Watson Waits In Texas: Extradition Fight Seen
Sunday, March 29th, 1970
McKINNEY, Tex., Mar. 29 – Charles Watson, who skyrocketed to worldwide notoriety when he was accused of murder in the Sharon Tate killings in California, may become equally known as the principal figure in a precedent-shattering extradition fight
While Watson sits at his television set munching fruit in the dilapidated Collin County Prison, attorneys in Texas and Califorma fight over his custody.
Standing between the 24-year-old Watson and those who want to try him for murder with accused Charles Manson and three female members of the hippie cult is Bill Boyd.
Boyd, 31, is a second-generation lawyer whose grandfather raised cotton and onions at nearby Lavon, hard by the even smaller Copeville community where Charles Watson was born and reared.
Boyd served four years as district attorney here and then elected to enter private practice with his father, Roland Boyd, and Ed Viegel, a native of Minnesota. “Bill’s a smart little cookie,” you hear on all sides around the mouldering old sandstone Collin County courthouse. “He ain’t nobody’s fool.”
Boyd has so upset the usual proceedings of extradition that it is almost certain now that Watson will never be tried with Manson and the female defendants, all members of Manson’s hippie “family,” all scheduled for trial on April 20.
That seems to be Boyd’s immediate goal — get his hometown client a separate trial. Talking to Ed Viegel, you get the idea that Watson’s attorneys believe he will have a better chance if he’s not tried with the long-haired cult leader and the permissive females.
“All of them have already been tried in the California papers,” said Viegel.
“And convicted?” he was asked.
“I just said ‘tried’,” said Boyd’s most available partner.
For more than two months, Boyd has kept his client in quiet isolation in a steel-plated, maximum security cell. Nobody talks with the accused, and few person around McKinney will talk openly to newsmen about Watson although his case eventually gets into nearly every conversation.
Boyd has said he may go all the way to the US. Supreme Court to keep his client out of California. He tells the courts that Watson could not get a fair trial in California because of “massive publicity” in all media.
After Texas Secretary of State Martin Dies Jr. ruled that publicity was not a legal basis for denying extradition, he ordered Watson to California to stand trial. Boyd filed a writ of habeas corps to block the extradition.
Then Judge David Brown, a candidate for Texas attorney general in the May 2 Democratic primary, granted a 30-day continuance at Boyd’s request. This moved the case to a hearing on Feb. 16.
Boyd presented a multiplicity of exhibits in on effort to show prejudicial publicity in California. But Brown ruled against him and said the court “found no evidence of irresponsible handling of the matter by California news media.”
“Sensational events involving weird personalities,” said the judge, “cannot be adequately presented in prosaic terms.”
Again Boyd appealed, a process which under ordinary circumstances would keep Watson in his Texas cell another 90 days.
Last week, however, District attorney Tom Ryan — a suave, well dressed man who appears to be anything but the country-lawyer type often found in similar posts around Texas – moved to rush up Boyd’s appeal.
He told the court that Boyd was attempting “to delay or change the forum or mode of trial” by delaying the appeal before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Boyd was not in town for the hearing, having filed an earlier brief with the court.
Judge Brown sustained the state’s motion. He told Ryan, “Mr. Boyd has filed a brief, and legal precedent probably will he in his favor, but I believe this court has the discretion to expedite the matter.”
Since, there has been no apparent action, and it appears that Boyd’s obvious plan to delay until he can assure a separate trial for his client is working.
But Tom Ryan says there is no way Watson can stay in Texas, “Charles Watson will return to California to stand trial for the crimes of which he is accused.”
Is Watson guilty? “I would not allow myself the luxury of such conjecture,” replied the attorney. “But I feel sure the State of California must have a good case.”
Sheriff Tom Montgomery, Watson’s legal custodian as the court battles whirl around his head, is not so sure that the accused is guilty.
“I can’t talk about it much, you know,” says Sheriff Montgomery, serving his first term in office. “You know I’m the boy’s second cousin. His mother’s daddy was my daddy’s brother. But I don’t think they’ve ever established that that Charles was in the Tate house — or that other place, either.
“And this boy was raised in the church house. Why his mother and dad are the finest people you’ll ever meet. It’s awfully hard for people around here to think he could ever have done the stuff he’s been accused of doing.”
Is Charles Watson is good prisoner? Does he cause you any trouble? “Why, we don’t hardly know he’s here. Sometimes I think he doesn’t know he’s here.”
Montgomery would comment no further on his prisoner’s mental condition. Watson was a B student in Farmersville High School and although he did not distinguish himself as a scholar at North Texas State University, in Denton, Tex., he managed to stay out of trouble until he drifted to the West Coast and became involved with the Manson “family.”
