Monday, May 9, 2011

Before "Bug"... there was Stovitz
Aaron Stovitz, was the original prosecutor in the Charles Manson murder trial in 1970, but was removed from the case after a dispute with his boss (Evelle J. Younger) over out-of-court comments.
 
Mr. Stovitz was a veteran Los Angeles prosecutor and head of the trial division when the actress Sharon Tate and six other people were killed in the summer of 1969.  He had mapped out the state’s case against Mr. Manson and three of his followers and was ready for trial.

The judge had ordered the participants not to comment on the trial, and after Mr. Stovitz gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine, he was warned by the district attorney, Evelle J. Younger, to make no further comments.

Mr. Stovitz then told reporters that remarks by the defendant Susan Atkins complaining about her health were “a performance worthy of a Sarah Bernhardt.”

He would say years later that he had thought he was speaking off the record.  But Mr. Younger heard about the comment and removed him from the case.  He was replaced by a younger colleague, Vincent Bugliosi, who went on to win convictions in the case and write a best-selling book about it, “Helter Skelter.”

Stovitz was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 1, 1924. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during World War II at the age of 17.  He flew 34 combat missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He moved to Los Angeles, graduated from Southwestern University Law School with honors in 1950 and joined the district attorney's office in 1952.  He retired in 1981 but went on to head the Ventura County district attorney's office.  He also served as a municipal court commissioner and a judge in small claims court.
Stovitz died January 25, 2010 of  leukemia.  He was 85.

46 comments:

katie8753 said...

"He had mapped out the state’s case against Mr. Manson and three of his followers and was ready for trial."

I wonder what his case would have consisted of. Helter Skelter? Something else?

Would the outcome have been very different if he hadn't been thrown off the case? I wonder...

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

This guy was lead prosecutor for the biggest trial in history (to date), and ended-up, being just a footnote.

Between Bug's fame, book and boat-loads of money from this case, you gotta wonder how Stovitz felt about the outcome.
...probably not so great. LOL

I would imagine being connected to a high-profile case, is every prosecutors dream, and biggest chance at a big pay-day.

Oh well...

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

Katie said>>>>
"I wonder what his case would have consisted of. Helter Skelter? Something else?
Would the outcome have been very different if he hadn't been thrown off the case? I wonder"...<<<<

Good questions.

One thing this article doesn't mention, is that Bugliosi was already on the prosecution team, along with Stovitz... evidently as his underling of sorts.
He was asked to "step up" as it were.
That suggests to me, that the prosecution tactics would likely have been similar... but, who knows for sure.

As for the "star witnesses" (LOL), such as Kasabian, and Paul, etc,... I'm wondering if Stovitz had ascertained anything from them before his release.
If Stovitz hadn't yet gathered testimony from family members before his release... you gotta wonder what he was going with for a motive.
It all goes back to checking dates, to see what happened when.
But again... Bugliosi was working on the case as well, so, it may not have been a whole lot different.

katie8753 said...

Lynyrd I've been reading The Family this morning to determine exactly what happened to Stovitz and when. So far all I've come across is that Stovitz & Bugliosi were both Deputy DA's assigned to the case at the same time, and both were investigating in different areas. I haven't come across Stovitz's departure. I'll keep looking.

St. Circumstance said...

Stovitz got into trouble for an off-hand remark he made after defendant Susan Atkins testified that she was too ill to continue with the trial.

"She's putting on an act worthy of Sarah Bernhardt," United Press International quoted Mr. Stovitz as saying.

The Times story also noted an interview Mr. Stovitz gave to Rolling Stone magazine before the trial in which he talked about details of the murder case. Mr. Stovitz said he thought the interview was for background and not for publication in violation of a gag order. After that, Younger ordered both Mr. Stovitz and his fellow prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, not to make public statements about the case.

"Aaron is a very competent, experienced trial lawyer," Bugliosi said at the time of Mr. Stovitz's removal. "I consider it a personal loss that he will no longer be co-prosecutor with me on this extremely important murder trial."

Steinberg said her father "had a stellar career" and the focus should not be merely on the Manson case, for which "he did so much of the preparation," she said.

St. Circumstance said...

