One of America's most sensational trials is to reach a conclusion later this week. Exactly?
One of America's most sensational trials is to reach a conclusion later this week. Exactly seven months after the trial of hippie leader Charles Manson and three of his girl followers for the Sharon Tate murders began, the prosecution made the final summing up. On Friday (15 January), the jury went out to decide the verdict, and a decision is expected this week.
Manson, 36, leader of an allegedly death-oriented cult, has been the accused mastermind of the murders of actress Sharon Tate and four others at her Hollywood mansion in August, 1969, and of murdering a supermarket owner and his wife the following night. Two girl followers have also been on trial for similar charges: Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, both 22. A fourth defendant, 21-year-old Leslie Van Houton, has been charged with being involved only in the later killings.
Manson and his co-defendants were arrested after the trial led police to the disused movie ranch only miles from the Tate home, used as headquarters for the Manson clan called "The Family". The ranch, once a location for Hollywood Westerns, was used as a home Manson and his followers. When Manson was arrested, other members of "The Family" told reporters that he was being victimised by a society which did not understand him.
Although Manson first appeared in court in January last year, the actual trial did not begin until last summer. During the trial, the jury had to sift through nearly 300 items of evidence, including guns, knives and a blood-stained rope from which Miss Tate's body was found dangling.
One of those originally arrested for the Tate murders, 21-year-old linda Kasabian, was granted immunity for her testimony as one of the primary prosecution witnesses. She was allegedly a look-out during the killings. She described the alleged murders during her 18 days on the stand.
The closing prosecution address ended a string of almost daily drams, punctuated with disruptions and clashes between the accused, lawyers on both sides, and the Judge. A defence lawyer disappeared under mysterious circumstances and President Nixon even took part by declaring at a press conference that Manson was guilty directly or indirectly of the murders.
In December, the four defendant were barred from the courtroom for interrupting the case.
The prosecutor wound up by saying that Sharon Tate's husband, film director Roman Polanski, could not have conceived of "a more monstrous, macabre, and nightmarish scene of human terror and massacre".
If the jurors have brought in a first degree murder verdict, they will now have to decide whether the accused are sent to their deaths in the gas chamber or receive life in jail.