Vanity Fair Spain - Manson - Online article - English translation
Charles Manson talks to Vanity Fair Spain for the first time after two decades of silence.
"I live in the underworld. I do not tell people what to do. They know what to do. And if donít know what to do, you donít come to me. I am very mean. I'm a very bad man. Dirty. I'm in the bullring. I shoot people. I'm an outlaw. I'm all wrong."
This is how Charles Manson responds when asked today about the crimes of the Tate / La Bianca case in August 1969, which shocked the world. Over 40 years after being convicted for those crimes, Manson, now 76, has granted VANITY FAIR SPAIN, from Corcoran Prison in California, his first interview after more than two decades of silence.
In the nights of August 9 and August 10 of 1969, four young men with whom he shared a hippie commune on a ranch outside Los Angeles brutally murdered seven people, including actress Sharon Tate, wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski, eight months pregnant. It was stated during the trial, which lasted nine months, that Manson was the one who ordered those crimes, which were intended to spur a race war that Manson himself would have predicted.
Recently, after 42 years locked for those crimes, Manson has been for the first time in the hands of an attorney, the Italian Giovanni DiStefano, previously known for defending Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, to try to reopen his case. DiStefano has filed on his behalf an appeal to the Interamerican Human Rights Committee and has also sent a letter to U.S. President, Barack Obama, asking for the reversal of the conviction due to a series of violations of Mansonís rights during the trial.
DiStefano argues that Manson was not allowed to defend himself or to testify before a grand jury, and considers that the prosecutor of the case manipulated the jury creating a conspiracy theory that in fact never existed. "I think Obama is foolish for doing what he does. I donít know how they were able to trick him to get him there. He does not realize what they are doing. They are playing with him," Manson tells Vanity Fair when asked about his opinion about the president, whom he considers "a slave of Wall Street."
Manson, who was sentenced to death but whose sentence was commuted to life imprisonment following the abolition of capital punishment in California, maintains a large number of supporters and onlookers who continue sending letters to the prison where he has spent 63 of the 76 years of his life. He has also become over the years, for many of his companions, an icon for environmentalism with his movement ATWA (air, trees, water and animals), which warns about the ongoing destruction of the planet with pollution.
"We are all martyrs. Love is a martyr. This is why Christ calls attention. So they crucified him. We crucify people and we hang their bodies on crosses. And we call ourselves Christians then. So, who is the martyr? The one who destroys love, or the one who destroys the destroyer? It is a circle. It's good and bad. Yes, I am a martyr. But I am also a victim. And I'm an executor. And a predator. I'm both. I am everything. I am nothing," Manson says. "Sooner or later the will of God will prevail over all of you. And I was condemned for being the will of God."
Highlights of the Charles Manson case.
Who is Charles Manson?
He is without doubt one of the most notorious criminals in U.S. history, charged and convicted for ordering the murder of seven people including actress Sharon Tate, eight months pregnant wife of Roman Polanski. Officially, Manson was born on November 12, 1934 in the state of Ohio.
However, as explained to VF by sources close to Manson, and as is apparent in his driver's license (which is equivalent to the Spanish National Identity Document) Manson was born on November 11, but American authorities have delayed one day so his birthday would not coincide with a national holiday, because November 11 is Veterans Day in America.
Does he have a real family?
The Manson Family were young hippies with whom he lived in a ranch-commune in California, some of whom committed the crimes of this case. But Manson also has a biological family. He tells us by telephone that during the years he spent outside the prison he had three women with whom he had three children.
Rosalie Jean Willis was the first and the only one who got married. His son was named Charles Milles Manson Jr. His second wife was Leona Musser, known as Candy Stevens, who was part of his community. They had a son they named as Charles Luther Manson. Mary Brunner, also of the community, was the third, and she had Sunstone Hawk Manson, Michael Brunner. Today, friends of Manson say, he does not maintain any contact with his children.
Where are the people who committed the crimes?
In prison, in the same situation as Manson, are Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten.
Susan Atkins died in 2009 of brain cancer. She requested the freedom to die outside of prison, but was denied. Her deathbed in prison was filmed by the cameras of ABC News while her husband read the Bible.
