Psychiatrist Testifies on Watson Mental Capability
Wednesday, September 15th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 15 — A court-appointed psychiatrist testified yesterday that Charles (Tex) Watson was incapable of “forming intent or harboring malice” and that his ability to premeditate was “severely impaired” at the time of the seven Tate-LaBianca killings for which he is on trial.
Dr. Vernon Bohr, on the staff of USC and of Ingleside Mental Health Clinic in Rosemead, specializing in young people with drug problems, was appointed by former Superior Court judge Malcolm Lucas last spring to examine Watson.
“I believe he was functioning in a dream-like state in which rational, logical thinking was minimal,” Dr. Bohr testified.
He said Watson seemed to be suffering both organic, brain damage and schizophrenic psychosis.
“I have never seen anyone who took LSD and amphetamines at that high level who operated at the higher cerebral level necessary for premeditation or malice,” the doctor said.
Watson told him about the Tate murders, Dr. Bohr explained but not about the LaBianca slayings because the defendant broke into tears and went into a psychotic state before he got to them.
Dr. Bohr said he was skeptical about what Watson told him, but tended to believe most of it because it was consistent with interviews given other psychiatrists.
A brain-damaged person, he said would not be able to remember a made-up story to tell the same way each time.
Watson did not rely on accounts of the crime from other witnesses “because there were no unbiased witnesses,” he said.
Due to his psychosis, Watson believed “all life is part of one big mass and it really didn’t matter if one person were killed…mankind would go on,” the doctor testified.
While he was under the influence of the powerful drugs, Watson was “programmed” by Charles Manson to accept his philosophy and leadership, Dr. Bohr concluded.
He explained that the process was similar to that used in “brainwashing” as studies from the Korean War have shown.
The effects of such brainwashing, he added, may last several years.
Dr. Bohr testified that Watson was a “latent psychotic” before he ever took drugs.
In fact, “a person who uses LSD is always, in my experience, a disturbed person before he uses it,” he said.
Defense attorneys Sam Burbrick and Maxwell Keith are expected to call for more psychiatric testimony today.
The trial resumed yesterday after a one-week recess with the first defense testimony coming from two men who worked on ranches where the Manson family lived.
Manson and three followers have already been condemned to death for the murders.
The trial had been in recess to allow Superior Court Judge Adolph Alexander to attend a judges conference.
Paul Crockett, a prospector, told defense attorney Keith that Manson used what he called “motion to control behavior” of family members, it was described as an intricate set of hand signals.
In September after the Tate murders Manson tried to get Crockett to leave the Death Valley ranch he used as headquarters and even threatened to kill him, Crockett testified.
“I thought it was funny, but, of course, at that time I didn’t know what had gone on,” he said.
Juan Flynn, a ranch hand, said he never saw Watson on dope at Spahn Movie Ranch, but he did notice a change in the man’s behavior.
Once he saw Watson “prancing” on a hillside, eyes dilated, stopping to survey the ranch with his arms crossed “proudly,” Flynn said.
He added that Watson was usually “very humble.”
Flynn said Manson constantly talked to the family about killing, alternated with talk about love, and tried to get him to join the family, but he thought “it was all crazy.”