Watson Found Competent to Stand Trial in Tate Slayings
Friday, February 5th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 5 – Charles “Tex” Watson, the fifth accused killer in the Tate-LaBianca slayings, was declared mentally competent yesterday and the district attorney said he would proceed immediately to bring him to trial.
Watson had been indicted by a grand jury along with Charles Manson and three young women, all of whom have now been convicted of first-degree murder, but Watson was adjudged to be suffering from a severe mental illness and sent to the state hospital at Atascadero last Oct. 30.
Authorities at Atascadero announced that Watson had been “certified restored to legal capacity” and that he would be transferred to Los Angeles.
The announcement of Watson’s impending prosecution came as the jury was hearing evidence on which they will determine whether Manson and Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten will receive a sentence of life imprisonment or death in the gas chamber.
According to testimony at their trial, Watson was the leader in the seven killings at both the Sharon Tate and LaBianca homes.
District Attorney Joseph Busch said that if Watson entered a plea of not guilty to the murders, a whole new Tate-LaBianca trial would have to be held all over again with many of the same 84 witnesses and introduction of 300 items of evidence.
The present trial has already lasted more than 7 1/2 months. Busch said that Watson probably would be arraigned within the next few days. Asked whether he thought the 24-year-old Texan might enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, Busch said he thought it was likely that his attorneys would have him submitted to psychiatric examinations before determining their course of action.
Watson fought extradition from McKinney, Tex., until Sept. 11, 1970, three months after the other defendants went to trial. Six weeks later a court sent him to Atascadero after findings by psychiatrists that he was “turning into a vegetable” and that his life was in danger if he did not receive psychiatric treatment. Busch said that if Watson did come to trial, the same prosecutor in the Manson case, Vincent Bugliosi, would handle the case for the state.
At the trial itself yesterday, one of Manson’s dozens of female followers told the jury that Manson was not the leader, but he attracted people because he was the “happiest,” always singing and making love.
Sandra Good, 26, a petite blonde who left her wealthy stepfather and mother in San Diego when she was 17, joined the parade of “Manson family” girls to the witness stand trying to save the convicted murderer and three women defendants from death.