubbled just below the surface in each of the family's members." Closest to a cause (not a motive) that I've heard. But I've never done LSD, so what do I know.

Maybe a contributing factor rather than a cause (IMO).

Acid tends to bring out what's already in a person and ultimately ya can't polish a turd... though you CAN roll it in glitter. At the time of the murders (and to this day) there's a whole range of information and disinformation kicking around regarding LSD. Possibly the most truthful was that a trip's outcome and whatever realisations followed were dependant on "set & setting". "Set" being the mind-set of the individual... and "setting" being the environment surrounding the trip. Tim Leary came up with this concept in the early '60s and it was arguably the most useful thing he ever said. By the late '60s, acid had become mixed up with a whole panoply of other concepts that were current by then... peace, love, non-materialism etc etc. Because these ideas were so popular at the time many folks assumed that psychedelics would automatically lead you to these beliefs. Sadly, they don't necessarily... and the Manson saga was kinda the first really obvious public example of this.

ColScott said...

Peter- if someone TALKED to the press and violated a gag order that could cause a mistrial but probably more like damages or jail time. Or is Stovitz's case removal. The press itself cannot cause a mistrial- like I freaking said

ColScott said...

Monica- actual millions of people did acid and killed exactly no one

Peter said...

If the press published juror names. No wonder you were disbarred.

Monica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vera Dreiser said...



(Vera's WET!)

DebS said...

We posted the Milkman and Mistress documents back in 2013 and made them available for download, Vera. ZZZZZZZZZZ

Vera Dreiser said...

Oh, the audio? Sorry, Vera didn't realize you had the tapes of the mistress describing what happened in her own voice in 1973 (!). Vera's apologies, Deb S., master googler, I mean, researcher. (Vera's even wetter now).

grimtraveller said...

Some parts of this article {and interestingly enough, some conclusions} appear in Bugliosi and Gentry's "Helter Skelter."

Gorodish said:

almost a half-century later, what jumps out at me the most?

He hadn't begun his trial when the article was done but even if he had been convicted and sentenced, out of the three elements:
a]Charlie ~ the man who could get others to murder and wasn't present at the murders
b]Pat, Susan and Leslie ~ the three very young women who were convicted of murder and who happily confessed to it and
c]Tex, the guy who committed murder,
well, let's be honest, what's the more interesting ? What's interesting about a man who commits murder over the two categories before c] ? I wouldn't mind betting that even when he was convicted and sentenced, he rated nary a mention let alone the kudos of interest in the public's imagination. He was boring, he didn't talk, he didn't look hippyish, he didn't look wild or dangerous, he dressed like a clerk in an office.....

ColScott said:

millions of people did acid and killed exactly no one

There again, many soldiers did acid and did kill.
It is of interest that, according to Bugliosi, once sentenced, Charlie blamed the Beatles music and acid for the murders. He more or less did that when he testified too.

brownrice said...

Maybe a contributing factor rather than a cause

I agree with that. There were a number of contributing factors. I think we dance in hoops and circles when we devote so much time looking for causes because causes are extremely rare if they even exist, when trying to explain just about any human behaviour. Whereas contributing factors are real and mesh with human experience.

Acid tends to bring out what's already in a person and ultimately ya can't polish a turd... though you CAN roll it in glitter

Acid has that great capacity to bring out what is in a person {sometimes we're not even aware of what's in us} while also at times showing us new insights or sometimes leaving us in that place where we can be steered to new insights or interpretations of what appear to be new or profound insights.
But lots of groups do that without any kind of drug use at all. Come to think of it, most groupings of people everywhere in the world do that to some extent.

starviego said...

Gorodish said...

What was the official reason for not extraditing Tex in a timely fashion? What would have happened if was tried together with the other defendants? Did the prosecution benefit by not having Tex there?

St. Circumstance said...


A couple of quotes at the top. Some personal anecdotes mixed in with some personal opinions all added to some facts and statements from various “experts” on the subject.

Sounds like the formula for a good post to me 😉

Peter said...

Extradition fight that went to the Fifth Circuit.

grimtraveller said...

starviego said:

What was the official reason for not extraditing Tex in a timely fashion?

It was Tex's right to fight extradition on the basis that he wouldn't get a fair trial, I suspect. Nothing to do with California. It was a Texas thaing.
If she had had more presence of mind, Pat would've carried through with hers instead of nearly 50 years later trying to use battered partner syndrome to get out of jail.