EVELLE J. YOUNGER made innumerable personnel decisions during his tenure as district attorney but one, just one, spawned controversy...and the call he made is still the subject of Monday morning quarter-backing.

As Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Trott, then a deputy in the office, recalls it:

“Evelle had high standards, which explains why he removed Aaron Stovitz from the Manson case for talking too much to the media about the People’s case after Aaron had been told not to try his case in the media.”

Stovitz, who was head of the trials division of the office downtown, had been chosen to prosecute Charles Manson and his cult followers for the brutal murders of actress Sharon Tate and three house guests and a groundskeeper, and for the unrelated slayings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Public interest in the case was intense, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles H. Older imposed a gag order.

Nonetheless, Stovitz granted an interview to the Rolling Stone magazine in March of 1970. Stovitz’s justification was that he had talked off-the-record. In contravention of that proviso, the magazine published the remarks in its June issue, attributing them to Stovitz. The defendants moved for a mistrial based on the interview, and the motion was denied.

(The Court of Appeal, in the 1976 opinion that upheld the conviction of Manson and two of the accomplices, found that Stovitz, though sincere in his belief that he was merely engaging in a private conversation that was supposed to be confidential, did breach the gag order…but held that it was harmless inasmuch as what he provided was “only a droplet in the sea of publicity.”)

St. Circumstance said...

“After the Rolling Stone interview, Younger had told Aaron: ‘No more interviews.’ Being somewhat easygoing by nature, Aaron had trouble complying with the edict. Once, when Younger was in San Francisco, he’d turned on the radio to hear Aaron commenting on some aspect of the day’s courtroom proceedings. Though Aaron’s comments were not in violation of the gag order, on his return to L.A. Younger warned Aaron: ‘One more interview and you’re off the case.’ ”

A one-line comment to a reporter in the hallway outside the courtroom—characterized by Bugliosi in his book as “a passing remark” hardly amounting to an utterance in the course of an “interview”—led to Stovitz’s ouster from the case on Sept. 4, 1970.

The Associated Press account of that action says:

The veteran prosecutor who mapped the state’s case against four defendants in the Sharon Tate murder trial has been pulled off the case, reportedly because of his statements to the news media.

The district attorney suddenly removed Chief Prosecutor Aaron H. Stovitz in midtrial Friday saying he was needed for administrative duties.

Sources said Dist. Atty. Evelle Younger had been upset about out-of-court statements by the two prosecutors.

Stovitz, 45, chief of the district attorney’s trials division, had been on the case, assisted by Vincent Bugliosi, since the actress and six others were found slain in August 1969.

St. Circumstance said...

hope that helps Katie :)

katie8753 said...

Circumstance, do you know off hand if Stovitz & Bugliosi were in agreement for the motive prior to his removal?

I'm still reading! :)

katie8753 said...

I get the feeling that Bugliosi takes credit for the Helter Skelter motive, that he alone came up with it. I could be wrong.

katie8753 said...

OK it just mentions that Stovitz was removed because of his remark about Susan Atkins faking her sickness (which she was).

The trial began around June 1970 and he was removed September 1970, so I'm assuming they concurred on the motive. It doesn't really go into detail on that in this book, unless I'm skimming too fast. I think it's probably clearer in Helter Skelter.

Sanders notes:

"Stovitz feels to this day that Evelle Younger was politically motivated. He points out that Younger was running for state attorney general and was putting out a news brief every day and no one was paying any attention, whereas the attention of the world press was focused day and night on Stovitz & Bugliosi."

Pristash said...

Hey Lynyrd, FYI:

Friday, August 19th: Lynyrd Skynryd and the Doobie Brothers at Bethel Woods!

Before you even say anything...I'm not going...

St. Circumstance said...

Katie- I do not know that Stovitz was aware of the Helter Skelter motive- or behind it...

I do know that bugs himself said that he didn't become aware, or realize it, until he spoke at length with paul watkins- which I believe occurred after Stovitz was off the case..

That should be able to be checked on..

katie8753 said...

OK thanks Circumstance. I'll do some more digging to see what I can find out.

St. Circumstance said...

Any time- wish I could help more...

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

Hi Circumstance.
Thanks for the research/information as always.

