Manson follower's tape recordings off limits to LAPD for now
A federal judge in Texas has blocked a request by the Los Angeles Police Department to review recordings of a key Charles Manson follower and an attorney made decades ago.
The tapes are of Manson follower Charles "Tex" Watson, who has said the recordings won't provide any new evidence about the infamous murders.
Among Manson murder experts, there is much debate about what new revelations the Watson tapes might yield. At least three deaths have been considered as possible murders by those involved in the Manson investigations.
Watson is serving a life term in connection with the Manson killings at a state prison in Ione.
A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Texas this spring granted a request from the Los Angeles Police Department to review eight cassette tapes containing hours of conversations between Watson and his late attorney after the LAPD argued that it might shed light on unsolved murders. The lawyer made the recordings while interviewing Watson after he and other Manson family members were arrested in 1969.
But this month, a judge blocked the LAPD's effort to use a search warrant to get the tapes, according to the Associated Press.
"This court understands and respects the desire of the LAPD to seek access to the 42-year-old tapes," the judge wrote. "However, the LAPD has provided no explanation as to why this court should shortcut the usual procedure for determining a bankruptcy appeal given that the investigation the LAPD wishes to reopen involves murders that occurred 42 years ago."LAPD officials have said they believe there is an urgency is listening to the tapes.
Watson is serving a life sentence for his role in killing actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, and four others at her Hollywood Hills home on Aug. 9, 1969. The next night, Watson and other Manson family members killed grocery store owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Watson was given the death penalty, but that sentence was commuted to life. A parole board rejected his release last November from Mule Creek State Prison. Detectives had until now not been able to get the tapes, but Watson's attorney died in 2009 and the law firm filed for bankruptcy.
No one knows what's on the tapes, but they possibly represent the first new clues concerning the Manson murders in years. That was enough for the LAPD to take another look at the case, and it has Manson scholars excited about the possibilities.
"Do we expect to find something in the recordings? We just don't know," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "But we're going to check just like any good investigator would."
-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Tex Watson. Credit: Associated Press