By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
Roosevelt County farmer William “Billy Joe” Watson’s fate was handed over to a jury late Monday.
Watson is accused of hiring an Aryan Brotherhood gang member to kill local rancher Jimmie Bo Chunn.
Attorneys finished final arguments earlier in the day and the jury had not reached a verdict by the end of the day.
The jury will resume deliberations Tuesday.
Watson is also charged with attempt to manufacture methamphetamine.
Chunn was shot in his home July 4, 2005. Donald Taylor of Roosevelt County pled guilty last year to pulling the trigger.
Prosecutor Donna Mowrer said Watson set up a verbal contract with Taylor to kill Chunn in exchange for anhydrous ammonia, which would be used to manufacture the illegal drug, methamphetamine.
“Billy Joe Watson could have stopped everything, but he chose to go forward,” she said.
Mowrer said Watson’s statements throughout the investigation and during his testimony were inconsistent and gave a number of examples.
“Billy Joe Watson’s statements are deceptive,” she said.
Mowrer also said the polygraph test he took was invalid because the person conducting the tests made mistakes and scored the test much differently than the computer score.
Undercover agents didn’t threaten Watson, Mowrer said.
She said the state’s witnesses had no reason to lie and Taylor’s confession of the murder-for-hire contract was corroborated by other witnesses and the crime scene.
Mowrer also said Watson bought the anhydrous ammonia, also used as an agricultural fertilizer, knowing it would be used to make meth.
Defense attorney Gary Mitchell said Watson had one attorney, an assistant to the attorney and a young investigator on his side, while the state had more than one attorney and several law enforcement agencies. The jury is the equalizer and “never has David been so small and Goliath so big,” he said.
Mitchell said the state didn’t dispute Watson’s reputation as honest, hard-working and helpful.
“And at the end of the day, Bo Chunn and Bill Watson were close friends,” he said.
Mitchell said Taylor has said he killed Chunn for his own reasons and lied about Watson being involved to extort the anhydrous ammonia from him. He and Donald Wilson, the Aryan Brotherhood member working with the FBI who Taylor allegedly confessed to in prison, made up the story of Watson’s involvement.
Mitchell also said Watson cooperated with undercover agents posing as members of the Aryan Brotherhood in order to protect himself and his family. The agents threatened him and claimed to be associated with Taylor, whom Watson believed to be involved in Chunn’s death after his first encounter with the agents, he said.
“If I want to get your attention and make you do what I wish, I don’t challenge you, I kill your best friend,” Mitchell said.
He said local police and undercover agents unfairly intimidated Watson during the investigation and lied to advance their careers. He also said FBI agents and Wilson had contradictory testimonies on some issues.
Mitchell also questioned the motives of some prosecution witnesses, noting they were paid informants or facing heavy criminal sentences.
In her response, Mowrer said Mitchell hadn’t argued evidence. She said Watson knew who Taylor was before the murder was committed.
“He played with fire, and he ignited the whole situation,” Mowrer said.
Nowhere on the recording of Taylor and Wilson’s prison conversation is there anything to suggest it was rehearsed, she said.
The six law enforcement agencies on the case didn’t invent Watson’s involvement, she said. As for Watson’s reputation, Mowrer said people don’t know what their neighbors do.
The families of Watson and Chunn said they preferred to wait to comment until after the verdict.