From Newsweek, December 8, 1975:
TRIALS: Judgment on Squeaky
JAMES R. GAINES with MARY ALICE KELLOGG in Sacramento
On a breathless morning in late summer, Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme burst into the headlines like some terrifying after-image of the violent America '60s, a scarlet-robed handmaiden of cult-murderer Charles Manson who leveled a borrowed .45 point-blank at the President of the United States. The prosecution, in her three-week trial in Federal court in Sacramento, called her a wanton would-be assassin; the defense portrayed her as a mind-blown innocent who never meant to shoot - who only wanted attention for a multitude of lost and losing causes, Manson's imprisonment chier among them. "She was shouting into a tunnel," said defense attorney John E. Virga, "and all she heard was her own echo." But on Thanksgiving eve, after nineteen and a half contentious hours of deliberation, a four-man, eight-woman jury filed into court with society's reply to Squeaky: guilty as charged of having attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford.
It was an unprecedented case - the first ever brought under a law passed in 1965 to deal with crimes against American Presidents and the first ever to include the testimony of an incumbent Chief Executive.Ford's videotaped recollections were fuzzy and of little help to the defense, however, and Virga didn't get much help from Fromme either; with a variety of helter-skelter flourishes, she boycotted the court proceedings and even refused to watch the trial on a closed-circuit television set in her holding cell. In his closing argument, Virga asked not for acquittal but for conviction of assault - "because that's what she did" - while U.S. attorney Dwayne Keyes portrayed her as a calculating killer who failed only because she mishandled her gun. "There will be many more young murderers," he read from one of her rambling missives to reporters, "beginning with the person typing this letter." Said Keyes: "I think you are entittled to take her at her word."
In the end, the jurors did. But their path to the verdict was by no means an easy one: NEWSWEEK learned that they were split evenly and apparently hopelessly on the assassination-attempt charge until only a few hours before they announced their finding.The main problem was that while the clip of Fromme's gun had been loaded, there was no bullet in the firing chamber. "A lot of people," juror Robert Convoy recalled, "believed that with no catridge in the chamber, the gun wasn't a weapon."
Appeal: The case was further muddled in the last week of the trial when the defense charged the prosecution with having withheld an important piece of exculpatory evidence: the testimony of an eyewitness who had seen the Secret Service wrestle the gun away from Fromme and who remembered the young woman having yelled, "It wasn't loaded anyway!" A defense motion for a mistrail on that ground was denied by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. MacBride, but after the guilty verdict came in, Virga said he would appeal - and the judge himself conceded: "This is the only thing the appellate court might overturn me on. I'm going to lose some sleep over it."
Fromme's conviction could mean a sentence of life imprisonment, and if MacBride was inclined to be lenient, he gave no sign of it when he set sentencing for Dec. 17; he said he hoped her punishment would be a "deterrent" to other potential assassins - the surviving Mansonites presumably among them. Even during the trail, Fromme among others subjected prosecutors and newsmen to a daily skein of threats. And afterward, Sandra Good, Fromme's former roommate and probable successor as Manson family matriarch, vastly broadened the warning."Once again you have judged a reflection of yourselves," she said. "Los Angeles will burn to the ground. Your children will rise up and kill you."