The Randy Steven Kraft murder trial, already beset by numerous delays since the prosecution rested its case last November, hit another snag Thursday when one of the jurors was hospitalized for emergency gall bladder surgery.
Kraft attorney James G. Merwin said the defense will argue to delay the trial until the juror, 31-year-old Debora Ann Garcia of Anaheim, can return, even if it means several weeks. Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan F. Brown said he didn’t know enough yet to discuss it. But he is expected to favor replacing Garcia with an alternate juror if the delay is more than a few days.
Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin is expected to take up the issue when the trial resumes on Monday. The jurors were excused after testimony last Monday for the Easter holiday.
Kraft, 44, of Long Beach is charged with 16 Orange County murders in what some legal experts say could be the most expensive criminal case in the state’s history.
Two of the regular jurors on the 10-woman, two-man jury already have been replaced since the trial began in July. One woman had to leave for medical reasons, and a second was removed by the judge after a closed-door hearing in which witnesses reportedly discussed her conduct outside the courtroom. Both were replaced by women, maintaining the same 10-2 ratio.
Merwin said the defense would argue strongly against the judge’s releasing Garcia and replacing her with an alternate.
“For one thing, she is the only Latino on the jury,” Merwin said, explaining that the defense believes that factor is important to maintaining a balanced jury.
Also, Merwin said, Garcia is the juror who told McCartin that she would have to make arrangements for her children when the jury is sequestered next month for deliberations. Merwin said he understands that she has since done that.
“After she has gone to that kind of trouble, we don’t think she should have to leave,” Merwin said.
But many sources, including law enforcement officials and family members of victims in the case, contend that the defense attorneys will capitalize on any excuse to delay the trial.
In the 5 years after Kraft’s arrest, the defense was granted more than a dozen delays before the trial began. After Brown completed his case in November, the defense was given until Jan. 30 to begin presenting its side. Since the defense began presenting witnesses, the judge and another Kraft attorney, C. Thomas McDonald, have argued intensely over the fact that on many days, the defense has put on no more than 2 hours’ worth of testimony and has repeatedly asked for more time.