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Juror Recovering From Surgery : Judge Orders New Delay in Kraft Trial

Times Staff Writer

A Superior Court judge on Monday reluctantly ordered another week’s delay in testimony in the Randy Steven Kraft murder trial after the defense adamantly objected to the replacement of a juror who is home recovering from gall bladder surgery.

Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin, informed that juror Debora Ann Garcia of Anaheim would be out for at least 2 weeks, told attorneys in the case that he would replace her with an alternate because of his concern that the trial already has had too many delays.

“I have a real problem here . . . with the jury trying to figure out where in the world we are going,” McCartin said.

But after Kraft attorney C. Thomas McDonald made a telephone call to Garcia’s doctor and learned that she could be back in a week, the judge relented.

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McCartin sent the rest of the jury and seven alternates home and told them to return to his Santa Ana courtroom next Monday. The judge said he would see then whether Garcia was well enough to remain on the panel.

The judge also moved up a day--from Thursday to Wednesday--a non-jury hearing on ground rules the defense wants to establish if Kraft should testify.

Kraft, 44, is charged with 16 murders of young men in what some legal experts say could be the most expensive legal proceeding in the state’s history. He was arrested on May 14, 1983, when a dead Marine was found in the front passenger seat of his car.

Two of the jurors already have been removed since the trial began last July, one for health reasons and the other after a closed-door hearing on whether the juror had violated the judge’s order not to discuss the case outside the court.

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Although the judge ordered that hearing closed and the records sealed, he revealed Monday during an argument with Kraft attorney McDonald that juror Jane Jowdy of Anaheim had been removed at the request of defense attorneys. The judge also defended Jowdy, saying she probably had done nothing to merit being relieved from the jury.

“We kicked off Mrs. Jowdy; that was at your request over basically nothing,” the judge told McDonald, after the defense lawyer argued that losing Garcia would disrupt the jury.

Removal of the two jurors has reduced the number of alternates from nine to seven. The court was informed last week, while the trial was halted for a 4-day Easter holiday, about Garcia’s emergency surgery.

McDonald argued to the court that he did not want to see Garcia leave the panel for several reasons. Primarily, he said, she is the only Latino on the jury, and he thought that she should remain to help the jury’s “demographics.” He argued that to remove the only minority member from the jury would be “grossly unfair” not only to Garcia, but to Kraft.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan F. Brown, however, argued that the other jurors also have rights. Brown has been almost as critical of the defense lawyers as the judge has over the slow pace of the trial since the defense began presenting evidence on Jan. 30.

“We’re making a terrible intrusion on these jurors’ lives,” Brown said. He added that it has been necessary to subject them to “some of the most graphic, reprehensible types of evidence a human can come across. These jurors have a right to have a (trial) that’s going to get over with at some point.”

The judge said he disagreed with McDonald that Garcia was important for “demographics.” He noted that Oliver North has 12 black jurors at his trial in Washington. He also pointed out that McDonald had plenty of opportunity to put other minority people on the jury.

Wednesday’s hearing is expected to be one of the most hotly debated hearings of the trial. Kraft’s lawyers have informed the court that they want him to take the stand--but only to testify about certain issues. They want a ruling from the court first that he will restrict Brown’s cross-examination.

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The district attorney’s office is expected to oppose any motions to limit cross-examination.


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