Jurors in the Randy Steven Kraft serial murder trial broke at noon Saturday, completing their second day of deliberations, and returned to the hotel where they have been ordered sequestered by Judge Donald A. McCartin.
Kraft, now 44, a Long Beach computer consultant, is on trial in Santa Ana charged with 16 murders of young men in Orange County between 1972 and 1983.
The jurors, 10 women and 2 men, not only have hundreds of exhibits to pore over, they have a multitude of verdict forms to complete.
There are five forms for each of the 16 victims: guilty or not guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Besides those, the jurors must decide on three additional charges: two counts of sodomy on two of the victims, and a count of mayhem on a third one.
McCartin ordered the jury sequestered--a rare step in modern criminal cases--over the objections of Kraft’s attorneys, who feared that jurors subconsciously would feel pressure to rush a verdict so they could return home. The Saturday deliberations were also highly unusual. McCartin said he would eliminate the Saturday sessions if the jurors objected, but none of them did.
The judge has not disclosed the name of the hotel where the jurors are staying. McCartin also decided not to reveal which testimony the jurors had asked to have reread on Friday. Lawyers, in their closing arguments, urged jurors to have much of the testimony reread before deciding on verdicts on any of the murder charges.
Kraft was arrested May 14, 1983, when two California Highway Patrol officers found a dead Marine in the front passenger seat of his car. That led to an investigation by Orange County law enforcement officials that resulted in prosecutors linking Kraft to a total of 45 murders in Southern California, Oregon and Michigan.
If Kraft is convicted, his trial would move into a penalty phase, where Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan F. Brown will ask for a death verdict. The seven alternate jurors in the trial have been ordered not to discuss the case, even though they are not involved in the deliberations, because there is always a chance they could be placed on the regular jury during the penalty phase.
Since testimony in the trial began in September, two of the regular jurors have had to leave the panel, one because of illness and a second on the judge’s order after a request by defense lawyers, who learned she may have violated the judge’s order not to discuss the case.
The jurors are scheduled to resume their deliberations Monday morning at 9 a.m.