Criminal Justice: Charles Manson, the Serial Killer


Charles Manson is among the most notorious criminals in history, most known for his involvement in the horrific killings of Sharon Tate and several other innocent Hollywood citizens. The Tate-LaBianca murders, also known as the Manson Family killings, fundamentally changed America’s concept of its own identity in the wake of these events (Norman, 2019). The ’60s counterculture was utterly killed off, and a decade of deeply psychosexual, conspiracy-laced cultural investigation of America’s filthy underbelly was inaugurated as a result. Set in motion an ongoing phenomenon known as Satanic Panic that has never completely faded away: ritualistic murders. Despite his death in 2017 when serving a life term in a California jail, Manson’s impact lives on many minds and hearts. The Manson killings have profoundly affected everything from popular culture to government policy for the last fifty years. It is safe to say that Charles Mason has had a lasting influence on present American culture and the society of his day.

Background Information

Gary Hinman was the first victim of Charles Manson’s murderous rampage in July 1969. A thirty-six-year-old music instructor, Hinman, was found dead in his classroom, confirmed to be killed by a knife to the chest. Manson allegedly ordered thugs from his group to loot Hinman or his recently resurrected inheritance, whichever was the more significant target. Although Hinman had never met Manson, he knew him very well. A message was left “On the wall in the living room, not far from Hinman’s body, were the words POLITICAL PIGGY, printed in the victim’s own blood” (Bugliosi & Gentry, 2014, p. 67).On August 9th, 1969, a second murder occurred. Four members of the Polanski family visited the home of the film director. As the family entered the house, Manson ordered one of his associates, Kaan Sabian, to watch. They stabbed four persons inside the house to death. Once again, a bloody note with the inscription pig was found on the door. This time, it was found to be Sharon Tate’s blood. Leno and Rosemary LaBiance’s house was visited by Manson together with the same four family members, along with Leslie Van Houten and Steve Grogan, during the night of August 10th, the following day. As soon as Manson finished tying up the couple, he walked out of the house and sent in two of his henchmen to brutally murder them.

Two nights of murder occurred in Los Angeles in August 1969. All of the killers were in adolescence or young adulthood and were members of a commune in the Los Angeles area. A 34-year-old male ex-convict served as the commune’s leader. Shooting and stabbings killed five people in the Bel Aire house of a pregnant actress the night before the massacre (Levin & Fox, 2017). Several small sums of cash were taken. The word pig had been inscribed in blood on the front door. That night, one man and three females were in the area; one of the girls did not participate in the killings. An unidentified cult leader had plotted the killings and instructed his followers to carry them out.

Another night, a husband and his spouse were found stabbed to death in their Los Angeles home. The commune’s head and one other guy entered the residence as the assailants tied the victims up on this particular night. Male and one female from last night returned, joined by another female after leaving after which the couple was stabbed to death. Die Pigs and Rise were scrawled on the wall using blood while Heiler Skelleter was scribbled on the fridge in blood (Verhoeven, 2020.). He had the word WAR cut into his stomach, and a carving fork was discovered sticking from it. Several credit cards and a bag of money were taken. The murder charges were filed against them in December 1969. Prosecutors said that this was part of a strategy by the leader to provoke a racial war. Murder and conspiracy charges were brought against all of the killers, as well as the ringleader.

Manson’s Upbringing and the Reasoning for his Actions

As expected, Manson was not born a mass killer; he was a normal being with aspirations like any other person. The ultimate goal for Manson was to become a well-known musician since he had mastered the art of playing the guitar and singing while serving one of his numerous prison terms. “He also used music, in part because he was a frustrated musician but also because he must have known it was the one thing that could get through to more young people than any other” (Bugliosi & Gentry, 2014, p. 648). On the other hand, Manson struggled to get a record contract since no one in the business recognized Manson’s potential (Katkova, 2016). Despite this, Manson’s family swiftly grew thanks to his appeal to young people, particularly women. It was as though society had executed Manson and his comrades, and they felt that way. Manson persuaded his followers to believe that racial war would ensue; they called this Helter Skelter (Verhoeven, 2020.) Helter Skelter would be a massacre of the white citizens of the U.S perpetrated by African Americans. According to Manson’s followers, they could only hide from the coming racial conflict. Because of their intellectual superiority over African-Americans, Manson encouraged his friends that they would be able to rise to the top of the U.S. political ladder after the war. Because of their confidence in Manson, these young and vulnerable individuals were willing to die for his cause.

