December 24, 2014
Jason Slater - TLB Radio
Happy Holidays from TLB Radio!
I have never really cared whether Charles
Manson received a fair trial or not in the Tate-
LaBianca murders because I have always been
satisfied with my interest in TLB of searching for the real motive or motives.
But in listening to TLB Radio, I have to admit Brian Davis has somewhat stirred my interest in that question of Manson receiving a fair trial.
So let's start at the beginning and take a look at where this "fair trial" issue first

Weeks after being indicted and arrested for the TLB murders, Manson was
adamant that he represent himself during trial.
Manson first brought up his propria persona (pro per) rights when appearing
before the court on December 17, 1969 to ask to have his already assigned
court-appointed attorney dismissed.
At a continuance hearing on Monday, December 22 Manson told Judge William
B. Keene, "There is no attorney in the world who can represent me as a person.
I have to do it myself".
Judge Keene proposed to first arrange a meeting between Manson and an 
unbiased attorney with no interest in becoming Manson's attorney but only
to discuss legal issues and advise of any risks involved in representing himself.

Judge Keene chose Joseph Ball, saying to Manson, "I could not send to you a
lawyer that I have a higher regard for."
Ball was senior counsel for the Warren Commission and was a former president
of the State Bar Association. I think we can all agree those are elite qualifications
for law.
Manson agreed and met with Ball and on Wednesday, December 24, 1969 and
while many of us were getting ready for the biggest day of the year in anticipation
of Santa Claus, Charles Manson spent Christmas Eve in a Los Angeles court room
fighting for his pro per rights which supposedly we all have, although it is
understandably advised against by most judges and Judge Keene was no
different, imploring Manson "not to take this step".
(The following proceedings were had in Department 100 before the Honorable
William B. Keene, Judge presiding)
11:15 A.M. 

THE COURT: All right. This case on our calendar, People versus Charles Manson. 

THE CLERK: No. 9, your Honor. 

THE COURT: All right. This case of People versus Charles Manson. Good morning, Mr. Manson.

THE DEFENDANT: Good morning. 

THE COURT: This matter was continued on the Court's own motion to this date, Mr. Manson, so that you would have the opportunity and the benefit to confer with an attorney that this Court appointed for the limited purposes of discussing with you your suggestion to the Court that you wanted to proceed and act as your own attorney.

I should have the record further reflect that after you left the courtroom the last time that you were here, I think on Monday, that I, in fact, conferred with the President of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and after a conference with Mr. Hufstedler, who is the President of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, I called upon Mr. Joe Ball and asked Mr. Ball if he would accept an appointment under Section 987a of the Penal Code and go and talk to you and confer with you on the basis of what our conversation was last time that you were here.

I have had an opportunity to discuss with Mr. Ball the fact that he has, in fact, been to see you and I think also he had an opportunity to see you, I think, this morning.


THE COURT: I would say initially to you, Mr. Manson, that in my selection of sending Mr. Ball to you I've gone to a man that I consider one of the finest lawyers of this country.

I would state to you further that I consider Mr. Ball to be a person who can give you the best possible legal advice on your suggestion that you want to waive your constitutional right and act as your own attorney. 

And I can only suggest to you, as past president of the State Bar Association, and knowing Mr. Ball's experience, background, trial ability and absolute integrity, I could not send to you a lawyer that I have a higher regard for. 

And I could not send to you a lawyer that I think that any lawyer in this State or any judge in this State has a higher regard for than Mr. Joseph Ball.

And I further indicated to you at the time that I was sending Mr. Ball to you not as a lawyer who was interested in trying your case but that I was sending him to you as a lawyer to give you sound advice and discuss the matter with you.

Now, is this correct, that you did have an occasion to discuss--

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, we did. 

THE COURT:--your situation with Mr. Ball?

THE DEFENDANT: We had a nice talk, yes.

THE COURT: How did you get along with Mr. Ball? 

THE DEFENDANT: Very nice. Very nice gentleman. 

THE COURT: And I would have the record further reflect that Mr. Ball, pursuant to an appointment under Section 987a of the Penal Code, is here in court at the present time. 

And as the matter now stands, he is your attorney of record for the limited purpose of this hearing at this time. 


