TRIALS: The Magical Mystery Tour

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Now Atkins said that before the Tate murders, she had killed Musician Gary Hinman, a murder for which another Manson follower, Bobby Beausoleil, has been found guilty. The subsequent multiple killings, she testified, were not the result of a Manson plot to foment race war but the idea of Linda Kasabian. The state's chief witness, Atkins said, convinced the Manson women that other murders similar to the Hinman slaying would make the authorities believe that the jailed Beausoleil was innocent. Finally, the witness said that Kasabian was in the Tate house when the murders occurred and provided a knife that Atkins used. Kasabian, given immunity in return for her testimony, has sworn she was not in the house.

Miss Atkins' motives in giving this testimony were transparent. When she insisted that she had killed Hinman, she made the legal point to Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi: "Your whole thing, man, is just gone, your whole motive." Why, in her grand jury testimony, had she described Manson as the organizer of the murders? "Flash!" she replied. "Susan Denise Atkins and Charles Manson in headlines all over the world. I used that man to get attention." The earlier story was just a "magical mystery tour."

Through it all, Manson sat at the defense table, sometimes stroking his goatee, sometimes smiling at the other two defendants. They are to testify this week, and it is expected that their stories will follow the lines of Atkins' tale. Whether Manson will finally take the stand only he knows. Last week the jurors showed wonderment at what they were hearing, and Judge Charles Older, during a conference at the bench, referred to all the defendants as "borderline mental cases." The jury did not hear him, but probably did not need to.

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