Doctor Says Watson Psychotic from Drugs
Saturday, September 4th, 1971
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 4 — At the time he took part in the Tate-LaBianca murders, Charles “Tex” Watson, 25, had brain damage and was acutely psychotic as a result of heavy drug use, a psychiatrist for the defense testified yesterday.
The witness was Dr. Ira Frank, an assistant professor of psychiatry at University of California at Los Angeles Neuropsychiatric Institute and a specialist in the effects of drugs on the human body.
Watson, on trial before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Adolph Alexander, has admitted participation in the seven homicides but contends he acted on orders from cult leader Charles Manson while under the influence of three potent drugs — LSD, belladonna and speed.
Dr. Frank, who spent 16 hours examining Watson in four sessions earlier this year, said Manson, a born leader, and Watson, a born follower, complemented each other perfectly.
“In terms of personality,” he continued, “Watson is insecure, with no clear conception of who he is. He had a domineering mother who decided everything for him and he seldom had an opportunity to think for himself.”
Dr. Frank said sustained heavy use of the three drugs has resulted in the impairment of Watson’s mentality and coordination.
Watson excelled in sports in high school, the psychiatrist pointed out, but now has trouble executing simple coordination tests.
“Until he told me that he had had three years of college, I had no idea,” Dr. Frank said. “I found a marked intellectual impairment, a borderline mentality, with an IQ of 89.”
He said that his assessment was in marked distinction from Watson’s better-than-average scholastic performance in high school and college.
Watson confessed to the last of the Tate-LaBianca murders Thursday, eliminating any question of his guilt, but his testimony under direct and cross-examination may have created doubt concerning the degree of guilt.
Should the jurors determine that Watson’s mental capacity at the time of the crimes was diminished sufficiently, they could return a verdict of second-degree murder or even manslaughter instead of the first-degree verdict being asked by the state.
Watson Thursday admitted taking part in the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Leno LaBianca in their mansion here Aug. 10, 1969.
Wednesday he testified that he took part in the five Tate murders the previous night.