THE COURT: Let me ask you now at this time, Mr. Manson, having had the benefit of discussing the matter with Mr. Ball, having had the benefit of his advice, what is your current frame of mind as to how you want to proceed at this time?

THE DEFENDANT: Mr. Ball understands probably maybe everything there is to know about law, but he doesn't understand the generation gap. 

He doesn't understand free love society. He does not understand people who are trying to get out from underneath all of this. I don't think there is anybody that can give me a defense because I don't think I have a defense left. The lawyer for Mrs. Atkins got 50--

THE COURT: Let me interrupt you from this standpoint: I didn't want at this point to get into a discussion with you as to your evaluation of the other lawyers involved. I'm just interested at this point as to how you wish to proceed.

THE DEFENDANT: Well, see, you are very clever. You bring a man that is respected and renowned and you offer him to me and then when I refuse, then you can hide behind this decision.

THE COURT: No, no.


THE COURT: This decision, Mr. Manson, is going to be mine. I am not hiding behind anyone's decision. 

Let me also state to you at this time that the only concern that I have, and I ask you to accept the fact that it is a deep concern, is that you do receive a fair trial. 

And I have a further deep concern, and I have a constitutional obligation, to make sure that if you do decide to waive your constitutional right to be represented by a lawyer, that you do so after the best advice that I can give to you.


THE COURT: That may be your decision, it may not be your decision. I would trust that that would not be your decision. I would trust that you would follow the advice that I would give to you and certainly my advice is that you not represent yourself. 

And I don't know at this point what your evaluation of Mr. Ball's advice was. 

The question for us now at this time is how we are going to proceed. Are you going to proceed and act as your own attorney?


THE COURT: Or do you want this Court to assist you further in getting for you competent legal services?

THE DEFENDANT: I would like to go in pro per with Mr. Steinberg and Mr. Kissack (sic) to assist me.

THE COURT: That's your decision; is that correct?

THE DEFENDANT: Your Honor-- yes, sir. I respect your opinion as an opinion. 

All my life I've sat in front of judges and I've said, "Yes, sir," "Yes, sir," and I've very meekly, all my life, been in jail saying, "Yes, sir," "Yes, sir," and by listening to words that trick my head, fool me, you know, like I have seen no justice in my life. 

Not from your bench. You know? I've seen love is sincerely in your mind but the robe that you wear means nothing to me.

THE COURT: All right, Mr. Manson.

How long did you have a chance to talk with Mr. Ball yesterday?

THE DEFENDANT: Quite a while. Quite a while.

THE COURT: And you are satisfied that you had ample time to discuss the matter with Mr. Ball and there would be no further need for any further discussion with him along the lines of your making this ultimate decision as to whether or not you will act as your own attorney?

THE DEFENDANT: May I relate some of the discussions that we had?

THE COURT: Could you answer that question for me?

THE DEFENDANT: No, no need for more talk.

THE COURT: You have no further desire to talk with Mr. Ball?


THE COURT: All right. Mr. Ball, would you indicate, please, for the record, your appearance here and indicate, if you would, please, the opportunity and the length of time that you have had to discuss the case with Mr. Manson.

MR. BALL: Well, I visited Mr. Manson yesterday in the infirmary of the County Jail for more than an hour and I found him to be an able, intelligent young man, quiet-spoken and mild-mannered. 

And he expressed to me a feeling that he would be unable to get a fair trial because of the publicity that has been associated with this case.

And I advised him that I thought there was some great danger of that; that the case had been publicized to such an extent it would be very difficult to get a jury.

But that I felt in the hands of a skillful lawyer who would represent him that he could get a fair trial.
It wouldn't be easy, but it would be better than if he represented himself in the matter.

We went over different problems of law and I found out he had a ready understanding of problems of law. Remarkable understanding.

As a matter of fact, he has a very fine brain. I complimented him on the fact. I think I told you that I thought he had a high I.Q. Must have, to be able to converse as he did.

But he was resolute in his feeling that he should represent himself because the publicity he's had has pictured him rather badly. Papers and magazines. Outrageous publicity. Unbelievably bad.

And he feels that if he goes to trial and he is able to permit jurors and the Court to hear him and see him, they will realize he is not the kind of a man who would perpetrate horrible crimes.

