People v. Manson

Decision Date13 August 1976
Docket NumberCr. 22239,24376
Citation132 Cal.Rptr. 265,61 Cal.App.3d 102
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Charles MANSON et al., Defendants and Appellants.

Irving A. Kanarek, Van Nuys, for defendant and appellant Charles manson.

Albert D. Silverman, Canoga Park, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for defendant and appellant Patricia Krenwinkel.

Daye Shinn, Marina Del Rey, for defendant and appellant Susan Atkins.

Maxwell S. Keith, San Francisco, for defendant and appellant Leslie Van Houten.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Jack R. Winkler, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Crim. Div., S. Clark Moore, Asst. Atty. Gen., Norman H. Sokolow and Howard J. Schwab, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent People of the State of California.

VOGEL, * Associate Justice.


Appellants Charles Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins 1 were indicted by a grand jury on seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Appellant Leslie Van Houten was indicted in two of the same seven counts of murder and in the conspiracy count.

A jury found all appellants guilty as charged and further found the murders to be of the first degree. After the penalty phase the same jury imposed death sentences upon all appellant. The resulting judgment was appealed directly to the Supreme Court (Pen.Code, § 1239(b)). While this case was pending that Court decided People v. Anderson (1972) 6 Cal.3d 628, 100 Cal.Rptr. 152, 493 P.2d 880, cert. den., 406 U.S. 958, 92 S.Ct. 2060, 32 L.Ed.2d 344, invalidating the death penalty. On that basis, these appeals were transferred to this court for determination.

The Homicides

The events giving rise to the charges contained in the indictment are two successive multiple homicides occurring in the City of Los Angeles during August of 1969. 2 We here recite the nature of the homicides. Additional facts are discussed in the segments of this opinion to which they have primary relevance.

THE TATE MURDERS: In August of 1969 Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate Polanski, were tenants in residence at 10050 Cielo Drive. During this time Mr. Polanski was out of the country and Mrs. Polanski maintained the residence. Wojiciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger lived with her. Mrs. Winifred Chapman was the cook and housekeeper. Mrs. Chapman left the main residence between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m. on August 8, 1969. 3

On the following day, August 9, Mrs. Chapman returned to the Cielo Drive residence and discovered a ghastly scene. The police were summoned and on investigation located five victims of a brutal homicide. Just inside the entrance to the residence and near the entry gate they located a Rambler automobile. Inside of the vehicle they found the body of Steve Parent. The bodies of Frykowski and Folger were on the front lawn. In the living room, connected by a piece of rope, police located the bodies of Tate and Jay Sebring. A towel was wrapped around Sebring's neck and covered his face.

Substantial amounts of blood and blood trails were found about the property. The word 'Pig' was written in blood on the front door. 4 Examination of the bodies by the coroner revealed that the victims suffered numerous injuries. Tate suffered 16 stab wounds. Folger was found to have been stabbed 28 times. Sebring's body showed seven penetrating stab wounds and one fatal gunshot wound. Frykowski's body exhibited 51 stab wounds and his scalp had 13 lacerations apparently inflicted with a blunt instrument; Frykowski's body had two gunshot wounds. Parent's body had five gunshot wounds.

There was no apparent evidence of ransacking or larceny. Jewelry and some money was found on the victims and on the premises.

THE LA BIANCA MURDERS: On August 10, 1969 Frank Struthers, the 16-year old son of Rosemary La Bianca, returned from a vacation to his home at 3267 Waverly Drive. Expecting to find his mother and stepfather, Leno La Bianca, Struthers instead discovered the dead body of Leno La Bianca. Police were summoned to the residence. Mr. La Bianca's body was in the living room, his face covered with a blood-soaked pillow case. His hands were tied behind his back with a leather thong. A carving fork was stuck in his stomach, the two tines inserted down to the place where they divide. On Mr. La Bianca's stomach was scratched the word 'War.' An electric cord was knotted around his neck. The coroner's examination revealed 13 stab wounds, in addition to the scratches, and 14 puncture wounds apparently made by the tines of the carving fork. A knife was found protruding from his neck.

Mrs. La Bianca's body was found in a front bedroom. Her hands were tied with an electric cord. A pillow case was over her head and an electric cord was wound about her neck. Her body revealed 41 separate stab wounds.

