The trial began on the 18 November 1969. Ronald Hughes was a young lawyer with experience and knowledge of 1960s counter-culture. He was assigned as Manson and Van Houten’s attorney, but decided to drop Manson in favour of defending Van Houten who he thought could convince the jury that she was under the influence of Manson. The move may have cost him his life. In 1970, Hughes went camping and disappeared. His decomposed body was found several months later. It is thought he was the victim of ‘retaliation killing’ by members of Manson’s Family for, in their eyes, betraying their leader.
During the trial Manson released an album titled ‘Lie’ in order to raise money for his defence. Previously when he had known Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys fame he had written several songs, one of which was recorded by the popular wholesome group. Manson revelled in media attention and during court proceedings turned up with an X carved into his forehead. Some of his female followers copied the act and shaved their heads, sometimes sitting outside the court house. The X was gradually modified until it turned into a swastika.
Throughout the trial the killers often giggled and exchanged grimaces with Manson. They showed no remorse for their crimes.
On 25 January 1971 Manson was convicted of first degree murder for directing the deaths of the Tate/La Bianca victims. He was sentenced to death but this was automatically commuted to life in prison after the Californian’s Supreme Court invalidated all death sentences prior to 1972. He is now still serving time in Corcoran State Prison, California.
All convicted killers are still serving life sentences except Kasabian who was granted immunity for her part in acting as star witness.