A man who says he’s the grandson of Charles Manson and wants to be the permanent administrator of the infamous criminal’s estate does not have to undergo DNA testing to prove his kinship, a three-justice appellate panel ruled Tuesday.
In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst, the three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Clifford Klein erred when he signed an order in 2019 directing that 45-year-old Jason Freeman provide a DNA sample so that his claim to be Manson’s grandson could be ascertained.
Freeman appealed Klein’s order, putting on hold a trial of whether Freeman or longtime Manson pen pal Michael Channel should be the permanent administrator of the late cult leader’s estate.
Channels had asked for the DNA test of Freeman. In his court papers, Channels said Manson’s 2002 will, filed in Kern County in November 2017, named him as the executor of Manson’s estate.
In her decision, Ashmann-Gerst said Klein’s order was actually not appealable because it did not determine who was entitled to any assets of the Manson estate. But because the order involved compelling a genetic test and amounted to an invasion of Freeman’s privacy that cannot be undone, the panel decided to make an exception and hear the case anyway, Ashmann-Gerst said.
The state Family Code does not authorize a civil court to order genetic testing of a person and the remains of another to prove or disprove a grandparent-grandchild relationship, according to Ashmann-Gerst.
“We conclude that the probate court erred as a matter of law when it ordered the genetic testing of Freeman and Manson’s remains,” Ashmann-Gerst wrote.
Alan Davis, an attorney for Dale Kiken, a lawyer and current temporary special administrator of the Manson estate, previously said Klein had jurisdiction to make orders regarding Freeman, a resident of Bradenton, Florida, because Freeman voluntarily made himself a part of the California-based Manson case.
Kiken has been tasked with recovering property, on behalf of Freeman, that Manson left behind in prison when he died at age 83 on Nov. 19, 2017, at Bakersfield Mercy Hospital of heart failure triggered by colon cancer.
Freeman had once told the judge that he would not voluntarily agree to DNA testing, but would obey a court order to do so. In March 2018, a Kern County commissioner ruled that Freeman was entitled to Manson’s remains. Freeman and Kiken are challenging the validity of the Manson will that Channels alleges is authentic.
Davis said previously that the Kern County order established that Freeman was Manson’s grandson. He also said that in February 1986, an Ohio judge found that Freeman was the son of Charles Manson Jr., who committed suicide in June 1993.
Klein retired last month. The former prosecutor once was in charge of the District Attorney’s Office’s investigation into corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart Division.
Manson and members of his outcast “family” of followers were convicted of killing actress Sharon Tate — who was eight months pregnant — and six other people during a bloody rampage in the Los Angeles area in August 1969.
Prosecutors said Manson and his followers were trying to incite a race war he dubbed “Helter Skelter,” taken from the Beatles song of the same name.
The Manson clan also stabbed to death grocery magnate Leno La Bianca and his wife Rosemary La Bianca the night after the Tate murders.
Manson was convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Tate, the La Biancas, and four other people at the Tate residence — coffee heiress Abigail Ann Folger, photographer Wojciech Frykowski, hairdresser Jay Sebring and Steven Earl Parent, who was shot in his car on his way to visit an acquaintance who lived in a separate rented guest house on the Tate property.
Manson and followers Charles “Tex” Watson, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and the late Susan Atkins all were convicted and sentenced to state prisons in 1971. Manson also was convicted in December of that year for first-degree murder for the July 25, 1969, death of Gary Hinman and the August 1969 death of Donald Shea.
He and the others originally were sentenced to death, but a 1972 state Supreme Court decision caused all capital sentences in California to be commuted to life in prison. There was no life-without-parole sentence at the time.
Manson was denied parole a dozen times.