When he was arrested on the California charges, he had been at home several weeks. Friends said he had “changed” since his high school days.
Boyd allows nobody to see his client. The cell he sits in is roomy enough, one can tell from the outside dimensions. Sheriff Montgomery said he has a radio and a television — “everything he needs. He’s good boy.”
A jail attendant said Watson doesn’t smoke and hardly ever drinks coffee or tea. “Oh, maybe once every two or three days, he might ask for a cup of coffee,” said Sheriff Montgomery. “We wouldn’t ever know he was there, if he didn’t ask for coffee once in awhile.”
On alternate days, the sheriff said, Watson’s mother and father visit him from Copeville, the small community on the backwaters of Lake Lavon, a reservoir for the City of Dallas which was constructed partly on land that once was farmed by Bill Boyd’s grand father.
The parents – some days they come together — bring their son fruit and other items that make his jail sojourn a little more comfortable. Sheriff Montgomery would not comment on how long they stay or what they talk about. He said his prisoner ate fruit “mostly.”
On a recent spring day, sleet and snow mixed with a cold, windy rain, was buffeting the McKinney area. Neither of the elder Watsons had arrived for their daily visit. So Sheriff Montgomery telephoned to see if they were coming.
“They’re not coming today,” the sheriff said. “It’s pretty bad outside, you know,”
Copeville, where Charles Watson was born and reared, is east of McKinney and south of Farmersville. Farmersville is famed in North Texas as the hometown of war hero-actor Audie Murphy and as “the onion capital of the world.” Charles went to high school there.
Charles Denton Watson, 57, and his wife have operated a general store there since the middle ’30s. They sell groceries and everything from post-hole diggers to safety pins, dog chains and cough syrup. Two Gulf Oil gasoline pumps front the gravel driveway.
A week ago, a reporter entered the store and introduced himself to the elder Watson. “I won’t talk to you,” he said. “You’ll have to talk to my lawyer, Bill Boyd.”
Watson was dressed in bib overalls, a soiled jacket and sweat-stained felt hat, a stolid, unsmiling man with no trace of gray in his dark hair. Has all the notoriety hurt his business?
“No,” he said politely, “business is good usually. It’s been real good lately, but on a day like this — this sleet and snow — it’s not so good.” He stood in the dark, low-ceiling frame building with his bark to a butane gas heater.
“I got chilled this morning fishin’,” he remarked, shivering.
Fish much? “Oh, I used to fish quite a bit in the East Forks, but I don’t get out so much anymore, maybe three or four times a year.
He said the crappie were biting good and he had stayed with a friend to fish in the sleet and snow. Four men stopped in an old car to buy $2 worth of gasoline. Another came in and bought a small bottle of mouthwash. A third squatted by the stove and settled down to talk about the bad weather, and Charles Watson and his lawyer, Bill Boyd, and Bill’s father, Roland. He liked everybody. He drank a Coke.
Then, as the reporter started to leave, Denton, as his friends call the elder Watson, came outside in the sleet.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” he said. “You can go all over this country out here and talk about that boy, and they’ll tell you he’s a good kid.
“His mother raised him right, right over there in that church. Ask his teachers up at Farmersville they’ll tell you. He never even hurt anybody when he was playing football at the high school up there. All this sluff they’re saying about him. I don’t understand — it’s just a bunch of lies. And he ain’t no hippie.”
Watson shivered again. “Guess I got a little chilled this morning,” he said. He smiled for the first time, but went back to the fire in his dark little store.
A service man who was called to the Collin County Prison — most Texas county seat towns call their prisons jails – added one thing more to the Watson story. He periodically enters all the cells to fumigate them.
“He seemed like a nice, pleasant fellow, and talked all right to me,” the exterminator told a friend. “He’s comfortable.”
Boyd’s concern, statements he has made would indicate, is the continued comfort of his client.
California authorities believe Manson’s strategy is to attempt to put full blame for the crimes on Watson. They say the publicity evolving from the trial of Manson and the three female co-defendants will hurt Watson even more. Boyd apparently doesn’t believe this.
Boyd has been accused of having farther political ambitions. His father is said to “have plans for his son.” Viegel, their law partner, just smiles at that but says, “Bill Boyd is working for his client.”
So Charles Watson, accused of seven slayings that may be some of the most senseless, unprovoked murders in the annals of American crime, sits in front of his television, munching fruit brought by his faithful, loyal parents — sure in their own minds that their boy could never have been a part of such a thing.
“It’s just a bunch of lies,” the father said – swinging his arm toward the tiny, white-steepled church where Charles Watson went to Sunday school, church services and Epworth League.