He asked me what I thought of him and I told him I felt the same way that I had, that when I talked to him he's mild-mannered, he is not resentful of anything, he is not resentful against society, he is quiet, seems to be contented with his present position, but he is apprehensive that unless he can reach people who are to try him through his own words that the horrible publicity he has will prejudice him.

And I must sympathize with him in that attitude because I don't think that there has ever been a case that has received worse publicity than that which Mr. Manson has received.

I did tell him, however, that I thought that in the hands of an able, experienced lawyer that perhaps he would set the pattern and that he would have a chance to show his quiet, benign personality to a jury through his lawyer.

But he still believed that the best procedure for him is to represent himself. And he again told me that this morning.

I think I've stated our conversation, Mr. Manson, haven't I?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, you certainly have.

MR. BALL: And it was a friendly conversation. We shook hands when we left. And I told him that any time in the future if he wants to consult with me, just tell me to get in touch with him. I'll come to the jail and talk to him.

THE COURT: You are satisfied, Mr. Ball, that in the length of time you have had to talk with Mr. Manson, that an ample opportunity has been afforded to both you and Mr. Manson to discuss this waiver of this constitutional rights?

MR. BALL: There is no question about it. He's familiar with his rights and he didn't agree with me on my advice and he gave me good reasons why he didn't. I still believe that he should have a lawyer.

I still believe he'd do better with a lawyer to handle the questioning of witnesses. But he doesn't think so. And as he told me this morning, he said, "If you knew me better, you might not believe so." And I said, "I never had any doubt as to your ability." 

Because Mr. Manson is a man with a fine brain, good intellect.

THE COURT: Mr. Manson, let me make one thing perfectly clear as we proceed in this matter: That I am not at this point going to permit you to proceed acting as your own attorney and also allow to come into the court as counsel of record at this time any other attorneys.

Now, we will discuss at this time the fact that you will act as your own attorney, if that be your desire, arid I think you make it amply clear to me on several instances that under no question that you want at this time an attorney to come in as an attorney of record.

I will permit you to proceed in pro per, if that be your desire, with the understanding that you will be your own attorney, with the further understanding that no attorneys are going to be named in this case as co-counsel with you, so to speak.

Now, certainly acting as your own attorney, if that be your ultimate and final decision, and it is agreed with by the Court, then you certainly can have all of the advice that you want to have.

You can certainly get the advice of any lawyers in any regard or in any way. But I reiterate, I am not going to get put into a position, nor do I think it a tenable position at this point, of having a defendant act as pro per with co-counsel.

So if you want to come into this case acting as your own attorney, I want you to understand that as we proceed.

I understand what your position is and what you want, but I want you to understand that that is the decision that I'm now about to make as to whether or not to permit you to proceed in pro per as your own attorney.

THE DEFENDANT: Before you make it, may I--?


THE DEFENDANT: If you rule in this direction, it isolates me. I am not acquainted with the tricky little things that happen in the courtroom. 

I am not acquainted with how you take and sell your story to newspapers for money. 

The little things that's been going on in this trial, if the public knew about it. And if you isolate me, I have no way of letting anyone know about it.

THE COURT: Mr. Manson, I'm not isolating you in any way. I am merely suggesting that if you want to act as your own attorney, and I am satisfied after we talk about it further that that is what you want to do, and that you are making an intelligent waiver of that constitutional right, you will be into this case as your own lawyer and that in no way is going to isolate you.

You can get the advice, the assistance, of anyone that you care to. But, as I say, it will not be on the basis of three or four or five individuals with the ability to be co-counsel in the matter with each one attempting to call the shots.

You are going to have to call the shots yourself.

THE DEFENDANT: I know that.

THE COURT: And you can have all of the advice that you care to by any lawyer that you want to select. 

But, as a technical matter, they will not come into this case as co-counsel with you. And if you want to call upon Mr. Steinberg, if you want to call upon Mr. McKissack, and if you want to call upon any other lawyer or any other expert that you care to as far as the defense of your case is concerned, that's fine.

Certainly you have that right.

But I want you to clearly understand that I will not permit you to come into this case as one attorney with two other attorneys coming in as co-counsel.

THE DEFENDANT: What about one other attorney coming in as co-counsel?

THE COURT: No. If you go in pro per, you will go in pro per by yourself, with then you’re getting whatever assistance that you care to from any other lawyer or any other source that you care to. That's the decision that I'll ask for you to make at this time.

