Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family


Vanhouten, Atkin and Krenwinkel return to court
Vanhouten, Atkin and Krenwinkel return to court

On January 15, 1971, seven months after the start of the trial, the jury began to deliberate. Nine days later, it came to a verdict. Security was very tight around the Hall of Justice since a Manson follower had stolen a case of hand grenades from a Marine Base and reportedly had planned a special event on what they were calling "Judgment Day."

The jury had found Charles Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Leslie Van Houten each guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Charles "Tex" Watson, because of extradition proceedings and other legal complications did not stand trial until later in the year and was also found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Manson Girls shave their heads after Manson verdict
Manson Girls shave their heads after Manson verdict

On March 29, 1971, the jury completed deliberations on the penalty phase of the trial. Manson and the three female defendants had shaved their heads for the reading of their verdicts.

"We, the jury in the above-entitled action, having found the defendant Charles Manson guilty of murder in the first now fix the penalty as death."

Patricia Krenwinkel responded: "You have just judged yourselves."

"Better lock your doors and watch your own kids," Susan Atkins said.

All four defendants received the death penalty.

On April 19, 1971, Superior Court Judge Charles H. Older pronounced the judgment: "It is my considered judgment that not only is the death penalty appropriate, but it is almost compelled by the circumstances. I must agree with the prosecutor that if this is not a proper case for the death penalty, what should be?"

The judge shook the hands of each juror. "If it were within the power of a trial judge to award a medal of honor to jurors, believe me, I would bestow an award on each of you."

At a later date, Robert Beausoleil, Charles Manson, Charles Watson, Bruce Davis and Steve Grogan were tried and convicted for the murders of Gary Hinman and Donald (Shorty) Shea.

Bugliosi wrote," it had been the longest murder trial in American history, lasting nine and a half months; the most expensive, costing approximately $1 million; and the most highly publicized; while the jury had been sequestered 225 days, longer than any jury before it. The trial transcript alone ran to 209 volumes, 31,716 pages, approximately eight million words."

In 1972, the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in the state and all of the defendants are serving life sentences.

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