Circumstance said>>>>
"I do know that bugs himself said that he didn't become aware, or realize it, until he spoke at length with paul watkins- which I believe occurred after Stovitz was off the case".<<<<

Good point... and bascially what I was saying earlier.

Did Bugliosi ascertain anything (HS related) from Paul, before Stovitz' release?
That's as good a landmark as any, in guessing what Stovitz had (or hadn't) lined-up, for a motive.

It all goes back to checking dates, to see what happened when.

It doesn't prove what Stovitz had in mind for sure, but would suggest a whole lot.

I'd love to find an after-trial interview with Stovitz, regarding his game-plan (beofre his release from the case).
HS? No HS?
Damn... that would sure be interesting!

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

Pristash said>>>>
"Hey Lynyrd, FYI:
Friday, August 19th: Lynyrd Skynryd and the Doobie Brothers at Bethel Woods!
Before you even say anything...I'm not going"...<<<<

I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd at an outdoor show, back in the early-mid 80's, and there were still 4 (maybe 5), original members in the band.
I can't re-collect exactly, but the core was still pretty solid.

To my knowledge, the only original member left, is Gary Rossington... unless I'm missing something/someone.

They really should market themselves as a cover band now, with Rossington as a "guest performer".
Essentially, that's all it is... a cover band.
When you dip below two original members, you're really pushing the envelope.
Ronnie's brother does vocals, as he has for years... but, he's still not original.

Thanks for the heads-up Pristash.
I'd love to see Bethel at some point for sure... and I loved Lynyrd Skynyrd as much as the next guy... but I'm gonna take a pass on this one as well.

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

But then again... LOLOL

It would be pretty cool to hear the old Skynyrd music rocking at Bethel in the summertime... and the Doobie Brothers are pretty cool.
Thanks for the heads-up.
Maybe, I'll reconsider. : )

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

In other news:

My Boston Celtics are playing Saint's Miami Heat tonight at the Garden.

The Heat are ahead 2-1 in the series.
Tonight's Game 4!

...and, our nemisis, the LA Lakers, have been eliminated in 4 games straight!
Bye, Bye Kobe, Pao, and Phil Jackson! LOL
Hope to NOT see you again, next year! : )

St. Circumstance said...

Saint is a transplant lol born in Manhattan- grew up near Princeton NJ- exit 8 lol

I am a Knicks fan- my dad was named Mickey- I was raised on Joe Namath and mickey Mantle...

because of that- I cheer for Boston to loose lol- but with respect- and not for the love of Lebron or any Miami nonsense like that..

St. Circumstance said...

I like the weather here and no state income tax lol- I can do without the sports teams...

St. Circumstance said...

if you notice my new pic on here- it is from Monday night football two years ago when the Jets were here- I had sideline privelages...

being on the sideline for MNF jets VS Dolphins - in Miami was a childhood dream I was lucky enough to live out..

I am going to do another while on my Manson trip next spring in California lol-

DID YOU KNOW... that aside from Spahn Ranch- Chatsworth is famous for a few other things...

here is one :

The Park and baseball field where Buttermaker got drunk and passed out in the original Bad News Bears is in Chatsworth!!!

I WILL drink a beer on that mound next spring lol- and the pic will grace my name on these blogs as soon as I get back!!!

:)

MrPoirot said...

Stovitz was telling the truth when he said Evelle ounger's decision was politcally motivated.

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

The Jets and Yankees... two great teams.
I'm actually not too familiar with the Knicks.

I always liked that famous photo of Namath on the sidelines (during a snow game) in the fur coat.
You probably couldn't get away with that now-a-days... with PETA and all.

Jets VS Dolphins on monday night football... Classic match-up!
Honestly Saint, I couldn't see your avatar well at all... I wasn't sure what it was.
It doesn't blow-up either.
Evidently, you have the "don't share profile" button engaged, or something.

I've never been a raving Celtics fan, but there is a lot of history in Boston for sure... and I'm particularly interested in seeing them win this year, because our team is really aging.
For many of the Celtics players... this is definitely their last shot at a championship.
Garnett, Pierce, Allen... those guys are very deserving.
They're very hard-working, no-frills, blue-collar players.
Like I said... very deserving.
I put our chances at 50-50.
I also get a kick out of the fact that old, beat-up, always injured, Shaq is on the team. LOL
The guy's just a funny dude.