THE DEFENDANT: Your Honor, does it indicate in the Constitution that I can be represented with counsel and also ask questions myself?

THE COURT: No. If you come into this case, you will come into the case as your own attorney and we will leave it up to the trial judge at the time that the matter is tried as to how the trial itself will be conducted.

THE DEFENDANT: Will you be the trial judge?

THE COURT: I don't know at this point, Mr. Manson. The matter has been set in a department where I am going to be seated. 

Let me in that regard-- Mr. Manson, let me make a statement to you: There are 134 judges on the Los Angeles Superior Court. I am one of 134. Any one of the 134 judges who are Superior Court judges of the County of Los Angeles can try your case. 

Now, what judge tries your case is completely unimportant. It is not relevant, to use the terminology of that other generation that you spoke about earlier. It is not relevant and it is not germane as to who is going to represent you in this matter.

The names of the lawyers are not important.

What is important in this matter is that you get a fair trial and what is also important in this matter is that you not give up a constitutional right of the right to be represented by a lawyer without reflecting on it and giving it some serious, deep thought.

THE DEFENDANT: The way you say it makes it sound very fatherly. You say, "Don't give up the constitutional right," but then at the same time if I get a lawyer I can't say anything. I sit like a dummy in the courtroom and I'm a victim to his whims.

THE COURT: Mr. Manson, I don't want to repeat. I have indicated to you that I've sent you, in my judgment, the finest-- one of the finest trial lawyers that I have ever seen.

Now, I am certain that Mr. Ball in his discussion with you explained to you that you are not giving up your voice in this trial.

You have a constitutional right to testify at the time of this trial.

You can't be compelled to testify and no one can make you be a witness.

But if that is your decision, that you want to testify, then certainly that is your right and you will have the right at the time of the trial to testify.

I am over and over again telling you and giving you the best advice that I possibly can, that you should have a lawyer to represent you in this matter. But if you--

THE DEFENDANT: I agree with that. I agree with that. But I would still like to act as my own counsel. Can Mr. Ball be my assistant in this matter?

THE COURT: We are not at that point.


THE COURT: Mr. Ball would have to make that decision himself, if you decide to act as your own attorney.

THE DEFENDANT: Oh, I already decided that.

THE COURT: That's what you are going to do?


THE COURT: And we are beyond that point? 

THE DEFENDANT: There is nothing I can do.

THE COURT: All right. Mr. Manson, I don't know anything about you, other than what you have-- other than the times that you and I have met here in the courtroom. 

It is important for me to know something about your background before I can make that decision.

Can you tell me something about your background? how far you went in school?

THE DEFENDANT: Fifth grade.

THE COURT: And where did you go to school?

THE DEFENDANT: In the reform school.

THE COURT: At that time, when you finished the fifth grade, were you able to read and write?

THE DEFENDANT: Not very well, no.

THE COURT: Have you since learned how to read and write?


THE COURT: All right. Now, have you had any other education other than the fifth grade? Any type of correspondence?

THE DEFENDANT: I like people and I listen.

THE COURT: Any other type of formal education?


THE COURT: I notice in the petition, Mr. Manson, that was filed on your behalf by Mr.-- I presume that it was prepared by Mr. Steinberg and filed in your behalf?

MR. STEINBERG: No, your Honor. That was not filed by us in his behalf, that was filed by Mr. Manson himself.

THE COURT: Mr. Steinberg, if you will excuse me, please, I will hear from you further. 

At this time this Court will conduct the inquiry of Mr. Manson. And if I care to hear from you at that time, I will certainly permit you to do so, but I suggest to you at this time that you permit me to ask Mr. Manson some questions without any interruption.

MR. STEINBERG: I will, your Honor, but I must point out that the man is at this point totally unrepresented in any way.

THE COURT: Mr. Steinberg, did you understand what I suggested to you very politely, that I am going to make an inquiry now of Mr. Manson and it is the Court's prerogative to make this inquiry of Mr. Manson by myself, and I would appreciate it that you do not interrupt the proceedings at this point unless I call upon you to clarify some point.

When this is concluded, then certainly I'll hear from you, if I think that that is necessary.

Now, Mr. Manson, in this petition that was filed on the 22nd day of December, I see that you have signed it and I presume that you read it before you signed it.


