File photo A Roosevelt County jury has found farmer William “Billy Joe” Watson not guilty of hiring an Aryan Brotherhood member to murder Causey rancher Jimmie Bo Chunn.
By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico
A Roosevelt County jury has found farmer William “Billy Joe” Watson not guilty of hiring an Aryan Brotherhood member to murder 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 2005 in exchange for anhydrous ammonia for methamphetamine manufacture and then providing the chemical to undercover agents after Chunn’s death.
Last year, Taylor pleaded guilty to shooting Chunn in a deal to avoid the death penalty.
Defense attorney Gary 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 connection with Chunn’s slaying in June 2007.
Mitchell said Watson told him early in the case to keep the trial in Roosevelt County because the people were conservative but fair, and would listen.
Watson still faces felony drug charges in federal court and remains incarcerated.
The Ninth Judicial Deputy District Attorney Donna Mowrer, the prosecutor on the case, said, “The FBI had the defendant (Watson) on a recording saying he was involved with planning the murder, was glad to get it done, and then subsequently provided anhydrous ammonia to undercover agents as his end of the deal for the murder.
“My duty was to present these facts to the jury,” Mowrer said in a written statement, “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. We exercised the system and accept the jury verdict for what it is.”
District Attorney Matt Chandler said Watson will now be transferred back to federal jail to await trial on federal charges for interstate transportation of instrumentalities used to manufacture methamphetamine and conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. He faces 20 years to life in prison, Chandler said.
On the verdict, Chandler said, “After 4-years of work we convicted and sentenced the actual trigger-man to life in prison, and today Deputy D.A. Mowrer gave a jury the opportunity to hold Watson accountable for his own statements involving himself in the murder.”
Bo Chunn’s brother Clovie Chunn said the family approached the trial trying to remain open minded and hoping to learn at least part of the truth.
“There are no winners here today. We are all losers. Everyone here has lost something that they can never get back,” he said.
Chunn said among the friends and family of Watson and Bo Chunn, many long-term relationships existed.
“This case, and the nearly five-year wait for this long trial, has tested these relationships,” he said. “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.”