Any member of the family is out of prison?
Yes, Steve Grogan left in 1985, Lynette Fromme in 2009. But neither was accused of the crimes of the Tate / La Bianca case. Grogan was convicted of murder, in what is supposed to have been a settling of accounts because he thought Shorty Shea was giving him away.
Manson also, as established by the judge, participated in this crime. Grogan unveiled in 1977 where he buried Shea, who was killed in August 1969. For her part, Fromme, who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975, was paroled in 2009.
In addition, Bruce Davis, who did not participate in the Tate / LaBianca murders, but in the murders of Shea and musician Gary Hinman in August 1969, had the parole board approval in 2010, but will remain in prison because last summer the California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected his release.
Charles Manson wears a swastika engraved on his forehead?
Manson explains that the swastika on his forehead is not that of the Nazis, but it refers to an ancient Asian symbol. He interprets it, as we see in the image drawn by his own hands, as a crossroads with the slogans "do not judge," "give", "no condemnation" and "forgive" that converge in a center that is "love" and "a god."
Are they still investigating Manson?
Today, according to the consulted law enforcement authorities (LAPD, California Highway Patrol and the FBI), there is no open investigation on Charles Manson. However, two years ago a group of volunteers continued searching for bodies allegedly buried at Barker Ranch in Death Valley, where the family moved in the summer of 1969. They claim that some thirty bodies could have been buried there.
"They are volunteers to test this technology that can then be used to find victims of earthquakes or natural disasters. No state money is involved in it," said Patrick Sequeira, District Attorney of the County of Los Angeles.
"It's hard to know whether theyíll find anything. They would have to first find the remains, then determine whether they were killed, which is very complicated because there are just bones now, and thereafter they would have to see if it can be connected in one way or another with Manson and his Family, because somebody can just die and be buried in the desert. Even if you could prove that, many of them are already in prison, so they could not be condemned again, because they have received the maximum punishment already."
Why has Manson resorted to Obama?
Giovanni DiStefano, a renowned international lawyer, has written to U.S. President, Barack Obama, asking for the remission of Mansonís sentence. As stated in his letter, the president has the power to grant pardons for offenses against the United States.
According to the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, "no state can enact laws to abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States: nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process."
DiStefano presents this appeal claiming that Manson did not have a fair trial because of three reasons: because he was not allowed to defend himself, as requested, because he was not authorized to make a statement to the jury, and because the prosecution acted with malice establishing a conspiracy theory that manipulated the jury even though there was no evidence that Manson participated in any killings.
The lawyer expects a negative decision by Obama, who must answer before he leaves office in November 2012, but has presented this appeal, he says, "because then I can appeal the decision of Obama to the Federal Court, where now I still cannot take the case."
Could Charles Manson be released on parole?
Although he regularly has parole hearings - the next one scheduled for next year - it is impossible for it to be granted. First, experts say, because of the atrocity of the crimes. Second, because he is living in a kind of 'legal limbo.'
In 1971 Manson was sentenced to death in the gas chamber. However, the abolition of capital punishment in California in 1972 led to his sentence commuted to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, which was then the second sentence in terms of magnitude. However, between 1972 and 1976, when re-established the death penalty in the state, the greater sentence was life imprisonment without possibility of parole. And that is the penalty that would have corresponded to Mansonís then.
And third, notes one of the members of the committee responsible for the parole, the prosecutor Patrick Sequeira, because his behavior in prison "has been very poor and he has never shown any remorse."
One day in the life of Charles Manson.
According to prison officials, Manson is locked in this special protection unit "for his own safety and that of other inmates." It is feared, above all, that the most famous prisoner in California could be attacked by another inmate.
Manson spends most of his time in his cell with his guitar and the letters sent by his admirers and sympathizers of the environmentalist movement ATWA. He leaves just to get out to the common area to chat or play cards with some of his fellow inmates.
As reported by those around Manson, in this unit prisoners have nothing to do, unlike in the rest of the prison, so they are now pressing to be allowed to have a music room. Manson, of course, is the bearer of this request.
