By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer
A Roosevelt County jury has found farmer William “Billy Joe” Watson not guilty of hiring an Aryan Brotherhood member to kill Causey rancher Jimmie Bo Chunn and not guilty of attempting to manufacture methamphetamine.
The verdict came about noon Tuesday.
Watson was accused of hiring Rogers native Donald Taylor to kill Chunn in exchange for anhydrous ammonia for meth manufacture in 2005, and then providing the chemical to undercover agents after the slaying.
Last year, Taylor pleaded guilty to shooting Chunn in a deal to avoid the death penalty.
Watson remains in jail facing federal charges of moving an ingredient in methamphetamine manufacture across state lines and conspiracy to manufacture meth, Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said in a written statement.
The federal charges carry a penalty of 20 years to life in prison.
Defense attorney Gary Mitchell said he hoped the U.S. attorneys would dismiss the charges since a trial in federal court would involve the same evidence as the Roosevelt County trial.
“I think the jurors have spoken,” he said.
Mitchell expects to learn whether the charges will be dismissed in the next few weeks.
Also, Mitchell said he appreciated the fair trial and attentive jury.
“It’s been a long nightmare for Bill, but the people of Roosevelt County listened, and they listened carefully; they heard our defense, and they found an innocent man not guilty,” he said.
Watson was arrested in June 2007 in connection with Chunn’s slaying.
Mitchell said the family asked him to serve as their spokesman and say thank you to the jurors and Causey residents who believed in them and stood up for Bill Watson. They said it was nice to have friends stand up for them, Mitchell said.
Bo Chunn’s brother, Clovie Chunn, spoke for his family.
“As our family approached this trial, we were trying to remain open minded and objective. We all hoped to learn some of the facts and at least part of the truth,” Chunn said in a prepared statement. “There are no winners here today. We are all losers. Everyone here has lost something that they can never get back.
“There were lots of different relationships in that courtroom, on both sides of the aisle and across the aisle. There were friends, neighbors and relatives. Some of these relationships have been long-term, 50-60 years. Some are lifelong. This case, and the nearly five-year wait for this long trial, has tested these relationships. Some are strained and others crumbling.
“It is our sincere hope that, now that this trial is over, relationships can, in some way, begin to mend, and somehow eventually be healed.”
Chandler said after four years of work, the trigger man in Chunn’s shooting was convicted and sentenced to life in prison and Mowrer “gave a jury the opportunity to hold Watson accountable for his own statements involving himself in the murder.”
Deputy District Attorney Donna Mowrer, who prosecuted the case, said the FBI had a recording of Watson saying he was involved with the murder and was glad to get it done, and he provided undercover agents with anhydrous ammonia involved in the alleged murder contract.
“My duty was to present these facts to the jury and allow them to decide if the defendant was guilty of conspiracy to commit murder or if he was just under duress when he made the statements, and the jury found the latter,” she said in a written statement. “We exercised the system and accept the jury verdict for what it is.