Ms. Atkins, who died in 2009, provided the crucial testimony to the grand jury that led to the filing of indictments; But then she changed her mind and refused to testify at Mr. Manson’s trial, which began with jury selection in June 1970 and opening arguments in mid-July. That did well with Vincent Bugliosi, the lead prosecutor, who learned after closing the deal for Ms. Atkins’ grand jury testimony that Ms. Kasabian was also willing to testify.
Mr. Bugliosi wrote in “Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Killings” (1974, written with Curt Gentry), his bestselling account of the case. “But in our haste to take the case to a grand jury, we made the deal with Susan, and like it or not, we stuck with it. Unless Susan pulled out.”
Once Susan “withdrew,” the prosecution granted Ms. Kasabian qualified immunity—which would be revoked if she did not testify fully and truthfully—and she became the focus of the trial of Mr. Manson and the three women. (She was later important in the case against Mr. Watson, which was tried separately.)
That trial was a wild case that lasted for months. Ms. Kasabian testified for 17 days, addressing the complaint by defense attorneys and sometimes by Mr. Manson himself.
“Although the defense obtained a 20-page summary of all my interviews with her, as well as copies of all her letters to me,” Mr. Bugliosi, who died in 2015, wrote in “Helter Skelter,”Not once Has it been isolated by an inconsistent previous statement. I’m so proud of her.”
In a 2009 interview on “Larry King Live”, Appearing alongside Ms. Kasabian (her photo has been redacted to protect her privacy), Mr. Bugliosi left no doubt that she had put Mr. Manson behind bars.
He said, “If there ever was a star witness for the prosecution, it was Linda Kasabian.” Without her testimony, Larry, it would have been very difficult for me to convict Manson and the other defendants.
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