Thursday, March 17, 2011
Anybody Need A Lawyer?
Irving Kanarek, Attorney for Charles Manson
Even before his remarkable performance as the defense attorney for Charles Manson in the Tate-LaBianca murder case, Irving Kanarek earned a reputation as an obstructionist of the first order. He was frequently censured by judges. One judge bluntly called him "the most obstructionist man I have ever met." Kanarek has a purpose for his obstructionism tactics: his goal seemed to be to confuse juries and knock opposing attorneys off stride, especially in cases where the evidence against his client was overwhelming.
In March 1970, Ronald Hughes--Manson's first attorney--suggested to Manson that Kanarek enter the case as his attorney. Although calling Karerek "the worst man in town I could pick," Manson requested that Kanarek be substituted as his attorney two weeks before the start of trial. Prosecutor Vince Bugliosi strongly objected to the substitution of Kanarek as Manson's attorney, but Judge Older found no legal ground for denying Manson's request and Kanarek.
Kanarek may have established some sort of record for objections in the Manson trial. He objected nine times during the prosecution's opening statement, and by the third day of trial had registered more than 200 objections when the press stopped counting. Frequently, Kanarek's objection were made in "shotgun" form, including many suggested grounds that were totally inapplicable: "Leading and suggestive; no foundation; conclusion and hearsay." Other times his objections were intended to influence the jury. For example, he objected to the testimony of Linda Kasabian by declaring, "Object, Your Honor, on the grounds this witness is not competent because she is insane!" Kanarek also bombarded the court with motions, many of them novel to say the least, such as a motion to have "Mr. Manson suppressed from evidence" as the product of an illegal search. Kanarek raised eyebrows for asking bizarre questions, such as when he asked Kasabian (during his seven-day cross-examination after Kasabian's direct testimony in which she revealed she had taken LSD about fifty times), "Describe what happened on trip number twenty-three."
Kanarek was found guilty of contempt four times during the Manson trial. The first contempt came when Judge Older found Kanarek guilty of "directly violating my order not to repeatedly interrupt." On two occasions, Kanarek was ordered to overnight in the county jail. Near the end of the long trial, Older told Kanarek he was "totally without scruples, ethics, and professional responsibility."
Despite his aggressive representation, Kanarek's work did not always please his client. At one point, Manson was ready to dismiss Kanarek when the defense attorney begged on his knees to keep him. Manson reportedly also threatened at various times to have Kanarek killed.
In his seven-day summation--which Judge Older called not an "argument but a filibuster"--, Kanarek argued that the female defendants killed their victims not for Manson, but out of love for Tex Watson.
Despite the press's view of Kanarek as something of a joke, Prosecutor Vince Bugliosi had a different opinion. Bugliosi wrote in his book Helter Skelter that Kanarek "frequently scored points."
Kanarek was ordered to be inactive by the California State Bar in 1990.