As stated in the book Helter Skelter, Charles Manson ordered his associates, Charles Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel, to enter the Tate residence and destroy it in the most horrific way possible. Watson, Atkins, Kasabian, and Krenwinkel each scaled a thorny ledge to access the land (Bugliosi & Gentry, 2014). A knife-wielding Watson then fatally shot Parent four times in the chest and abdomen, ending their confrontation. Atkins and Krenwinkel could enter the home when Watson cut the window screen and unlocked the front door. At the end of the driveway, Kasabian was there to keep an eye on things (Bugliosi & Gentry, 2014). Tate, Folger, Frykowski, and Sebring were in the house when Watson and the others arrived. Folger was transported to an adjacent bedroom as Tate and Sebring were chained together by their necks. Shooting and stabbing Sebring seven times resulted in his death. Frykowski was tied to a towel, but he could get free. In the aftermath of this, he fought Atkins, stabbing him in the legs. However, Frykowski kept fleeing as Watson attacked him with the revolver, shot, and stabbed him again. Watson’s blow to Frykowski’s head caused the pistol to handle to snap off.

Bugliosi offers insight on Charles Manson and his cult, which was branded by police departments as the most unstable individual in American history during the 1960s. It is clear from Bugliosi’s book that Charles Manson and his colleagues were on a continuous path toward bloodshed, murder, and jail, all of which were inevitable (Bugliosi & Gentry, 2014). As Bugliosi points out, the lack of compassion demonstrated by Manson and his accomplices during their prosecution in 1971 was even more horrifying. According to Bugliosi (2014), following their conviction on nine charges of first-degree murder, the Manson girls laughed. Thus, Bugliosi’s investigation into Manson and his co-accused in murder is a valuable source of information. Bugliosi closes his thorough investigation of the case by demonstrating that even after his execution, Manson remained oblivious to the verdict of the prosecution, which was death in the gas chamber. Bugliosi was very disturbed by this, and even during the post-trial press conference, Manson indicated that the verdict by Judge Charles H. Older was only to send him home. He declared, “Prison is my home, the only home I ever had” (Bugliosi & Gentry, 2014, p. 654)

Criminal Justice Psychology

Many psychologists, however, agree that his personality was characterized by a high level of irritation and conflict. Being raised in poverty and with little to no help from the government led him to turn to crime as a means of subsistence. He was a man who always resisted authority and resisted the will of others. He developed megalomania, a psychotic personality, a severe anxiety problem, and other mental health issues. Charles Manson had one thing that all psychiatrists noticed: an incredible ability to manipulate people’s emotions. There were several reasons for him to utilize it. He could develop connections and face the culture that he despises simultaneously. As a result of his capacity to influence others, Mason was classified as a psychological fascination. His effect on others lasted almost his whole life was one of the most impressive aspects of his existence. Several followers, some of whom went on a murdering rampage, were coordinated by him during his lifetime (Bugliosi & Gentry, 2014). Among other things, they also assassinated Sharon in Los Angeles in 1969. As a result of this pattern, the assassinations became known as the Tate-LaBoanca murders. However, even though he was not involved in the murders, he was convicted of crimes committed by his followers.

According to Gottfredson and Heischi, those who lack self-control are more likely to be impulsive and irrational and more likely to participate in illegal or comparable behaviors (Wickert, 2019). In both his adolescence and adulthood, Manson showed a lack of self-control. Manson, for example, was a frequent truant and a runaway throughout his youth. He remained a wandering man as an adult. On parole, he continued to participate in illegal activities. The lack of self-control shown here is quite evident. Child-rearing may also impact one’s ability to manage their impulses. Gottfredson and Hirschi thought that parental involvement and personality were strongly linked. They also discovered a correlation between the parent’s self-control and the child’s self-control (Wickert, 2019). Gottfredson and Hirschi argued that it would be difficult for a parent to notice illegal activity if they too were participating in this sort of conduct. Kathleen Manson-Bower-Cavender, the mother of Charles Manson, was imprisoned for many years for robbery. There’s no doubt in my mind that she was prone to breaking the law. This hypothesis can explain Manson’s criminal actions, but not how he refined his criminal thinking can be represented by Sutherland’s view of differential association.

There are nine steps of gaining and adapting to criminality. In the first place, criminal conduct may be learned instead of inherent. Second, criminal behaviors are acquired via contact with other people in a communication process, called social learning theory. Third, most criminal conduct is learned in close-knit groups of friends and family members. Fourth, when criminal behavior is acquired, the procedures of committing the crime may be intricate or simple, and the precise direction of motivations, urges, rationalizations, and attitudes are all learned. Fifth, the descriptions of legal codes as good or bad tell us the exact direction motivations and urges are going in. There are six reasons a person becomes delinquent: definitions favorable to breaking the law outnumber those against breaking the law (Wickert, 2019). Seventh, differential connections’ number, length, priority, and severity may vary. Eighth, acquiring criminal behavior through interacting with offenders and anti-criminal actions includes all procedures involved in any other kind of acquisition. Finally, although criminal behavior manifests universal desires and beliefs, it is not supported by those desires and principles since non-criminal behavior exhibits the same desires and principles as criminal behavior.