What would have happened if was tried together with the other defendants?

I think Tex's lawyer would have pushed for a severed trial come hell or high water, for all the good it actually did him.

Did the prosecution benefit by not having Tex there?

Yes, but not in a way that supports your angling for some conspiratorial muckin' abaahht.
Firstly, it must be remembered that the prosecution wanted the whole kaboodle tried together. That's what they were aiming for. The delays came purely from Tex's end. And even when he was extradited {as opposed to X'd out of society !}, he then went into his mentally ill act which miraculously disappeared after he was sentenced to death.
I think the prosecution benefitted by Watson not being there because most of the heat was taken off him and placed squarely on first Charlie, then the women. It's really interesting how, during Linda's testimony, particularly for the Cielo crime, the watchword was very much "go with Tex and do whatever Tex tells you." That was stated or implied so much....yet because he wasn't there, his part in the horror show kind of went unheralded unlike those sitting there facing the charges. It was like 'out of sight, out of mind.' Then one day when Danny DeCarlo was testifying, Paul Fitzgerald had him brought in to be identified with, I suspect, the intention of having some emphasis put back on this mysterious Tex; a way of playing into the ancient wisdom of "if women murder, they do so because of a man." And it turned into a big plus for the prosecution because Tex was boring and square and rather mouse-like and the jury using good old human intuition could see that he was no murder mastermind. A dastardly murderer perhaps, but no architect. And because the women parrotted Charlie's disruption, any notion that Tex could have been the leader or had a reason to massacre 7 people died there and then. It enabled much of the evidence to concentrate on Charlie. Even when Lotsapoppa was called to the stand, Tex is almost conspicuous by his absence !
That was some cloak of invisibility he acquired in Texas !!
So they benefited from him not being there, not because they had thought of it that way beforehand and planned accordingly, but because, like jazz musicians and indeed, Charlie Manson, they capitalized on things they'd not foreseen.
Anyway, Tex soon got his.

starviego said...

I really don't see any good reason for them not extraditing Watson in the seven months they had to get him to LA for the first TLB trial. Obviously the Texas authorities were protecting Tex for some reason. I think it goes beyond just Tex being a good ol' Texas boy. They wouldn't go to any great effort to protect some guy who's killed a pregnant women and six others, unless there was some other reason.

Tex was already breaking away from Manson while still in Texas. If he came back he wouldn't have lain down for Charlie, and would have demanded a separate trial. So you could have had two TLB trials going simultaneously.

I think there is more than meets the eye in this part of the story.

David said...

Intersting post, Deb.

"I really don't see any good reason for them not extraditing Watson in the seven months they had to get him to LA for the first TLB trial."

The simple answer to this is 'because a court said so'. I suppose we could argue endlessly whether the CIA conspiracy also swept in judges in Texas but to do so seems pointless since there is not a shred of evidence to support the notion.

The decision to fight extradition is rather straight forward, legally:

1. The Press: By the time of the trial the establishment part of the population from whom the jury would be drawn, like the President of the United States, likely believed the 'hippies' were guilty before a word was spoken at the trial. My father did, for example. As Watson's lawyer I don't want him in that circus. Delay separates him from that mess. This becomes more important if I happen to catch wind of Manson's pre trial antics. Why on earth would I want my client in that courtroom with those clowns.

2. Buying Time 1: Witnesses and evidence can (and do/does) disappear. Ms. Kasabian, for example, was not where she was supposed to be when they wanted her back for that trial. Her testimony was also far less emotional in Watson's trial. Delay, again, does not hurt my client.

3. Buying Time 2: I get to 'hear' the prosecution's case before I get to court. Yes, the DA is required to turn over all evidence including exculpatory evidence before trial but I don't have the benefit of what the witnesses will actually say or what appears to work or not work. Not that anything would have helped Watson.

4. Buying Time 3: Assuming Watson sounded like Van Houten (the Tex tapes?) I would want time, time to put together an insanity defense, as much time as I could get. Not that it worked here.

5. Manson: If I caught wind of Manson's control and saw Atkins' reversal I would not want to risk putting my client under his 'spell'.

starviego said...

