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LAPD can have Manson-related tapes, judge rules

Manson follower Charles 'Tex' Watson waived attorney-client privilege over the decades-old taped conversations with his lawyer when he allowed them to be sold to a writer, judge rules.

March 26, 2013|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • Charles "Tex" Watson, had sought to prevent the Los Angeles Police Department from obtaining 40-year-old taped conversations with his lawyer.The LAPD hopes the tapes will provide information about other killings the Manson family may have committed.
Charles "Tex" Watson, had sought to prevent the Los Angeles… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

A federal judge has ruled that the Los Angeles Police Department can have 40-year-old taped conversations between one of Charles Manson's most fervent followers and his late attorney to see if they can help solve more murders.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Schell ruled Sunday that Charles "Tex" Watson waived his right to attorney-client privilege when he allowed the lawyer to sell the tapes to an author who wrote a book about Watson, who was convicted of several murders.

LAPD robbery-homicide detectives are seeking the tapes because they believe that during the several hours of conversations, Watson "may have discussed additional unsolved murders committed by followers of Charles Manson."

Investigators believe the so-called Manson family may have been responsible for more than the nine murders they were convicted of four decades ago. Over the years, everyone from Manson himself to his prosecutors have said his followers were connected to more killings.

The judge's ruling affirms a bankruptcy judge's decision last year that the LAPD can have the tapes of Watson and attorney Bill Boyd, who died in 2009. The tapes were found when Boyd's old law firm filed for bankruptcy. Watson, however, appealed that ruling, claiming they were privileged.

Schell, however, said Watson's decision to sell the tapes to Chaplain Ray, Watson's coauthor of the 1978 book "Will You Die for Me? The Man Who Killed for Charles Manson Tells His Own Story" waived his attorney-client privilege. The judge also noted that Watson was by his own motion willing to allow police to hear the tapes but not take them.

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the LAPD will send detectives to Texas to pick up the tapes once Watson's 30 days to appeal the decision expire.

"We are looking forward to getting these tapes and thoroughly analyzing their content," he said. "We owe it to the victims and their families to ensure every facet of the case is thoroughly and completely investigated."

Watson has denied the tapes will reveal any additional killings. He is serving a life sentence for killing actress Sharon Tate and four others.

Manson prosecutor Stephen Kay said Manson bragged about additional murders. Over the years, questions have persisted about a man's apparent suicide in England, the drowning of an attorney in Ventura County and whether bodies are buried at the California ranches the cult called home.

The murders for which the Manson family were convicted all occurred in the summer of 1969. In late July, Gary Hinman, 34, a musician, was stabbed to death. About a week later in early August, four Manson followers — Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian — made their way to the Benedict Canyon estate rented by Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski. There they killed Tate, 26; Steven Parent, 18; Jay Sebring, 35; Voytek Frykowski, 32; and coffee heiress Abigail Folger, 25.

Later, Manson himself entered the Los Feliz home of Leno LaBianca, 44, owner of a small supermarket chain, and his 38-year-old wife, Rosemary, and tied them up. He left them to die at the hands of Watson, Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, who wielded knives and forks from the LaBianca kitchen. Spahn Ranch hand Donald "Shorty" Shea was killed later and his body concealed on the ranch for years.

Schell's ruling came as a follower of Manson, Craig Carlisle Hammond, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of trying to smuggle a cellphone into Corcoran State Prison for the 78-year-old Manson, who has been caught twice before with a cellphone. Hammond was arrested on three charges and faces a court date next month.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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