Circumstance said>>>
"The Park and baseball field where Buttermaker got drunk and passed out in the original Bad News Bears is in Chatsworth!!!

I WILL drink a beer on that mound next spring lol- and the pic will grace my name on these blogs as soon as I get back"!!!<<<<

Cool!
That's a factoid, I never knew.
I always liked that movie.
Talk about an old classic... wow.
Have a beer on the mound for me too!

MrPoirot said...

St. Circumstance said...
Saint is a transplant lol born in Manhattan- grew up near Princeton NJ-
[end quote]

MR Poirot replies:

Here's a joke SC;

What is the definition of Princeton University?


Answer: a bunch of smart guys pretending they aren't in New Jersey.

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

LOLOL

I like that one. : )

St. Circumstance said...

:) That is very good lol

I fixed the profile I think- so you can see the Pic better- if you want to...

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

Yeah Saint... I can see it now!
Cool Photo!!!

Is that a special side-line pass around your neck? ...like a "backstage pass"?

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

OVERTIME!... CRAP! LOL

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

...and the Celtics go down in overtime.

Down 3-1... it's not looking good.
They really needed to win tonight.

MrPoirot said...

I don't think the helter skelter motive was needed to get a conviction. I think the bizarre behavior of the band of defendents and Family members assured conviction. However, I do think the bizarre behavior played right into the helter skelter thingy that Bug used.

I mean really? Did it even matter what the motive was? They were all guilty as sin and the evidence was overwhelming. The helter skelter thingy merely helped the book become such a huge seller.

katie8753 said...

Mr. P., I agree with you wholeheartedly.

The whole trial was a circus.

From Charlie pretending to be held from a "cross" to him jumping on the judge.

It was a circus.

Bugliosi could have come up with a motive of "non compos mentis" which means "not of sound mind".

He could have gotten a conviction on that, except that he had to convict Charie, and he had to prove that Charlie had domination of them all.

If Charlie had been convicted as a mentalally ill person, he'd have been out by now.

By convicting him of sound mind, it means that he would receive death, or since the death penalty was overturned, he would be in for life, barring paroles.

katie8753 said...

Okay I mispelt "mentalally"

Should be mentally.

I don't want to erase the whole post. HA HA.

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

Mr. Poirot said>>>>
"I do think the bizarre behavior played right into the helter skelter thingy that Bug used".<<<<

Bugliosi's entire (HS) case against Manson, hinged around proving Manson was in-charge.
Manson's behavior... and the behavior of the "family" collectively... were very damaging, and assisted Bugliosi immensely.
Much of their behavior, demonstrated to the jury, that Manson was, in fact, in-charge.
So yes... I agree.
------------------------------------------
Poirot said>>>>
"I don't think the helter skelter motive was needed to get a conviction. I think the bizarre behavior of the band of defendents and Family members assured conviction.
I mean really? Did it even matter what the motive was? They were all guilty as sin and the evidence was overwhelming. The helter skelter thingy merely helped the book become such a huge seller".<<<<

I'm curious to see what Stovitz had lined-up for a motive... but no, I don't think HS was necessarily the only motive that could have won convictions for some of them.
I think HS was most helpful in Manson's case, as he was tried for conspiracy.

Also, bear in mind, Bugliosi was prosecuting several defendents, for several deaths, at more than one location.
HS was very handy, in keeping everything under one "umbrella".
It's much easier to sell one motive to a jury (which covers everyone) than 2, or more motives.

I don't know what motive Stovitz had in mind, so it's difficult to predict, what the outcome would have been.
I could only guess at Stovitz' motive, and then guess at an outcome, based on that motive... which is kinda senseless.

But you're right Poirot... Manson's behavior, and the behavior of the "family" collectively, would have worked against them, regardless of Stovitz' game plan.
Crazy behavior, doesn't help a defense, under any circumstances.

As a pure guess, for the sake of discussion... and based on no knowledge of Stovitz' game-plan (LOL)... I would say Manson's conviction is the biggest unknown wildcard.
If Stovitz didn't play his cards right, he could have lost that conviction.
As for the others... he likely would have convicted them more easily, under a few motives.
As I said... that's a pure guess, based on complete conjecture.
Without a crystal ball... I don't see how anyone could predict definitively, what Stovitz would have accomplished.

bobby said...

