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Decision Due Today on Kraft Taking the Stand, Lawyer Says

Times Staff Writer

After prodding from the judge, a lawyer for Randy Steven Kraft has told the court that he would know by noon today whether the 44-year-old computer consultant will testify at his trial on charges of killing 16 young men in Orange County.

Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin had expected the defense to either finish presenting its case Monday or tell the court whether Kraft would testify as the final witness. But a Kraft attorney, C. Thomas McDonald, said he still has a few more witnesses to present today before resting his case, and perhaps even a witness on Wednesday.

McCartin on Monday expressed some irritation that once again the defense had kept the jury busy for less than half a day. He asked McDonald if he would finish his case this morning and let the court know the status of Kraft’s testimony.

‘Reasonable,’ Lawyer Says

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“I think that’s a reasonable statement . . . without directly making a contract with the court,” McDonald answered.

Kraft has been on trial in Santa Ana since last July in what some legal experts say could be the most expensive criminal proceeding in the state’s history. If he is convicted, prosecutors are expected to present evidence at a death penalty hearing on up to 29 additional murders that they claim Kraft committed.

Also slightly irritated is Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan F. Brown. The judge had ordered him to have a full day’s worth of witnesses ready Wednesday for his rebuttal portion of the trial.

“I don’t want to sound like a sniveler,” Brown told the judge Monday, but he questioned how he could plan such a schedule if the defense will not give the court a better idea of when it will rest its case.

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Kraft, who often comes to court in blue jeans and a tie, was in a full suit Monday, leading to false speculation among reporters and court watchers that he would indeed take the witness stand.

In Jail Since ’83

Kraft has been housed at Orange County Jail without bail since his arrest on May 14, 1983, when two California Highway Patrol officers found a dead Marine, 25-year-old Terry Lee Gambrel, in the front passenger seat of his car.

Kraft lawyers have told the court that their client wants to testify about five of the 16 murders with which he is charged. But when the judge refused to guarantee that he would not restrict the prosecution from asking questions about the other 11, defense attorneys indicated that they may reconsider whether to put him on the witness stand.

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Prosecutor Brown is expected to call about a week’s worth of rebuttal witnesses to the stand. The defense then would be permitted to put on additional rebuttal witnesses of its own before closing arguments. The judge has announced that he plans to order that the jurors be sequestered at a local hotel during their deliberations.


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