The Watson family wasn't wealthy or prominent. Who paid for Boyd's legal bills? The point is, is that there seems to have been some kind of political pressure to keep Watson in Texas, not any legal one. It would be interesting to read the transcripts of the extradition hearings in Texas, as to why the courts didn't immediately order Tex extradited.

I can't escape the feeling it was the LA DA's office that didn't want Tex at the trial, not the people in Texas.

starviego said...

starviego said...
"... you could have had two TLB trials going simultaneously."

Two trials. Two jury sequestrations. Witnesses being shuttled from one trial to another. It would have been a logistical nightmare. Even worse if Tex got a change of venue. And then there's the possibility of prosecution witnesses saying one thing in one trial, and something else in the other trial. And this other defense attorney might not be controllable or compromised, like O'Neill says Bugliosi was via the Milkman stuff, who then subpoenas witnesses who Bugliosi didn't want at his trial. People like Dennis Wilson, Paul Crockett, Deanna Martin, etc. Yeah, there's a lot of ways for things to go sideways, in this scenario.

You'll remember it was Bugliosi, again, who prosecuted Watson trial.

DebS said...

If, and it's a big if, the LA DA's office did not want Tex at the initial trial it may have been because they wanted to be sure that Manson was convicted to the fullest extent of the law possible. Tex, since he was the one who called the shots at both crime scenes, may have seemed more in charge than Manson. Tex's presence at the initial trial may have diminished Manson's culpability.

But, I agree with David, it was Texas that continued to fight extradition. The LA DA was filing all the right paperwork at the right time. They were exercising due diligence in trying to get Tex at the first trial but once the insanity thing came into play they probably realized that it could be a long while before Tex was extradited and judged sane enough to be tried. The others did have the right to be tried in a timely fashion, too.

David said...

Ok, I guess we have to go through this.

Governor Preston Smith ordered Watson extradited on January 6, 1970. Boyd argued inability to get a fair trail in front of the Texas Secretary of State Martin Dies. His focus was the Atkins confession. Dies asked if there were anywhere Watson could get a fair trial and Boyd didn't answer.

Please note that date.

Boyd appealed.

January 16, 1970 Watson was granted a 30 day stay of extradition from District Court Judge David Brown of McKinney. The focus at that hearing was, again, Atkins story in the press.

February 16, 1970 Boyd lost in McKinney and appealed to the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals. That appeal should have delayed his extradition 90 days under Texas law. The McKinney DA, Tom Ryan, moved for an expedited hearing. Judge Brown granted the motion. Then Boyd did was he did, again.

At a hearing on April 22, 1970 Boyd argued that when he appealed to this court he had 30 days to object to the state’s statement of facts. 90 days to review the statement of facts after he objected and 30 days to file an answering brief counting from February 16th.

May 8, 1970 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, disagreed and upheld the extradition order. Boyd filed for a rehearing.

June 24, 1970. The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals (the last step in Texas) denied Boyd’s motion for a rehearing ending his Texas appeals. He appealed to the US District Court (Federal) that same day.

Aside: The McKinney Texas newspaper includes this story and this headline: “Charles Watson Today Has Hope”. I think that explains what happened.

On July 1, 1970 Federal District Court Judge Wayne Justice (great name) denied Boyd’s appeal to the US District Court but granted 30 days to appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

August 31, 1970 the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Boyd’s appeal. Boyd appealed to the US Supreme Court.

On September 11, 1970 Justice Hugo Black of the US Supreme Court denied Watson’s request for a stay.

Later that morning on September 11, 1970 he was handed over to the LAPD.

Watson’s family paid Boyd.

No LA DA ever appeared on the record in any Texas court to present any argument.

What conspiracy? This is our justice system at work as it always does and should, frankly.

starviego said...

David said...
"No LA DA ever appeared on the record in any Texas court to present any argument."

Of course not. They didn't want Tex there.

From what I understand of the legal sytem, any defendant can appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, but there's no guarantee that any court of appeals will even hear your argument. They can simply say you have no grounds to appeal, and let the lower court ruling stand. But the court system kept on playing along....

David said...

I should add for those who don't know these timelines: 30 days, 90 days etc. are by statute. They are 'appeal periods'. They are not judge-made timelines. The only judge-made timeline was the one shortening the time on the February appeal not lengthening it.

Also the papers in and around McKinney have multiple comments from 'locals'. Watson is a 'good boy', a 'fine young man', 'raised by a Christian family', 'good people'.

