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Supreme Court Rejects Kraft’s Bid for 16 Trials

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Times Staff Writer

The state Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear an appeal from Randy Steven Kraft’s attorney’s that his trial be split into 16 separate trials, one for each of the slayings he is charged with.

The court’s decision came the same day that questioning of potential jurors about the death penalty began in the Kraft trial.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan F. Brown said the news from the state Supreme Court “is what we’ve been waiting for; we’re in full gear now.”

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Kraft, now 43, from Long Beach, was arrested May 14, 1983, during a routine traffic stop on the San Diego Freeway in Mission Viejo when two California Highway Patrol officers discovered a dead Marine, Terry Lee Gambrel, in the front passenger seat. The arrest led to the biggest murder investigation in the county’s history.

Kraft is charged with 16 killings, but prosecutors have added another 21 killings to his case to use as evidence in the trial.

Kraft’s attorneys argued that a single jury would be so overwhelmed with so many victims that its members probably would infer Kraft’s guilt.

“There is no way for Randy to get a fair trial if this case is not severed,” said James G. Merwin, one of Kraft’s attorneys.

Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin, Kraft’s trial judge, had turned down the defense request for multiple trials. Two weeks ago, the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana refused to hold a hearing on the issue. Merwin immediately filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court.

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