Diane “Snake” Lake’s life before Charles Manson was pretty similar. At a young age she was on her own, living at a biker’s commune before she met Manson. She was there for most of 1968 and 1969 as well as the “Family’s” exodus to Death Valley. She also lived with Manson Family murder victim Gary Hinman.
With this being said, her testimony was a combination of coercion, trade for immunity to crimes and her own lies. Most of the above was proven at the trial, but her testimony still stood and was used against Manson and the other defendants. She was also asked to testify against Leslie Van Houten in her 1977 retrial with a testimony that was merely second and third-hand hearsay conveyed as fact.
November 5, 1970 the newspapers reported that Lake had been caught in a lie that hurt her credibility.
“The defense was prepared to show that the young woman had testified in front of the Grand Jury that she was in Death Valley at the time of the slayings, although she said at the trial that she was at Spahn Ranch”
Death Valley is about 6 hours away (the way the Family took; 4 hours otherwise) from Spahn Ranch, so this proves that she was not even around at the time of the slayings, so her testimony should be treated as hearsay, not fact. She was charged with perjury.
Later on during her testimony, she admitted that she had read the book—which was written based on the “confession” of Susan Atkins—The Killing of Sharon Tate prior to testifying.
“Miss Lake said a technician at Patton State Hospital gave her a copy of the book The Killing of Sharon Tate shortly after she was admitted. “I asked her if I could read it,” and she said, “Yes, but don’t let anybody see it,” said Miss Lake”
You can’t get any more blatant than that. My question to this would be was it just a coincidence that the technician gave her the book, or did someone from the prosecution ask the technician to give it to her?
A November 5, 1970 newspaper reported that Lake had actually dropped the bombshell of her reading of that book without the jury present, so they could not factor that into her testimony. This is not only ridiculous, but downright scandalous.
It gets better. The same newspaper reported that Lake had said she was held at Patton State Hospital “without anybody knowing,” and that she asked the psychiatrists why she was being held there and they told her, “Because of the Manson trial.” Mind control? This sounds like they were trying to pump her head full of information to testify. Sound like an absurd conspiracy theory?
Well, we will never know because the judge cut off any cross-examination of Lake after she had stated that fact—even after the defense had evidence to prove that “Lake was coerced into testifying.” This was immunity to the previously stated perjury charge.
When this happened, Manson yelled, “Deaf, dumb and blind.”
She was at one time diagnosed schizophrenic, but it was quickly changed to “normal” after she began to figure out something was amiss. This too was reported in newspapers on November 5, 1970.
Newspapers on November 10, 1970 reported that Lake officially admitted that she had lied.
“Lake admitted that the prosecution had promised her immunity from prosecution if she agreed to testify at the trial of Manson and the three defendants.”
So, in short, the prosecution fed her head with lies and she in turn testified those lies, was caught and they charged her with perjury.
However, they promised she’d walk on those charges if she would still testify against Manson. Her new story was that she lied because she felt that she would be killed by the “Family” if she told the truth. I wonder who fed her with that! Sketchy.
November 11, 1970 the press ran more stories on her testimony, and this one she was caught in even more lies. Lake had stated on the stand that she told the technicians at Patton State Hospital that she “feared for her life.” She also once again confessed that she was not at Spahn Ranch at the time of the murders.
Later on in her testimony she said she “possibly told a doctor that she feared for her life.” Even later on this changed to she has “never told anyone that Charles Manson threatened me.”
During her statement she also implemented Sandra Good in the murders, and was questioned and re-question and on named Sandra Good many times.
“Kanarek then reminded the young witness: Isn’t it true that Sandra Good was in jail at that time?” Lake then summed up her entire testimony by saying that her “memory was bad,” and that “it was possible that she was mistaken about the things she testified to Monday and Tuesday.”
Her testimony was kept. Not only was it kept, but the judge would not allow the defense to cross-examine her. After Lake testified, she briefly re-joined the “Family”, criticizing the prosecution stating:
“You see, things that goes around comes around the same way. You’ve decided to kill Charlie— Sadie— and the others. So you see, there’s twelve of us, and what that means is that there were twelve who were standing beside Jesus long before the Romans came up to do away with him and nailed him to the cross— which is what you’re doing to Charlie; nailing him to the cross. It is your sins— not his. See, what you have done in that courtroom has been an act of propaganda. You have sentenced people to death for actually giving heart to life. You have taken what is true, and turned it into a lie. That is how you live— how you all live.”
After all of this, it is absolutely amazing that her testimony was not only allowed at Leslie Van Houten’s retrial, but also aided in helping re-prosecute her as it helped prosecute her in 1970.
Virtually everything Lake testified was proven lies, opinion, hearsay, conjecture and basically… false.
November 14, 1970 the newspapers reported that the Prosecution had rested its case. Lake only testified for 11 minutes, but the Defense had enough on her to cross-examine for two weeks. But here's the clincher; the Defense could not cross examine her on key issues such as admitted lies and admitting that she pulled her story from the book The Killing of Sharon Tate. In fact, the jury was not even present for a lot of the cross-examination.
But the press did say that Diane "Snake" Lake's testimony was the "most damaging against Manson and the three women." I reckon that no one really cared if she was lying. In everyone's minds any ill word spoken against Manson had to be true.
- The above text was used from the 2010 Manson essay titled The Manson Myth