Monday, July 25, 2022

Guest Post - Grim Traveller

Having recently done jury service here in London, I thought it might be a novel time to say a few things about a book that made absolutely no splashes or fanfare that I could see, when it came out back in 2019, a time when many things Manson were flying out of the woodwork, when 50 year anniversary {an odd concept in my mind} talk was all over the place. That book is “Inside the Manson Jury” and it was mainly written by the jury foreman, Herman Tubick. It passed well under the radar, which is interesting, considering in the four years leading up to it, there had been the deaths of Charles Manson, Vincent Bugliosi and Family documentary maker, Robert Hendrickson, as well as books by Dianne Lake, Lynette Fromme, Ed Sanders and the long awaited “Chaos” by Tom O’Neill, not to mention increased parole activity, including several recommendations for parole by the parole boards. One would have thought that a tome written by one of the actual jurors would have at least rated something of a mention, but no.

Jury foreman Herman Tubick, was the undertaker that served on the original trial and I think that he missed a trick in not having his book published at the time he wrote it, back in 1973. His nephew who writes the foreword, says that he never wanted to profit from it, which is quite commendable. In retrospect however, having gone to the trouble of writing a memoir about it, he clearly wasn’t just writing for himself.

With involvement with the co-author of Dianne Lake’s “Member of the Family,” in truth, it’s not a great book. It’s even arguable that many people interested in TLB would actually want to read it. It’s not sexy like “Chaos” and “Goodbye Helter Skelter.” It’s not controversial or definitive like “Helter Skelter” or its predecessing poor relation “The Family.” It may be an insider’s account, but it’s not exciting like “Reflexion” or “Member of the Family”  or gossippy like “Trial by your peers.” It’s not a debunker like “Crucified ~ the railroading of Charles Manson” or “False profit ~ Garbage dump to guru.”  

But in saying all that, it’s certainly not a bad book. It’s what I’d call a “point of view” account and for anyone interested in the workings of a jury, how they relate to matters and sift through the information they are given, it’s a gold mine. Had it come out in ‘73 along with William Zamora’s, it would have provided some much needed balance to his. And not only that, certain questions that only a juror could answer are answered. For example, we find out how much of an impact the 9 months of Atkins, Krenwinkel, Manson and Van Houten’s shenanigans had. We discover what the jury really thought of Linda Kasabian. We learn what they thought of the various delays, what it was like being sequestered, how they felt about being on such a famous case, how they got on {or didn’t, as the case may be}. Were the jury the “ding-a-lings” that Paul Fitzgerald hoped they would be ? Were they swayed by pre-trial publicity ? How great was their respect of and admiration for Irving Kanarek ? Did they cut Ronald Hughes any slack ? Was Judge Older viewed as weak and lacking in control ? What did they think of the Family witnesses on both sides ? Was there any bias ? Did William McBride really have the hots for Leslie ? Did they see through Bugliosi and think of him as a slick operator or hold him in high esteem ? How aware were they of the women on the corner ? Were they afraid of the Family ? Were Stephen Kay and Don Musich knights in shining armour ?

We get a sizeable and significant input from Herman’s wife, Helen, and we learn that the two spent much time in the ensuing years after the trial talking about the trial and the whole experience and she is the one that encouraged him to write his memories down in book form. As with juror John Baer’s wife Rosemary, with her book, “Reflections on the Manson Trial,” {which pre-dates even Zamora’s book}, Helen {who looked a bit like the Queen of the UK} demonstrates that at some point, the Manson episode touched people in profound ways and so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the lingering interest, even 50+ years later. Both Herman and Helen appear as relics of a bygone age, yet through having to be on her own for 9 months, albeit reluctantly, Helen developed an independence and drive that she’d never had to contend with before so the book carries an interesting social dimension that William Zamora’s never had.

Speaking of Zamora, I thought it would be interesting to read his book again. “Trial by your peers”  {later rebranded as “Blood Family”} remains an excellent book and like Herman’s, takes us through each of the witnesses and what the juror remembered of each. But one thing that comes across very starkly in both books are the two specific juror’s disdain for each other. Zamora used aliases in his one and the person he cast as Herman Tubick is presented as a small minded old man that was out of touch. Herman on the other hand, names names and suffice it to say, William Zamora wouldn’t’ve been heading his Christmas card list in the early to mid 70s, if ever ! As diplomatic as he tries to be, the friction is clearly in his writing. Still, it wouldn’t be in keeping with all things Manson if there weren’t contradictions and differences relating to the same events !

I don’t want to say too much because despite it not being the greatest story ever told, I would recommend it. Heartily. And I have to give an affectionate shout out to Beauders who tipped me onto the book in the first place.

Thanks sister !

How much it actually adds to the overall story is really down to the individual. I personally enjoyed most of it and think it is valuable. I tend to think that most, if not all, of the perspectives that various participants in this saga bring to the table are really quite important, if only for balance and appreciation of nuance. And up until now, the only juror perspectives we’ve had have been that of William Zamora and a kind of second hand one in Rosemary Baer, wife of John Baer ~ and interestingly, she disagreed with her husband on matters like the death penalty and seemed to be more willing to listen to where the defendants were coming from. In Herbert’s book, we get not only his observations, taken from his notes and recorded in real time, we also have input from William McBride III who was also on the jury. He was one of the youngsters and his contribution to the book is worth a whole lotta something valuable. He actually went on to become a court reporter, inspired by his time on the jury. I rather wish he’d write his own book ! Or at least do a very long and definitive interview.

In spite of all that has been said and written about the Manson case, the defence and prosecution, dodgy activity on any side of the equation, the Family or the families etc, the simple reality is that it was those 12 people sitting on the jury that convicted the defendants. Not motives or theories or lies or lack of defence. That alone makes the book worth a read. The illustrations are top notch, even if the artist, Anna Latchmann, had a 50 year advantage that other artists didn’t in the 70s.

A number of people suffered personal losses during the trial period, Pat Krenwinkel among them, losing her half-sister. The jury members weren’t spared the clutches of the Grim Reaper , with Tubick being among those to lose close ones and/or family members. Ironically, life had to go on.

There are some nicely human moments such as when Charlie mouthed “Happy birthday” to Herman on his birthday and the female defendants sang the song “Happy birthday to you” outside the jury room. But all in all, it could hardly be described as a happy affair and it’s worth a read to understand exactly why as Herman has much to say about the wheels of justice. The book is available and the prices online range from more than reasonable to taking the mickey.

As an appetite wetter, I’ll conclude by quoting Herman from the book;

“There was sorrow in my heart for all four defendants, especially for the women. There were moments in the courtroom, as I reflected on the wasted lives of these young girls, the thought crossed my mind; by the grace of God, they could be my daughters. There is no jubilation in something like this, no sense of satisfaction; it was a task that I did not relish. The issue was not how I felt, but that it was a job that had to be done. And in a crime of this nature, the defendants were seemingly unrepentant killers. I could not let my heart rule my head.”

- GT


EAN (ISBN-13): 9781944068868


Publishing year: 2019

Publisher: Micro Publishing Media

ISBN/EAN: 9781944068868

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