McMartin Pre-School defendant Raymond Buckey had “perfect attendance” during the three months he was enrolled at an Inglewood trade school, a school official testified last week as the defense began to establish an alibi in the molestation case.
Joseph Miles, director of Northrop University’s Institute of Technology, told the jury that attendance records show Buckey was never absent from airplane mechanic classes or lab periods between Oct. 23, 1978, and Jan. 17, 1979, when he withdrew for financial reasons.
Miles added that it is unlikely that Buckey could have slipped away unnoticed to molest children at his family’s nursery school in Manhattan Beach, about 10 miles away.
A summary of the 65 molestation and conspiracy charges against Buckey, 30, and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 61, shows that Buckey’s three months at Northrop fell within a three-year period during which four children were allegedly molested.
The testimony of Miles, who was the second witness called by the defense, appeared to be the beginning of an “alibi defense” detailing Buckey’s whereabouts over the six-year period during which he is accused of sexually abusing 11 children.
But beyond that, the defense has given little indication of its strategy and has infuriated Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Pounders by its refusal to give prosecutors notice of its next witnesses. Prosecutors were required to provide the name of each witness 24 hours in advance to allow the defense to prepare.
Pounders said Thursday that unless the attorneys reach an agreement, he will allow prosecutors a reasonable continuance whenever necessary and will tell the jury the reason.
“I don’t want to hear anymore. I’ve heard you. Now you hear me . I’m not going to tolerate this kind of game-playing,” he said, raising his voice and citing the length of the trial (17 months) and cost of the case (more than $10.5 million) so far.
The defense phase of the trial began last week with testimony from three witnesses:
* Raymond Buckey’s attorney, Danny Davis, called himself as his first witness. He rebutted the testimony of George Freeman, a Buckey cellmate. Freeman testified earlier that Buckey had admitted molesting several children and making child pornographic films and that Davis had visited him twice in jail and threatened to have him killed if he talked anymore with Buckey or testified for the prosecution.
Davis denied threatening Freeman and said that Buckey had not told Freeman anything.
* Another witness, a public school teacher and mother of two former McMartin students testified that she was a substitute teacher in the mornings for about six weeks at McMartin in the fall of 1978.
The woman, who asked that her name not be published, said she never saw children playing naked games or being tied up, knew of no policy that discouraged parents from coming onto school grounds at any time and said Raymond Buckey had never taken children from her class, as the prosecution has alleged.
Asked whether she had ever seen him at the school, she replied, “Never, at the preschool, never.”
“Are you certain of that?” she was asked by defense attorney Dean Gits, who represents Peggy McMartin Buckey.
“Positive,” she answered.
The prosecution maintains that Buckey, who did not begin teaching there until later, spent time on the campus helping at the school. The teacher is scheduled to resume testifying today.
Pounders has ordered the father of the boy who triggered the Manhattan Beach molestation investigation, who was then 2 1/2 years old, to return to court on Tuesday. He has been asked to present a plan for allowing the judge the opportunity to speak directly with the child in the presence of attorneys from both sides about his refusal to testify.
The father said he wants to protect his son--already traumatized by the death of his mother and brother and by having allegedly been molested--from further psychological damage. But Pounders threatened to hold the father in contempt if he does not make the boy, now 7, available, or submit a psychiatric assessment indicating that such questioning--about why he doesn’t want to testify, not about the alleged sexual abuse itself--would be detrimental to the child.
Because the boy once named his father as having molested him, according to a police report, Pounders said he wants to talk face to face with the child to satisfy himself that the decision not to testify under any conditions is the boy’s, not his father’s.
Earlier in the week, Pounders denied a defense motion to have the jury visit the former preschool, now the property of lawyer Davis. After visiting the site himself, the judge said he found that a white repainting job and extensive trimming of shrubbery and trees is “a great and gross distortion” of the way it looked in photographs taken at the time of the alleged crimes.
Much Testimony to Go
Pounders said he would reconsider the motion later. He said he is primarily disturbed by the missing vegetation that leaves both the playground and the classrooms clearly visible from the street. The defense contends that passers-by could clearly have seen any wrongdoing occurring on the playground or in the classrooms.
The defense has estimated that its case will take six months. Pounders said he expects rebuttal and re-rebuttal to take an additional month, with another month for jury deliberations.
The Buckeys were originally charged with 100 counts of molestation and conspiracy. But 27 counts were dismissed earlier this month after some children refused to testify. Prosecutors recommended the dropping of eight other charges after concluding that they had failed to prove them.