Forty-two years ago, Charles Manson orchestrated the murders of eight people, possibly more that have never been discovered. In my best estimate, the thing that should have been done once it was determined that he should spend the rest of his life in prison is that he should not have gotten anything in terms of media attention, interviews, record releases, or anything of the sort. Rather, he should have been put in prison and let to stay there with not so much as any form of contact with the media, let alone a series of interviews that seems to happen every so often.

When you give a madman an interview, in some way you are legitimizing what he is saying and giving a little bit of substance to his words, regardless of how completely without merit they may be. For example, when in the last few months so many people interviewed Harold Camping, who famously predicted that the world would be destroyed in a series of earthquakes on May 21 (you are reading this article after May 21 and the world is still here, free of all of those earthquakes) it gave just a little bit of substance to his words.

There’s a reason that, when a crazy person gets on the subway and starts ranting and raving about anything, people tend to completely ignore the person and it’s not just because they are preoccupied with their reading. Even looking at the crazy person on the train lends some importance to the message of the person and gives the person the idea that what they are saying or doing is important. They think, people are looking at me — I must be doing something right. Similarly, I think it’s far better to direct people who beg for money on the train to organized homeless organizations rather than giving them money directly — it leads to more and more people begging for money on the train which, I believe, ultimately leads to fewer people wanting to take the train and that is not a good path to take.

Charles Manson has numerous fans who would love to see him released from prison. I can only imagine that they would not be so keen on seeing someone released if their own family was brutally murdered on account of his existence. It seems ridiculous that people continue to venerate the words of Manson so much that they create fan sites in his honor and orchestrate petitions to be sent to get him released. Let him stay in prison — without the benefit of even a single glorifying interview.


  1. It’s disturbing that the media would even want to talk to Manson. I don’t get the glorification of a killer for profit — but then again — I guess that’s what our mainstream entertainment has become when we watch shows like “The Sopranos” and “Mob Wives” that celebrate criminality and killing.

    1. Chad and Elizabeth have been watching Mob Wives. I think The Sopranos was more of a character study of a deeply flawed man who cried out for help but Mob Wives, from what I have heard while washing dishes (I will not spend the time to watch) it it crass and trashy. Rather sad that we have gone from The American Family to Mob Wives.

      1. The Sopranos killed a lot of people. It was a celebration of mob life and a reflection of reality even though it was just a TV show.

        I’ve watched Mob Wives a few times — you’re smart not to get enmeshed — and what fascinates me is how much money those women have when they don’t work — and how much they celebrate the “mobster life” of their men who make a living by breaking the law and hurting people. I originally had hope for Gravano daughter as she tried to break free from the lifestyle by understanding the horribleness of it — but they sucked her back in and she’s fully invested again.

          1. The hook of the show, Gordon, is that all their men ARE in jail. They sit at home and accept collect calls from their men in prison. They were born into that life and they basically only have each other.

  2. David, still discovering how many blogs you have and at last one that is my field!

    This item on Manson for me tells the major difference between the US legal system and the British or typical main-land European systems. The level of public input.

    Discussing the pros and cons of the Jury System aside (a big discussion indeed), the real main element that differs is how public the legal system should and can be. Though we share much in the British system with the US, the public is not considered important except when the topic is the danger to the public, the knowledge of the case has a major public effect (panic, risk of demonstration, etc) and in fact considers that publicity and links to cases are a detriment to the rights of the accussed and the victim and/or their family.

    Thus in active cases, like for instance Dominique Strauss-Khann the public parading, filming of or even court reporting would be restricted except in the US case to protect the accussed and the victim.

    In the case of convicted criminals like Manson, in the UK and Europe to have an interview with him takes a huge amount of paperwork and the approval of at least four separate stake-holders – 1. the criminal if he/she agrees, 2. the representative of the victim (yes, absolutely), 3. the corrective services authority (to justify it is worth it) and 4. the head of the institution that the person is locked away at (based on the risks of violence, health, etc).

    Personally, I am pro Capital Punishment and there is a growing view globally that “life in prison with no chance of release” is inhumane and that such cases should be automatically death after appeal processes are exhausted. It would also save money, risks of abuse, give closure to victims and be a stronger message. What I have read, Manson was deemened not only fit for trial and not “insane” but rather was calculated and plays the system – he should have had the needle/voltage/noose/bullet.

    D Charles QC
    Barrister and former Police Prosecutor

    1. I’m glad you found us here, uglyfringe, and even though Gordon wrote this article, I’ll comment on a few of your keen points.

      Crime is down in the USA. The trend is real, we are told, because of the massively high incarceration rate for any little infraction. The fact that the Supreme Court ruled last week that California must release 30,000 prisoners due to overcrowding must send a bit of a shiver down the spines of the citizenry in the Golden State.

      I read an interview about DSK that a prosecutor in France gave. He admired the USA justice system in that nobody was above the law. He said in the European Union, DSK would never have been arrested so quickly or jailed. He’d have months to prepare his response before even being approached by the authorities.