Boyd's primary argument was that the Atkins confession made it impossible for Watson to get a fair trial in California. he wanted a Federal court to hear the case. Legally, he argued that her confession would be inadmissible against Watson in court as it is a co-cospirator's statement without corroboration. Boyd argued that no Texas court should allow inadmissible evidence to hurt a person's right to a fair trial. Interesting, legally.

David said...

Starving said: "But the court system kept on playing along."

I highly recommend you do some legal research. As stated the timelines are set by law. You would get them too. Every time it got in front of a judge Boyd lost for precisely the reason you hint at: no basis in the law.

Peter said...

Except that Tex left his fingerprints at the house.

Peter said...

From the Manson appeal opinion.

The character and nature of corroborative evidence may be very general and may vary according to the circumstances of each case. (People v. Luker (1965) 63 Cal. 2d 464, 469 [47 Cal. Rptr. 209, 407 P.2d 9].) On the other hand, the standard by which the sufficiency of such evidence is determined has been repeatedly articulated. [8] In People v. Hathcock (1973) 8 Cal. 3d 599, 617 [105 Cal. Rptr. 540, 504 P.2d 476], the Supreme Court succinctly stated that standard as follows: "'The evidence required for corroboration of an accomplice "need not corroborate the accomplice as to every fact to which he testifies but is [61 Cal. App. 3d 139] sufficient if it does not require interpretation and direction from the testimony of the accomplice yet tends to connect the defendant with the commission of the offense in such a way as reasonably may satisfy a jury that the accomplice is telling the truth; it must tend to implicate the defendant and therefore must relate to some act or fact which is an element of the crime but it is not necessary that the corroborative evidence be sufficient in itself to establish every element of the offense charged." [Citations.] Moreover, evidence of corroboration is sufficient if it connects defendant with the crime, although such evidence "is slight and entitled, when standing by itself, to but little consideration." [Citations.]'"

Commonly a defendant's own statements and admissions are found to be sufficient corroboration to support the testimony of an accomplice. (People v. Negra (1929) 208 Cal. 64, 69 [280 P. 354].) This case is no exception

David said...


I wasn't arguing against your points. I agree with them, all.

I simply found it interesting (as a lawyer) that Boyd used the corroborative evidence argument in an extradition argument. He seemed to be saying because it was inadmissible in a court that somehow made the press coverage worse. He likely 'lost' the judges pretty quickly.

Monica said...

I would like to know how Tex really behaves in prison. The Watson Murders became the Manson Murders because those Texas lawyers were smart and protective of their own. Tex seems to think he is deserving of continued good ole boy parole. Does anyone know how he really behaves in prison? Aside from his marriage tax scam, LaBerge con, Jesus Forgives ministries, Bruce Davis jailhouse buddie BS, Etc. Etc. Does anyone have insider info on how he treats other prisoners? How prisoners treat him? Do his peers think he is rehabbed? I read once about Kathy Lee Gifford doing a prison ministry, holding hands with Tex whilst the other prisoners mockingly sang Helter Skelter. Is he as horrible on the inside as outside? How to people who have been paroled describe him? I've heard nothing good or bad. Almost like people are afraid to speak.

St. Circumstance said...

Tex was able to manipulate the system for awhile. He got a job with a Reverend who was barely around which left Tex with basically his own office and computer access for awhile. He even got Bruce Davis into the act for awhile. Eventually other prisoners complained and it was broken up. He was able to father kids and I think Brice Davis night even have met his wife through Tex at that time but not sure I have that right. Things seem to have gotten worse for him in latter years. His own wife split. He had stopped going to parole hearings last time I paid attention. They did move him to San Diego not too long ago but that won’t matter much. He won’t enjoy it.

Tex has gotten to live a long life and was able - even in prison- to have family and contact with his family.

If you ask me he didn’t deserve it. I’m not a death penalty guy but this is the strongest case anyone could ever show me to change my mind. This man is pure scum.

DebS said...

Monica, I have no idea what other prisoners think of Tex. None of them have written or spoken about him, to my knowledge, like prisoners did with Manson. I was able to verify with a Mule Creek prison employee that Tex was the designated person in his unit or cell block to clean up blood and other body fluids after prisoners got into fights with each other. Yikes!