There was no apparent evidence of ransacking. Except for Rosemary La Bianca's wallet, no property appeared to be missing from the victim's bodies or from their home. 5

'Death to the Pigs' was written in blood on a wall in the living room; over a door, 'Rise'; and on a refrigerator door, 'Healter (sic) Skelter.'

The Conspiratorial Relationship 6

At trial, respondent's evidence strongly supported a theory that the homicides were the product of conspiratorial relationships and activities. An enormous amount of evidence bearing on the societal association between Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, Van Houten and certain third persons was introduced. The scope of these relationships in terms of time and intensity is germane. While it is true that mere association with the perpetrator of a crime does not prove criminal conspiracy, it is a starting place for examination. (People v. Lewis (1963) 222 Cal.App.2d 136, 144, 35 Cal.Rptr. 1.)

The very nature of this case and the theory of the prosecution compel reference to circumstantial evidence of the conduct and relationship of the parties. People v. Kobey (1951) 105 Cal.App.2d 548, 234 P.2d 251 confirms that such reference is proper: 'Virtually the only method by which a conspiracy can be proved is by circumstantial evidence--the actions of the parties as they bear upon the common design. It is not necessary to show directly that the parties actually closeted themselves, attained the proverbial meeting of the minds and agreed to undertake the unlawful acts. (Citation.) It is a familiar principle of the law that in deriving whether an agreement was unlawful the triers of the fact may consider the events that occurred 'at or before' or 'subsequent' to the formation of the agreement. From the proof of the occurrences beforehand and at the time of the agreement linked with evidence of the overt acts a jury may determine that a criminal conspiracy was formed. (Citations.) The major portion of the evidence might consist of the conversations and writings of the conspirators or it may consist of the overt acts done pursuant to the conspiracy. Such acts may establish the purpose and intent of the conspiracy and relate back to the agreement whose purpose may be otherwise enshrouded in the hush-hush admonitions of the conspirators. Whatever be the order of proof the jury has finally to determine whether the alleged conspiracy has been established.' (People v. Kobey, supra, p. 562, 234 P.2d p. 258; see also, People v. Steccone (1950) 36 Cal.2d 234, 237--238, 223 P.2d 17; People v. Wheeler (1972), 23 Cal.App.3d 290, 307, 100 Cal.Rptr. 198; People v. Finch (1963) 213 Cal.App.2d 752, 29 Cal.Rptr. 420.)

Sometime in 1967 Manson found his way to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. While there he became associated with young girls and women who were runaways, drop outs or otherwise disassociated with conventional society. He obtained a Volkswagen bus, collected some of his female companions, and began traveling about the country.

Ultimately, he established a commune of about twenty people at Chatsworth, California. Composed of Manson's companions from Haight-Ashbury and others, the members were mostly young women, three of whom had young children. The group became known as the 'Family' even though none were related by blood or marriage except for the mothers and children. The Family, a community unto itself, rejected conventional organizations and values of society. By August 1969 the commune included Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, and two other co-indictees--Charles Tex Watson and Linda Kasabian.

At Chatsworth the Family occupied portions of an established horse ranch owned and operated by George Spahn. Spahn permitted the group to live there in exchange for the young women doing certain domestic and secretarial work and the young men maintaining the ranch trucks. The Family used certain bunkhouses, and other buildings, 7 and also maintained campsites, one of which was located in Devils Canyon (the 'Waterfall').

Without doubt, Manson was the leader of the Family. The scope of his influence ranged from the most simple to the most complex of matters. He decided where the Family would stay; where they would sleep; what clothing they would have, and when they would wear it; when they would take their evening meal; and when they would move. Additionally, he concerned himself with the structure and composition of the Family. Manson directed that the children not be cared for by their natural mothers because he believed the children should be freed of their mothers' 'ego.' He wanted the children kept out of sight because he believed they were being watched by the Black Panthers.

Manson ordered one of the male members of the Family, Paul Watkins, to get more females and bring them to him. Instructing the female members of the Family to provide sexual favors to members of the commune, and to do the same for outsiders for the purpose of recruiting new members, Manson also directed them...

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