THE COURT: And I also note that in this petition it has a correction on Page 2 where it is set forth, that is why I have asked for and ask again for lawyers Luke McKissack and Lawrence William Steinberg to be allowed to represent me, and you crossed out the word "represent" and wrote in "help."

THE DEFENDANT: That meant help me in my representation.

THE COURT: So you did read it and you did sign the petition?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir, I did.

THE COURT: All right. Now, have you had an opportunity to study the law at all?

THE DEFENDANT: Well, I've lived with it for 22 years.

THE COURT: And other than living with it, have you had occasion to study law?

THE DEFENDANT: I tried to fight a case once on appeal from McNeil Island. I got ten years for a check. And I-- word to mouth, I became acquainted with a little bit of it.

THE COURT: Did you have an occasion during that time to have access to any legal books?


THE COURT: And you did study the law at that time to a certain extent; is that correct?

THE DEFENDANT: Vaguely, yes.

THE COURT: And I am sure in this case at this point that you are aware of what you have been charged with in this indictment?


THE COURT: And you are aware of the fact that it is a multiple-count indictment, are you not?

THE DEFENDANT: Multiple-count indictment? Yes, I am aware of that.

THE COURT: Do you know what the charges are?


THE COURT: What are they?

THE DEFENDANT: I forget the number, but I had it. It's murder.
THE COURT: How many counts of murder?

THE DEFENDANT: Seven counts and one conspiracy.

THE COURT: And the other count is a conspiracy to commit murder; you are aware of that?


THE COURT: Are you aware, Mr. Manson, as to what the penalty is in the State of California for the crime of murder in the event that it is murder in the first degree and so found by the trier of fact?


THE COURT: What is it?

THE DEFENDANT: It's the gas chamber.

THE COURT: Or, in the alternative, what?

THE DEFENDANT: Life without parole.

THE COURT: Well, it's life imprisonment, or death in the gas chamber at San Quentin. You are aware of that?


THE COURT: And are you aware of the fact that if you are permitted to act as your own attorney in this matter, and in the event that there is a conviction in this matter, that that is a possibility as to what the ultimate sentence in this matter can be? Are you aware of that?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I am aware of that. I am also aware that I'm dead already. You know, the papers have me already dead. So--

THE COURT: Well, Mr. Manson, as I have indicated to you, this case will be tried in a court of law.

This case will not be tried, insofar as the trier of fact is concerned, by what may or may not have been written in newspapers, what may or may not have been seen on television.

This case will be tried based upon the evidence, the legally-admitted evidence, which comes into the courtroom at the time of the trial.

That's what it will be tried upon.

I just want to make sure at this point that you do understand what the consequences are in the State of California in the event that you do find yourself convicted of murder in the first degree in one, seven, or-- the conspiracy count as well.

THE DEFENDANT: For all my life, as long as I can remember, I've taken your advice. Your faces have changed but it's the same court, the same structure...All my life I've been put in little slots, Your Honor. 

And I went along with it...I have no alternative but to fight you back anyway I know because you and the District Attorney and all the attorneys I have ever met are all on the same side. 

The police are on the same side and the newspapers are on the same side and it's all pointed against me, personally...No. I haven't changed my mind.

THE COURT: It is in this Court's opinion, a sad and tragic mistake that you are making by taking this course of action, but I can't talk you out of it...Mr. Manson, you are your own lawyer.

So, it was a merry Christmas after all for ole' Charlie Manson in 1969 as he received his right to defend himself in the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Manson claims he was never given his rights but as we read, Manson actually was given his rights at least initially. What went wrong?

To be continued...

Sources: Helter Skelter - Vince Bugliosi, Pre-Trial Transcripts


Bill Davies Jr said...

Wow, I can't wait for part 2. Of course they finally said OK you are your own lawyer, saying it is one thing, I'm anxious to see why they retracted that right due to "acting crazy." What could he do to have that right taken away. When it's seen from real documentation I think some people may be shocked.

MrPoirot said...

I thought it was the defense lawyer Fitzgerald that brewed up the 'no defense' defense. The DA nor the prosecutor nor the judge made the decision not to provide a defense. This decision came from Charlie's side of the aisle. Fitzgerald described the "no defense" defense as genius.

Anonymous said...

Awesome read...thx


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