Kimchi said: The truck parked out front is neat...they said it belonged to the family..it's an old Dodge powerwagon..even has stars (like a night sky) painted on the ceiling on the inside.

Bobby said: I'm catching up on post's. On Bobby B's website someone described the stars on the roof of this truck & BB said he painted it so he was sure it was one of his two power wagons.The truck seen in the picture here on the blog is not that truck in case anyone thought that. Good to be back. Lots of great post's from everyone. Thanks.

katie8753 said...

Great post Lynyrd. You made a lot of good points.

I'm sure that whoever was prosecuting this case knew that it was a monumental task getting a conviction of someone who didn't actually kill anyone, and keeps insisting that he had no control of his "family".

The behavior of Charlie and the girls was probably the main factor in getting a conviction. I think that without all that weird acting out, the jury might not have bought the HS motive. It was just too bizarre. But it fits with such a bizarre group.

The girls were more than ready to take the rap for Charlie at that time, and had they been allowed to testify, they would have. I believe that's why their attorneys refused to let them.

But, like you said, if Stovitz had continued on as DA, the outcome might have been very different. We'll never know for sure, as with a lot of aspects of this case.

Hi Bobby. I'm not sure I quite understand your comment on that truck. :)

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

Hey Bob!

Great to see ya...

bobby said...

Hi Bobby. I'm not sure I quite understand your comment on that truck. :)

Hi Katie, Kimchi was talking about the truck at the cafe in Ballerat, you know the Lynyrd cafe. In the picture a few post back is a truck camper. That truck camper is not the dodge powerwagon with the stars painted on the inside of the roof.However the power wagon is there & BB is the person who painted the stars. I hope I am making sense now.

katie8753 said...

Okay Bobby, now I'm with ya. LOL.

What is your opinion on this thread? Any thoughts about motive?

bobby said...

Motive, My understanding is that the prosecution does not need to provide a motive from a legal stand point. I think VB went with the HS theory as motive because he seen it as the best way to get a conviction on Manson. I also think they (Bug. & Stov.) would have had that worked out together by the time Stov. was removed from the case.

katie8753 said...

Bobby said: Motive, My understanding is that the prosecution does not need to provide a motive from a legal stand point. I think VB went with the HS theory as motive because he seen it as the best way to get a conviction on Manson.>>>

No I guess the prosecution doesn't have to have a motive, but without a motive, it's awfully hard to prove someone did something. Especially these senseless killings. To prove why hippies would so viciously kill complete strangers, you'd have to have some kind of reason to sell to the jury to connect them.

bobby said...

no sense makes sense, I agree Katie & I think HS was a good one to go with, it worked. lol.

MrPoirot said...

Helter Skelter opponents won'y acknowledge that Bug says in his book that HS was but one of the motives.

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

Poirot...

Bugliosi was asked, point-blank (in a recent interview):
"Do you still believe Helter Skelter was the only motive"?

Bugliosi's reply:
"In retrospect, it seems the motives were several and disparate".

That's lawyer speak... for "there were other motives".

I'll look for the video footage of that interview, sometime, when I have the chance.

Ruckas said...

Has anyone thought of asking Stovits remaining family members if he kept a personal journal on the Manson Trial? while he was involved I was thinking maybe he kept one even after he was removed from the case, just a thought.

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

Hello Ruckas... Great to see you again!

Ruckas said>>>>
"Has anyone thought of asking Stovits remaining family members if he kept a personal journal on the Manson Trial? while he was involved I was thinking maybe he kept one even after he was removed from the case, just a thought".

Good idea Ruckas... there's probably legal notes from his tenure with the case, lying-around somewhere.

I was thinking earlier today:
I'm sure Bugliosi would know what the "game plan" was, while Stovitz was in-charge.
Bugliosi was there... they were working together.
Bugliosi could tell us what the case looked like at that time, and if in fact, he (Bug) changed things sigmificantly, when he began working alone.
Anyone have access to Bug??
Probably not... but, it's a thought.