Judge orders Manson Family tapes turned over to police

LOS ANGELES Tue May 29, 2012 10:07pm EDT

Convicted mass murderer Charles Manson is shown in this handout picture from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation dated June 16, 2011 and released to Reuters April 8, 2012. REUTERS/CDCR/Handout

Convicted mass murderer Charles Manson is shown in this handout picture from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation dated June 16, 2011 and released to Reuters April 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/CDCR/Handout

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Taped conversations between Manson Family killer Charles "Tex" Watson and a Texas lawyer in 1969 must be given to Los Angeles police investigating the cult's possible involvement in unsolved murders, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

Detectives are anxious to review some eight hours of discussions between lawyer Bill Boyd, now dead, and Watson recorded after the Charles Manson devotee's arrest for the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders, Los Angeles Police Commander Andrew Smith said.

But the release of the tapes was placed on hold for two weeks following an 11th-hour challenge by Watson's current attorney.

"We really don't know what's going to be on these tapes but we're always hopeful to get new evidence and be able to solve any of the unsolved crimes we have from that long ago era here in Los Angeles," Smith said.

"We've got dozens of unsolved murders around the Los Angeles area from that time period," Smith said. "Nothing right now indicates there's a link but these audio tapes could help solve some crimes."

He said police also "owe it to the victims and their families to be as thorough as we can" in investigating the murders.

Ex-convict Charles Manson attracted a group of runaways and outcasts, including Watson, amid the hippie culture of the 1960s. In the summer of 1969, he directed his mostly young, female followers to murder seven people in what prosecutors said was part of a plan to incite a race war.

'HEALTER SKELTER'

Among the victims was actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who was stabbed 16 times by members of the cult in the early morning hours of August 9, 1969.

Four other people were also stabbed or shot to death at Tate's home that night by the Manson followers, who scrawled the word "Pig" in blood on the front door before leaving.

The following night, Manson's group stabbed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca to death, using their blood to write "Rise," "Death to Pigs" and "Healter Skelter" - a misspelled reference to the Beatles song "Helter Skelter" - on the walls and refrigerator door.

The Watson tapes surfaced during federal bankruptcy proceedings in Texas involving Boyd's now-defunct law firm, which represented Watson.

Detectives could not obtain the recordings until Watson, now 66 and serving a life prison term in California, waived his attorney-client privilege so they could be sold to satisfy unpaid legal fees. Boyd died in 2009.

In a letter to a U.S. Department of Justice trustee posted online by local KNBC-TV, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck asked that the recordings be given to the LAPD, which he said "has information that Mr. Watson discussed additional unsolved murders committed by followers of Charles Manson."

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brenda Rhoades granted that request following a brief hearing on Tuesday, but gave Watson's attorney 14 days to file legal papers challenging the release of the tapes after he said he had standing in the case.

Manson and Watson were both originally sentenced to death in the case but were spared execution after the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional.

Manson, now 77, is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison in California for the seven Manson Family killings and the murder of an acquaintance, Gary Hinman, who was stabbed to death in July 1969.

He was denied parole for the 12th time in April.

(Additional reporting by Judy Wiley in Texas; Editing by Paul Simao)

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