Charles Milles Manson is an American criminal who led what became known as the Manson Family, a quasi-commune that arose in the California desert in the late 1960s. Manson and his followers committed a series of nine murders at four locations over a period of five weeks in the summer of 1969.
Originally, Judge William Keene had reluctantly granted Manson permission to act as his own attorney. Because of Manson’s conduct, including violations of a gag order and submission of “outlandish” and “nonsensical” pretrial motions, the permission was withdrawn before the trial’s start.
Manson filed an affidavit of prejudice against Keene, who was replaced by Judge Charles H. Older. On Friday, July 24, the first day of testimony, Manson appeared in court with an X carved into his forehead. He issued a statement that he was “considered inadequate and incompetent to speak or defend [him]self” – and had “X’d [him]self from [the establishment’s] world.” Over the following weekend, the female defendants duplicated the mark on their own foreheads, as did most Family members within another day or so.