LAPD wants tapes of 1969 chats between Manson Family member and attorney

Tapes of 1969 conversations between Charles Manson's right hand man Tex Watson and his attorney may give new insight into the Manson family murders. The recordings turned up as part of the late attorney's law firm's bankruptcy proceedings. Watson remains in prison, convicted of Tate/Labianca murders, and his current attorney is fighting against the tapes' release citing, duh, attorney client privilege. From the L.A. Times:

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According to LAPD detectives, the judge granted the motion (to provide the LAPD with access to the tapes) but left open the possibility of a further challenge to their release within 14 days by Watson’s current attorney, who has objected to the disclosure.

Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the LAPD hopes that when those 14 days are up, detectives can begin scouring the tapes for any evidence of unsolved murders tied to the Manson family. Smith said there were "no specific unsolved homicides" that have led L.A. detectives to seek the tapes and that the recordings are being sought because the LAPD learned of their availability.

"Tapes could shed new light on Manson murders, LAPD says"


  1. I’m no fan of Manson, but it does strike me as attorney/client confidentiality.

    1. I’m no fan of Manson

      I think we could take that as read, couldn’t we?

      It’s a mark of how poisonous our debate has become, how the defenders of even the most basic liberties are so frequently accused of being motivated by a desire to enable crime and coddle villains, that anyone would reflexively feel the need to preface a statement defending attorney-client privilege with a nod to the notion that Manson’s not all that great, in order to forestall the accusations they’ve come to expect.

      1. An understanding of civil liberty that includes the knowledge that when you compromise someone’s rights you ultimately are compromising your own?  awjt is right, you are a danger to America with that kind of thoughtcrime.

    2. “Watson previously made the tapes of his and his lawyer’s conversations available to the co-author of Watson’s 1978 book, “Will You Die for Me? The Man Who Killed for Charles Manson Tells His Own Story.” (Huffpo)

      Sounds like he may have forfeited his confidentiality.

      1. An excellent point, it would seem (at least to me as a layman).

        Still, it would seem that they really ought to have subpoena’d the tapes thirty-odd years ago, when the book came out and when the wounds were fresh, other testimony was likely to be available, etcetera.

        Also, this seems to open a thorny question: the lawyer made the tapes available to a third party, and so may have violated confidentiality – and yet the person to whom he made them available was plausibly filling a journalistic function (albeit perhaps a crassly exploitative commercial one), and so the tapes might be protected under a Shield law, at least in terms of seeking the tapes from the book authors.

        1. Back when Watson was still going through the system they would have definitely been out of bounds because he was still working with his attorney.  My reading of this is that they don’t care about Watson so much as they just want to clear up other murders (the victims of which probably still have families around wondering what happened to their loved ones.)  

          My quick and totally layman-like perusal of relevant legal precedent  suggests that a defendant who releases his conversations to a third party for purposes other than getting legal advice has probably forfeited his confidentiality privilege.  And I have a hunch the judge who approved the request has probably spent a few more minutes in that area of law than I have.

  2. Seems to me that if the LAPD doesn’t have some specific cold cases they can at least remotely to the Manson family, there’s no basis for acquiring the tapes. Things would be different if a victim’s family wanted the tapes too, but no one really wants the tapes for any specific reasons.

    1. Leslie van Houten’s defense attorney Ronald Hughes disappeared on a camping trip during a recess in the Manson trial.  His body was later discovered but it was too decomposed to determine a cause of death.  It’s suspected Manson ordered him killed because Hughes refused to allow his client to take the rap for Charlie.  There are rumors that Manson was responsible for up to 40 murders.  Trying to verify that is why they dug up Barker Ranch in Death Valley a few years ago. 

      Reportedly the recordings were previously sold to Ray Hoekstra so he could write the book Will You Die For Me?  That could affect claims of privilege.

  3. Well, we’ve already tossed out the Constitution, due process, civil liberties, checks and balances, etc. when it comes to whacking people from the skies, indefinitely detaining them without charges, snooping through their communications, etc., so I don’t see why this attorney-client privilege prima donna thinks it’s so darn special.

  4. I think if they swung open the bars on Manson’s cell he wouldn’t come out. Probably happier where he is after all these years.

  5. Just burn the fucking things, then tell the city you’ve misplaced them. That old chestnut seems to work for the government just fine.

  6. Is this just curiosity? Why does the LAPD need these tapes? They are not part of an investigation and no crimes will be solved.
    My guess, after some time in an evidence room they will disappear and some cops retirement will be better than expected.

  7.  It’s probably not for curiosity, but for potentially clearing up the whereabouts of missing people who might have been Manson family related victims.  I could see there still being people alive that had friends or relatives go missing during the period Manson and his people were criminally active.  The tapes might reveal somewhere that they might have checked for remains, or describe someone that might have fit their description and what happened to them.  It might help families whose loved one just disappeared off the face of the earth get a better idea of what happened to them and a sense of closure. 

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