Watson Given Death Penalty by Judge Who Strongly Opposes It
Friday, November 12th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 12 — A judge who abhors the death penalty nevertheless pronounced it Thursday against Charles (Tex) Watson, 25, chief executioner in seven murders committed under the spell of cult leader Charles Manson.
Superior Judge Adolph Alexander rejected last-ditch motions for a new trial and for reduction of the jury’s gas chamber mandate, returned against Watson Oct. 21.
The demand for a jury trial was made by Watson’s lawyers, the judge remarked, but had the matter been placed before him alone a different result might have come about.
Alexander indicated that he had been somewhat moved by the psychiatric testimony which held that Watson was completely under the domination of Manson when he committed the Tate-LaBianca series of “senseless” killings with the aid of other members of the Manson “family.”
But as long as it was the jury’s verdict, Alexander said, he was convinced that it was not up to him to make any other decision:
“I think I would be remiss in my duty if I were to upset the verdicts of this jury,” the jurist declared from the bench, “a jury that agonized over each of the verdicts, a jury that considered so conscientiously every question submitted to them.
“I, too, have agonized over those verdicts because I know ultimately it is my function to either set them aside, let them stand or reduce them. And believe me, after all these years, it is quite a responsibility.
“I abhor the death penalty as much as anybody does, but the death penalty is on our books and on this level we are compelled to follow the law as it is on our books.”
The defense lawyers, Maxwell Keith and Sam Bubrick, contended in making their motions for leniency that there had been overwhelming testimony tending to show that Watson had diminished capacity to tell right from wrong because of the great influence Manson exercised over him.
The prosecutor, Dep. Dist. Atty. Vincent Bugliosi, pointed out that the jury had reached its verdicts of guilty and of death after deliberation and after carefully weighing the evidence. And the jury was demanded by the defense, the prosecutor said.
Watson, a 6-foot-2-inch handsome one-time high school football hero, remained impassive while lawyers debated his fate.
He was charged with the deaths of actress Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time, and four other persons then present at her Benedict Canyon home — Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, Voityck Frykowski and Steve Parent. These killings occurred Aug. 9, 1969.
The following day, Watson was accused of participating in two other killings, those of Leno LaBianca, owner of a market chain, and his wife, Rosemary.
“Charles Watson,” the judge said at the end of his remarks, “I sincerely pray that the good Lord will be more merciful with your soul than you were with these innocent victims.”
BY RUDY VILLASENOR