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Minister on Trial Fires Lawyer, Asks for Manson to Take Over

Times Staff Writer

Attorney Randall L. Hite was surprised last August when, in the middle of a contempt hearing, his client stood up, demanded to be heard and then fired Hite.

But even that didn’t prepare the Santa Ana attorney for his client’s next court appearance. Having dispensed with Hite on Aug. 21, the Rev. Kenneth Lowe of Universal Life Church on Tuesday demanded that Judge Judith M. Ryan appoint him a new counsel--cult figure Charles Manson.

Manson, who was found guilty in 1970 of seven counts of murder in one of the most bizarre crimes in California history, is serving a life sentence in San Quentin prison. He was convicted of ordering his followers to murder actress Sharon Tate, Rosemary and Leno La Bianca and four others in August, 1969, in a twisted plot to incite racial violence.

A letter from Lowe to Manson was part of the court documents, and it explained the minister’s position: “By education, experience, advice, prayer and beliefs, I have determined for myself, that Your experience, Your knowledge and by Your expertise, YOU are in my mind the best qualified COUNSEL available to me in the whole world.”

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Upon hearing of his potential replacement, Hite was momentarily speechless. “I’m glad I’m sitting down,” he said in a telephone interview. “But based on my dealings with him (Lowe), I have no reasons to believe that he is mentally incompetent.”

For more than two years, Lowe has engaged local and state authorities in legal battles over his operation of board-and-care homes for elderly patients. State officials have contended that employees without sufficient training were dispensing medication to patients.

Despite a 1984 order by a Superior Court judge that the facilities be closed, Lowe has continued to operate at least one facility housing at least 13 elderly residents, according to Deputy Atty. Gen. Richard Spector. Lowe is being prosecuted by the attorney general’s office for contempt of court.

Judge Ryan took Lowe’s demand under consideration and has yet to rule on it. The contempt hearing has been postponed until Oct. 28.

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