The Kathie Lee Gifford story is hilarious. I've LMAO the couple of times I read it. We have it here on the blog, it was posted by Eviliz years ago in her quirky style, odd fonts and day-glo colors, so it's a little hard to read.

Mario George Nitrini 111 said...

Ms Monica,

I was in State Prison (Chino) finishing my State time (1984) after doing my Federal time (concurrent sentences), and while at Chino, I worked in the
Intake Medical Unit. There were several inmates who had been incarcerated with Tex Watson, and they were in Chino on parole violations. These inmates had NOTHING good to say about
Charles "TEX" Watson. Absolutely Nothing at all....Watson is NOT the most likeable inmate in the
California Prison System.

Mario George Nitrini 111
The OJ Simpson Case

grimtraveller said...

Mario 3 said:

while at Chino, I worked in the Intake Medical Unit. There were several inmates who had been incarcerated with Tex Watson, and they were in Chino on parole violations. These inmates had NOTHING good to say about Charles "TEX" Watson. Absolutely Nothing at all

Yeah, in 1984. There was a Soviet Union and a Yugoslavia in 1984. The World Trade Centre stood in 1984. There were no flat screen TVs, internet or Nirvana in 1984. There were barely cell phones and decent sounding CDs in 1984; there were no ipods or MP3s. Blimey Mario, OJ was even liked by much of the population in 1984 and Nelson Mandela was in prison with no hope of coming out.
How times change.

starviego said:

I really don't see any good reason for them not extraditing Watson in the seven months they had to get him to LA for the first TLB trial

There's a lot of things you don't see, Sam. Conspiracy theorists tend to be living examples of the saying that "there are none so blind as those that cannot see."

Tex was already breaking away from Manson while still in Texas. If he came back he wouldn't have lain down for Charlie, and would have demanded a separate trial

That's what happened anyway. Anyone with any smarts would have wanted a separate trial. Leslie and Pat have probably spent the last 49 years privately kicking themselves that they didn't do that when either their lawyers were angling for that or they had the chance to follow through on it.

I can't escape the feeling it was the LA DA's office that didn't want Tex at the trial, not the people in Texas

You could if you approached the facts of the law and its operation and chose to acknowledge that not everything is cloaked in shady intrigue and subterfuge when it comes to this case. Cynicism and a questioning mind make for a good servant.....but a lousy master.

David said¬> "No LA DA ever appeared on the record in any Texas court to present any argument."
Of course not. They didn't want Tex there

Initially it was they who wanted him extradited, same as they wanted Pat. You're not even seeing the trees, let alone the wood for the trees.
That it worked in their favour in the end was in spite of the prosecution, not because of them. In fact, Tex was rather like Charlie in the sense of thinking he was smarter than the weight of the law. I guess one could say that Charlie got away with Lotsapoppa and Tex got away with Shorty. But where did Charlie die and where is Tex currently ?

St. Circumstance said...

Things seem to have gotten worse for him in latter years

Justice may operate on a roller coaster at times, but in his case, it operates. Inmates having conjugal rights and having kids while incarcerated is rather odious in my view but that those rights existed isn't the fault of the inmate.
I'd say Tex's life has been much like anyone else's in the sense that at some points, things look up and appear to "go well" and at others, they don't seem quite so rosy. It's not a tragedy that he's still in jail and he knows that. After all, he definitively said he deserved the death penalty and he also said that he's resigned to spending his life in jail. So getting turned down for parole after having been convicted of 7 murders, well, that's kind of par for the course. A marriage break up ? It's as common as wind by the sea. Sadly.

Robert C said...

This thread turned into a kind of 'Tex' thing but I believe overall Smith's observations and perspectives were very good, especially for the time he allegedly wrote it and for me as I remembered it while traipsing down the nostalgic road of time. His penchant for keeping it all fairly simple-stupid thus by-passing the conspiracy/complexity approaches was especially cleansing. Not perfect but none of us can ever reach complete concurrences about that. But bring on the conspiracy/complexity stuff so we can continue future riveting discussion threads. One thing this blog continues to do via contribution is to submit new, re-worked and different ideas and perspectives to the cases at hand as material surfaces whether it's new, manufactured or rediscovered.

Stranger67 said...

Very interesting Jolly West of MK Ultra fame gets a word in here, is there anywhere else i can find this article online?

Tony said...

I say Madam do you want to borrow my umbrella?