Manson’s Pal Watson Ruled Insane
Saturday, October 31st, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 31 – Charles (Tex) Watson, the Manson “family” member charged with the actual murder of the seven Tate-LaBianca victims, Friday was adjudged insane and rushed to Atascadero State Hospital in an attempt to save his life.
Two psychiatrists and a medical doctor, appointed by the court to judge whether the 24-year-old Texan was competent to stand trial, agreed he was mentally ill. All expressed fear that if medical and psychiatric treatment was not started immediately there was a strong possibility the youth would die.
As the hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Dell’s courtroom was in progress, an ambulance was speeding the “comatose” former Texas State athlete to the mental facility near San Luis Obispo.
Watson arrived at the hospital at 7:30 p.m. Friday, the sheriff’s department said.
The two psychiatrists — Dr. George Abe and Dr. Seymour Pollack — and a medical doctor, Dr. Marcus Crahan, had been appointed by Judge Dell to examine Watson and return their findings by Nov. 6. The date pushed forward by Judge Dell, he told the courtroom, “because of the seriousness of the situation.”
When Watson was arrested in Texas in December of 1969, the six-foot two-inch athlete weighed 195 pounds. He had lost 35 pounds while in jail in Texas and weighed 160 pounds when he was brought to Los Angeles Sept. 11 after losing a fight against extradition. Since then Watson has lost 50 pounds and now weighs “less than 110 pounds,” prison authorities said.
Attorney Sam Bubrick, appointed as Watson’s attorney, earlier had urged the medical men to complete their examination of his client and has expressed concern over the youth’s condition.
Bubrick told newsmen that the first report of Dr. Crahan, the jail physician, had indicated that his examination showed Watson to be “competent, coherent and capable of standing trial.” He also concluded that Watson was “sane at the time the crimes were committed. (Crahan’s working report shows however, that Watson refused to answer all questions and the report was based primarily on the transcript of the testimony of the star prosecution witness in the Tate-LaBianca case, Linda Kasabian.)
Seven days after the initial report, Crahan filed a supplementary report in which he stated that Watson had become “listless, flaccid…his lips are pursed and it is impossible to spoon feed him.”
“He has virtually vegetated, and his weight is down from 118 pounds to 110 in one week. He is rapidly reverting to a fetal state which could be fatal,
“The proceedings against him should be suspended and he should be transferred to Atascadero Hospital as soon as possible.”
Following Crahan’s report, the attorney called in the two psychiatrists who examined Watson Thursday, the day before the hearing, and immediately filed their reports.
Watson, Dr. Pollack said, is “not presently able to understand the proceedings against him nor to cooperate with his counsel.”
Pollack, the prosecution’s psychiatrist in the trial of Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan, ordered Watson released from restraints which kept him immovable on his bed and the tube, which had been kept constantly in his nose in order to feed him, removed.
In a separate interrogation room, the psychiatrist handed the youth tissues and a glass of water. After Watson, cleaned his face and drank the water. Pollack said tears began to flow from his eyes — but he did not speak.
“The defendant,” the psychiatrist’s report shows, “stares off into space…remains completely mute…appears markedly retarded.
“I doubt that there is true malingering here. He has a definite psychosis…with suicide possible.”
Dr. Abe, chief of Metropolitan State Hospital at Norwalk, labeled Watson’s ailment as a “schizophrenic reaction — a catatonic type of mental illness.”
“It is imperative that the defendant gets psychiatric and physical care as a lifesaving measure,” he said.
Judge Dell, who admitted from the bench that “Many individuals suspected Mr. Watson’s ailment was of a malingering nature — I felt so myself — therefore I appointed psychiatrists who would not be fooled by malingerers.
“Mr. Watson is not capable at this time of understanding the proceedings against him and is not capable of cooperating with his counsel in his own defense.
“Therefore, I formally find he is presently insane and these proceedings are suspended until he becomes sane.”
The ruling means that Watson, if he survives his current physical problems and is cured of his mental ailment, can be returned to court to stand trial on the Tate-LaBianca murders. Two of his girlfriends in the Manson “family” — Ruth Morehouse and Lynn Fromme— sat in the front row of the spectator section of the courtroom as Watson’s condition was detailed by Judge Dell.
Earlier on the same floor of the Hall of Justice the two girls shouted taunts at another former member of their “family” whose competency to testify was being questioned in the trial against the “family” leader Charles Manson and three of his “girls” — Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel.
“You ain’t plastic and you know it — you can’t turn your back on your love,” the two shouted at 17-year-old Dianne Lake was brought to court.
Dressed in a starched white blouse and blue jumper — in direct contrast to the torn and wrinkled blue jeans worn by her “sisters” — Miss Lake paid little attention. She was shielded, however, by several security guards
Following the testimony of two psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist, she was judged “competent to testify” by Judge Charles Older.
Miss Lake was admitted to Patton State Hospital in January 1970, and diagnosed as an “incurable psychotic.” Two weeks later the diagnosis was changed to “normal teenager.” Defense attorneys contend she was kept at the hospital to help the prosecution case against Manson and his three defendants, and her diagnosis changed to allow her to testify.
The girl is expected to testify to a conversation she had in September 1969 with Miss Van Houten in which she confessed to the killing of market owner Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. She apparently talked with other defendants also about the crimes.
As the two Manson “girls” shouted outside the courtroom, Manson, appearing more irritated at the proceedings, began shouting in the courtroom. “What are you hiding now?” he yelled at Judge Older, when the judge refused to allow the girl’s history at the hospital to be read by Defense Attorney Ronald Hughes.
“Read it anyway, Hughes,” Manson shouted as the attorney began to close the file.
Manson remained silent thereafter after the judge ordered him to be quiet or be removed from the courtroom “as I have done on other occasions.”
As the inner courtroom calmed, a hippie-looking girl in the back row of the spectator section began laughing and crying hysterically. She was removed by deputies who said she was having a “drug flashback.”
Miss Lake is the final prosecution witness, according to Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, and is expected to take the stand Monday to “practice” her testimony without the jury present. The “practice” session is to make sure the girl does not implicate other defendants — other than the ones that talked with her directly — eliminating hearsay evidence which would jeopardize the trial.
BY MARY NEISWENDER