Manson’s life portrays that he fulfilled Edwin Sutherland’s view of differential association. This case presented an excellent platform for criminal justice psychology, as the knowledge gathered from it has assisted law enforcement officials in their efforts to apprehend further serial murderers. These experts examine Manson’s childhood, history, and mental state. He grew up in a challenging environment. His mother was a drunkard and a prostitute; therefore, she did not want him (Romano, 2019). His mother was imprisoned for armed robbery when he was a child. Manson was forced to remain his authoritarian grandmother while his mother was incarcerated. Charles Manson was discovered sodomizing another child with a razor blade clutched to his neck. His criminal career began when he was nineteen years old. He had become a pimp, a sexual predator, and a con artist, profiting from all his criminal endeavors. Forensic psychologists utilized all of this material since these traits and features have been associated with serial killers.

Mason had a distinct personality that drew an amount of publicity to himself. As the head of the Mason family, he had the authority to command anybody to carry out his orders. When Mason was a child, Mason grew up in a world filled with hopelessness and irresponsibility. It is one of his most conclusive diagnoses that he saw himself as a deity in the eyes of his religion. As a result, he may be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (APD) (Katkova, 2016). Aggression, recklessness, and lack of regret were signs of a problem with the schizoaffective condition. One of the most incredible ways to deal with a psychopath is to locate the best therapy or intervention plan that can be used to bring them back to normal. Except for being condemned to death row, Mason’s sole definite intervention came when he was placed on death row. As he became more ambitious, though, he had several setbacks. Reports of his antics in jail, like his attempts to set beds on fire or spit on officers, were made by him. His parole hearings were all unsuccessful, and he ended up spending the rest of his sentence locked up in prison.

Manson’s Conviction

Manson was convicted of first-degree murder on seven charges. The only thing Manson did was order his followers to commit murders. Whether or whether Manson could be prosecuted for a crime he didn’t commit was a question for the California court to answer. While similar occurrences have occurred before, none have been as big scale. Courts have maintained this precedent ever since Manson was convicted of all crimes (Hristova, 2020). Manson has also left a cultural legacy. Manson’s family name has become associated with mass murder in the United States. When people think of well-known cult leaders, they immediately think of Charles Manson. Manson has had a significant impact on popular culture over the last half-century. Manson has been in several episodes of television series like South Park. In 2016, Emma Cline released a novel where Manson and his cult substantially modeled the ‘leader.’ Even today, Charles Manson’s outspokenness and other qualities have earned him the admiration of specific individuals.

FBI and profiling serial killers

According to FBI profiler Douglas, Charles Manson had no intention of becoming the dark guru. To him, fame and riches were more important than anything in the world. He aspired to join a well-known rock group like Beach Boys as a drummer. However, to survive, Manson had to learn how to rapidly assess the individuals he encountered and figure out their reactions towards him (Glapion, 2019). Because Manson was released on parole, Douglas believes that he would not have committed any more crimes had he been freed. In Douglas’ opinion, the followers of Charles Manson were a more significant threat to society than Manson himself. Most dangerous would be the gullible losers who would follow him and claim to be his followers.

Even if Manson had been released from jail, Dr. Bryanna Fox, an ex-FBI agent, thinks he would be in danger of murdering again. Further, Fox states that Manson may or may not murder in the future, but his psychological qualities and criminal inclinations will not go away after being freed from jail (Glapion, 2019). Criminality is more likely to occur if specific characteristics are present, regardless of the kind of crime committed. According to many studies, past conduct is the most significant predictor of future behavior. Fox thinks that the late killer was very manipulative due to his plea.


The convicted serial murderer Charles Manson inspired a cult of youthful runaways. These individuals clung to his every word and engaged in the 1969 murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate Polanski and other associates. He was also linked to the murder of the Labianca couple the night after. When he created the Manson Family in California in the late ’60s, he was regarded as the father of the Manson Family. In July and August of 1969, followers of Charles Manson killed nine people. Seven individuals died due to the group’s members acting on his orders, and he was convicted in 1971 of premeditated murder and criminal conspiracy for murder. Two further first-degree murder convictions were issued against Manson. The captivating charm of Manson was unmistakable. He had the ability to control and subdue people to his will. Manson’s love was able to help many young ladies who had been abandoned by their families or had run away because they felt unloved and were looking for something greater in life, thanks to Manson’s charisma. Manson would express his desire to lead a life that defied society’s expectations throughout his life.


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LawBirdie. "Criminal Justice: Charles Manson, the Serial Killer." March 31, 2023.