I love reading books, too. Mind, I read all manner of books; so I'm not stuck on one "thing." I mention that in the hope nobody will think I'm some morbid gloomy-Gus type when it comes to literature preferences.
Right now, I'm reading a book with the scary title Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders
by Greg King (Barricade Books, Inc.; New York, New York; 2000). Wait! Stop! Don't run away! Let me explain!
First: In spite of the fact that everybody who ever met her thinks Sharon Tate was a wonderfully down-to-earth and sincere person â€” who (by the way) loved cats and rescued a stray kitten only days before her murder, feeding it with an eye dropper and adopting it into her family of dozens of cats â€” the public at large has always thought of her as some sort of stupid bimbo who slept around and ingested drugs like candy. As it turns out, the negative mythology is untrue; and I feel an obligation to send positive vibrations toward her, in a feeble attempt to offset the humiliations and ridicule heaped upon her both before and after her death.
Second: There's a huge, gaping flaw in the way the State of California chose to prosecute the case against Leslie Van Houten. Mind, neither authors King nor Vincent Bugliosi (Helter Skelter
) discuss this discrepancy â€” and for good reason, as it calls into question the rushing to judgment of Van Houten. Basically, it has to do with the concepts of burden of proof and "brainwashing."
Since "brainwashing" conjures up Manchurian Candidate
images of helpless prisoners of war, Bugliosi and his colleagues in prosecution avoided ever using the term. But their entire case against Manson dealt with his having "total control" over the actions of the so-called Family.
Van Houten â€” who was not present during the Tate/Sebring/Folger/Frykowski/Parent murders but was on the scene during the subsequent LaBianca murders â€” was accused and convicted of murder (as were Charles Manson, Charles Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel). Although the state presented evidence clearly indicating Watson, Atkins and Krenwinkel had actually killed people (and that Manson had ordered the murders) no evidence that Van Houten had killed anyone was ever introduced. And, the state took every opportunity to show Manson held absolute sway over Van Houten and the others.
Both King and Bugliosi contend Van Houten "knew what she was doing," even though what she did didn't result in anyone's death. (Remember, the state must prove a crime. The accused have no burden to prove absence of a crime.) And, although when it comes to Manson the state trots out all manner of expert psychologists to substantiate the "brainwashing" case againt him, when it comes to Van Houten suddenly there's not a psychologist to be found. We're just supposed to take the prosecution's word for it, that she "knew what she was doing."
So it's as if the judge, jury and general public were wooed into the idea of having it both ways: assert Manson "brainwashed" his followers, but turn around and assert the "brainwashed" people weren't "brainwashed" at all. Van Houten went to prison for life absent any evidence she killed anybody. It's illogical that she received the same punishment as Manson et alii
Okay, so who cares? Well, I do for one. I value books; and any non-fiction book which contains shoddy scholarship ought not to be published. But both Helter Skelter
and the book I'm presently reading subscribe to the same "gaposis" in scholarship when it comes to Van Houten. But that's the end of my story.