Defense Lawyers Lash Out About McMartin Case
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Attorneys for Raymond Buckey and his mother on Friday praised the jury that acquitted them of 52 child molestation charges, denounced the news media and urged the district attorney to drop 13 undecided charges.
The attorneys, at a news conference, also implored the public to stop denouncing the outcome of the trial, in which the defendants were accused of molesting children at their now-closed nursery school in Manhattan Beach, and accept the week-old jury verdicts as correct.
″How can anyone second-guess my jury?″ asked attorney Dean Gits, who represented Peggy McMartin Buckey. ″Please go easy on the jury. Respect their decision. They are the only ones who have the knowledge to make that decision.″
Gits said he counted 19 people who heard every day of evidence in the case. Twelve were jurors; the rest were lawyers, the judge and court personnel.
But he noted that TV stations which took polls of their viewers found that 70 percent to 80 percent believed the verdicts were wrong.
″What the viewers were reflecting was media dissemination (of the case),″ he said. ″The public had made up its mind the defendants were guilty. That’s a terrible, terrible thing.″
Buckey, 31, and his mother, 63, were charged with 65 counts of molestation. Five other teachers were charged when the case began six years ago, but their charges were dismissed after an 18-month preliminary hearing.
The jury trial for the remaining two defendants lasted nearly three years - the nation’s longest and costliest criminal trial.
Earlier estimates put the cost at $15 million, but as of Friday, the cost stood at between $13.2 million and $13.4 million, the Los Angeles County Auditor’s Office announced Friday. That lower figure doesn’t include all payments to court-appointed attorneys.
Mrs. Buckey spent two years in jail before the trial and her son spent five years before he was released on bail.
Danny Davis, who represented Buckey, said his client feels he is ″a free man″ but remains ″in danger for his life″ and haunted by 13 counts on which the jury deadlocked. He called those ″the weakest counts″ in the entire case.
″I hope no politician in this county will sacrifice their career by suggesting we re-litigate this case,″ said Davis.
″God help us if there is a refiling of the 13 counts,″ he said. ″... Who would it serve to drag children into this nightmare again?″
Deputy District Attorney Lael Rubin, who prosecuted the case, said she was consulting with children and their parents before deciding whether to refile the 13 counts on which the jury deadlocked.
Davis said District Attorney Ira Reiner ″should answer for the biggest loss in the history of American law″ and said Reiner would be guilty of ″stupidity″ if he decided to prosecute the remaining counts.
He also criticized the post-trial TV appearances of Superior Court Judge William Pounders.
″I am saddened to see the trial judge in this case, with litigation pending, trooping about in television land like a lightweight bit actor, making comments about the children,″ Davis said.
The district attorney’s spokeswoman, Sandi Gibbons, said Reiner shouldn’t be held responsible for a case that started under another district attorney, Robert Philibosian.
Two lawyers who represented former defendants in the case also appeared at the news conference organized by California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, a defense lawyers group.
Forrest Latiner, who represented Buckey’s sister, Peggy Ann, said: ″I find it sad and not a little frightening that the return of not-guilty verdicts on a case that shouldn’t have been filed in the first place should raise such a clamor to change the justice system.″
Eli Gauna, who represented Babette Spitler, called the McMartin case ″a grotesque mutant born of the bad genes of a lot of bad folk.″
″Then we add to this the selling of this grotesque mutant to the public by the news media,″ he said.