      Finally, in the USA, the feeling seems to be that life in prison without the possibility of parole is a harsher sentence than death because the guilty must be forced to live with their deed instead of taking the easy way out and dying. Death is too good for them. We want them to suffer on earth, not be set free.

      Manson is a fascinating case. He murdered no one. He was the puppetmaster mastermind and had others do his bidding. He was sentenced to death. Then, in the 70’s, California repealed the Death Penalty and everyone on Death Row as commuted to “Life in Prison” without parole and Manson was one of those lucky ones. In the 90’s California reinstated the Death Penalty, but you couldn’t retroactively go back and re-sentence Manson and his ilk to Death — you could only do that to spare their lives, not re-condemn them.

      1. David,

        I was unaware about how California went back and forth on the Death Penalty like that. Nevertheless — I agree with you in that death would have been better for him and much worse of a punishment. Then again, he doesn’t even seem to have the slightest shred of remorse!

        1. I’m not sure if death would have been better for Manson or not — but giving him power and letting him live through the press is incredibly defeating for his victims and uplifting for him — if we want him to rot for life, then he should be rotting. No visitors. No recreation. No human interaction. Locked down 23/7. Let him live in that madness of his mind. Killing him is too easy. I think letting him live within himself is much more of a real punishments that lingers every single day.

    2. Mr. Charles,

      Just a reminder, my name is Gordon, not David — no worries, it has been a lifelong matter for me! 🙂

      I am not sure that Capital punishment would have been better for Mr. Manson — I think a good lengthy sentence in a Japanese style prison would have been better. I saw a news program once on prisons in Japan where prisoners must sit in a two foot by two foot cell for hours every day, every day, for years on end — that is punishment!

  3. Gordon and David, it was my error of not noting who wrote the item so please forgive.

    Very interesting points given by David about punishment and the changes in Capital Punishment in California.

    I read about the Manson Case a long time ago in studies regarding “collective conspiracy” which basically means coordinated testimonies and then coordinated disruption by a group of accussed – such as the case with the Manson “family”. It was from this point on that clear separation of the accussed has now became common place and I should add is one of three procedural changes that particular Judge famously made. I forget his name, he was in fact the second Judge as the first was removed by challange and he was also a famous Air Force pilot!

    The argument about the speedy process in the US with justice is a two edged issue and in fact we all wish it was faster as over on your side but the assumption of innocence being lost is the issue there. DSK was arrested and charged but to many in Europe paraded not as if he is nothing special but rather as if he is already found guilty. He will be put in front a Jury which is the other issue, which I will not go into detail unless you make it a separate thread. The Jury versus the Tribunal subject comes to light every time a prominent European is charged over in the US, with the DSK example a prudent reminder. He is peraded and his every detail and movement being made public and thus 12 citizens with no legal background, open to media influence will be given the power of his future and of course these 12 will be open to persuasion, pressure, coersion and confusion by both a prosecutor and a defence attorney.

    As a prosecutor registere for both the British and Spanish Courts I deal mostly with Tribunals and the arguments are totally based on the law, evidence and circumstances and any pushing and pursuading is two a panel of three Judges whom already know the laws and the system. As you can see I am rather impressed by that system so I hide nothing regarding my view but getting back to the subject at hand, with Manson and this item, is the level of how much criminal matters should be in, influenced by and allowed to “go public”.

    A Dutch philosopher called Erasmus hundreds of years ago raised the question “is punishment vengance, retribution or justice and are all three the same?”. That in the end is in fact the question that is being debated. Life without parole is indeed worse than the death penalty but is it justice or vengance (or are both the same?).

    The argument that is coming out recently and which I agree, is that Justice is not vengance or retribution at all but in fact a “reclamation and realligning of rights” and thus punishment a penalty for the creation of an injustice. Life in prison without parole means that the individual serves no longer any purpose in life, but as long as he remains alive he has some rights – to be in fact protected, fed, not tortured etc. This is a paradox of his no longer having any purpose (and thus humanity) but then having a series of rights and the State having responsiblilties over him. Thus, the logic says he should be killed and thus out of the equation.

    Add to that his suffering in remorse and contemplation only works if in the end there is “redemption” which if we are religous we can say is for when he eventually dies but as a secular society makes no sense if that redemption becomes a nul point since he can never be redeemed and paroled. Thus he may sit and be the same murdering monster until he dies because of years of state-provided cuisine.

    I tend to go on a bit so I will stop there but a last comment if I may. If it is for the victims that one wishes to see the prisoner “rot in prison” for the rest of his life, that is then sponsoring vengence of which in most society is in fact a sin itself.

    D Charles QC

    1. I love the Erasmus line and will hopefully write on it some day. I think letting s person rot is not so much vengeance for the victim as getting justice for them. Measure for measure I say.

      1. Yes a topic I would be very interested to discuss as well.

        From legal standpoint in most countries “justice for the victim” simply means having the person or persons found guilty being dealt with by the law. Thus the victim not receiving justice is when the person or persons responsible are either not apprehended or the system fails to deal with the case fully.