In the PHU the day starts at eight o'clock. From that time prisoners have a long day ahead where they are allowed to leave their cells or to remain there. They can leave to the yard at that time or wait and do it at eleven o'clock.
In the afternoon, from five-thirty, the cleaning of the cells takes place, and prisoners have their showers. At nine-thirty at night the prisoners return to their cells.
During the day, they have lunch and dinner inside the unit Ė they do not share space with other prisoners from the prison - and can devote their time working on the unit in the food service, like cleaning, or working in the yard. They also have access to religious services, a legal library and visitors.
ATWA: the ecological war of Charles Manson.
ATWA is the acronym that Charles Manson and his sympathizers identify themselves with. It stands for Air, Trees, Water and Animals and is the name of the environmental movement that Manson himself leads for more than forty years, when he began to warn about the ongoing destruction of the planet with pollution.
Today, notes those around Manson, ATWA has thousands of affiliates around the world: USA, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, England...
Hundreds of supporters came into contact with ATWA, explains Star, a personal friend of Manson, for being in agreement with the environmentalist ideas advocated by Manson. MansonDirect.com and ATWA.be are the main websites, but there are other sites aligned with country memberships and numerous blogs of his supporters. Outside the United States one of the most active is Brazil (ATWA Brasil).
"We can be little rabbits running around in the universe, or temples for God and his will of ATWA. The air we breathe is order. We must save our air. We must protect the trees that give us air and all the green, from the bottom of the seas to the tops of the mountains. You can make more from prison to change the world then with the bureaucracy or the media liars," says Manson from prison.
ATWA's premise is simple: God is the air we breathe. We're polluting the air, so we are killing God and we are killing ourselves. Being so, the message calls for an uprising against the system established by Wall Street and the lie that it promotes to the world. The only way to achieve the unity of the whole world for a single cause is: the war to save the planet.
Manson repeated tirelessly during the interview with Vanity Fair, like a catchy and easy to learn slogan: "Put the green back, put the green back". It is one of his objectives: to redeem the air of the Earth protecting its forests and jungles and raising awareness that people have to replant the world.
According to Star, one of the organizers of the movement in California, they are making a gun (like those used in paintball games) capable of spreading seeds. A symbolical and useful object: on the one hand it quickly replants seeds, while on the other it is a pistol, a weapon of the war which we live.
"That behind ATWA is Charles Manson, a man who is in prison convicted of murder, is a challenge that we face every day. Many people, especially in the U.S., has a narrow view of him, an image that was constructed with time. But I believe it can be deconstructed too. I think it may be strange for some people, but if you think like me and many others, that is not so clear what Manson did or did not do, and why he has become the monster that he allegedly is, then it becomes easier to understand it" says Fernando, the main supporter of ATWA in Brazil and a friend of Manson, who also shares his concerns about the environmental aggressions suffered by Brazil.
This immediate environment of Manson agrees in rejecting the current image that exists of him. They call it the "official truth" which was established in the trial. They call for people to review the case, to meet "your own truth" and the "human side" of Manson that they claim was removed from the trial in 1970. "I know he is not guilty. But even if he were I do not care what people do or if they kill someone or not. If someone is violent towards me I would act on it. But what others have done with other people, that has not affected me in my life, I donít," argues Star, putting herself in Mansonís position. For his part, Fernando, from Brazil, confessed, after initial hesitation, that "if Manson were really as the official history tells he is, the message of ATWA would remain the same and would still have the same value."
How does ATWA work? What does it mean? Star explains, from California: "ATWA is not an organization like Greenpeace. We have no leaders, we have no bases, it is not official. ATWA is a way of seeing things. A philosophy. A message. We do no business with it. What we collect is for projects." If there are no leaders, then what is Manson? "Manson makes the word. He has a vision of what is ATWA. But he does not tell people what to do. He asks you not to pollute and to plant trees. That's all we want people to do."
And what is the solution advocated for the planet? Manson himself explains: "There is only one: everyone in the world accept God - our air - and work for God - the air. Everyone accepts the air as God, because we cannot live without air. Your sin is against yourselves, it is a sin against the air. And the air is all you have. If you are making money selling air, you are selling your own life."