        The subject is in fact “punishment” and again unler most legal systems that means providing a penalty and only a handfull of Western countries actually consider the wishes of the victim to taken into affect when it comes to dealing out the penalty. The United States is one of them but only to provide influence on the Jury or Judge to provide the level of penatlty available to them. Those countries that do not accept that process will argue that it means the person is not being punished via the law but via the victim.

        1. Consider the average rape victim.

          Would they ever be okay with seeing the person that terrorized their life on the street?

          An extreme example but nevertheless…

    2. Your last line is interesting:

      If it is for the victims that one wishes to see the prisoner “rot in prison” for the rest of his life, that is then sponsoring vengence of which in most society is in fact a sin itself.

      In the USA we don’t allow religious emotion to color the law. I know it sometimes happens, but the separation of Church and State is, at least in theory, still alive and sort of well. Notions of redemption and sin are for the Church pew and not the judge’s bench. We do, however, support the notion of reforming the prison individual, but that has, unfortunately, been given up in the sloth and poverty of the prison system economy and so, unfairly, the insane and the incorrigible are merely warehoused and slightly tended to without any real chance at ever reconstructing their lives.

      1. Point very well taken. The British and Spanish legal systems are very similar in accepting the reality of the faith even though they declare the legal systems to be totally secular. Their argument is that the justice and “the good of the people” is ultimately a reflection of their moral “and” religious values, that is especially the case for Spain.

        The term redemption “la redención” is used in Spanish Law as being the end objective to punishment. The word remorse “remordimiento ” is not.

        That is also why Spain is increasingly seeking to legalize the death penalty to replace life without parole because that prison is incapable of redeeming himself to society and even if he showed remorse he is no longer free. Catholics up to the level of the Archbishop of Barcelona support Capital Punishment but the Vatican does not and it is in the news almost every day now.

        From my own legal experience, religous values will always be a factor in any legal proceeding when the general population is involved. Even if the Judge (or in our case the Tribunal) are strictly viewing things at a secular level and by the book, ulimately what is wrong or right, good or evil comes from faith. Now imagine attempting to secularize and take out faith from 12 citizens!

        Your comments about improvrished prisons is an interesting one, the biggest problem in Europe is not poor prisons but the lavish lifestyles and benefits prisoners have when our economies are falling to cr*p (pardon the language).

        D Charles QC

          1. In many European prisons the targetting seems to be the rights and care of the prisoner (based on it being rehabilitating) and many are rather upset.

            Examples are well stocked lounge rooms with TVs and sound systems, even play stations in The Netherlands and Switzerland!

            To avoid being accussed of prisoner rights abuse, the standards simply have been set high so that instead of a primary school getting a new play set, the prison may get the gym. Feeding the prisoners is also privatised and a minimum standard given and exceeded to ensure no questions, rather than institutionalised standards are kept.

            The other element is visits by spouses for a weekend in bungaloes in Sweden (within the perimiter of course!) .

            You can imagine the cost per prisoner at this level. I should point out that Britain does not follow this game and privatisation of prisons though a debate in itself resulted in lower standards and harsher treatment in stark contrast on the continent.

            Spain is a mix with rights becoming the issue but no money available to “improve”.

            I will search out prisoner costs but I have recently been reading up on US comparison costs ( but it should be noted that the low figure also comes out with the very high incarceration rate that the US has.

        1. Here are some prisoner stats from Florida:

          In Fiscal Year 2009-10, it cost $19,469 a year or $53.34 a day to feed, clothe, house, educate and provide medical services for an inmate at any state facility, and $15,498 to do so at a prison for adult males, which are the majority of individuals incarcerated in the Florida state prison system.

          Florida spends around $2 a day to feed each prisoner:

          Feeding prisoners Nutraloaf if the new “cruel and unusual punishment” —

          In the USA prison system — you’re an animal for herding in chains, and not a person with inalienable rights — there’s no more want to reform the person because so few of them ever get out now and too many of them jump right back in after being paroled.

      1. He as actually convicted of 9. But no one counts Donald Shea and Gary Hinman – probably because they were poor.

  4. First off, you have to look at this phenomena from the start to the end: where did it start? The media. The media made Manson into who he is today; they didn’t glorify him, but they made him a sympathetic villain. Second, you have to see Manson how a lot of people see him: less of the villain – as he is portrayed – and more of a victim of the “system” that put him at the top of these murders, and ignored key players like Watson, Davis, Beausoleil, the Straight Satans, et al. Then finally, you have people stirring up conspiracy theories and publishing facts that completely make Vincent Bugliosi’s theory null and void. Heck, even Doris Tate stated that she did not believe Bugliosi’s theory, but was thankful for the prosecutions that it made. If you take all of these elements and combine them, you get this man who generates a lot of debate – positive and negative – and that creates money-making opportunities for the media, as well as a lot of hot topics by people who write books. Then we, who are also interested in the case – for positive or negative reasons – buy those books. If the media would have just let the trial go on, and not pounded Manson Mania on the covers from 1969 – 1972, then perhaps no one would care. But, here you are writing about the case – adding to the mania.

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