The defense in the record-setting McMartin Pre-School molestation trial reluctantly rested its case Wednesday after 10 months of testimony from 42 witnesses, ending with the father of the 2 1/2-year-old boy whose allegations triggered the case six years ago.
Still protesting that the judge had slashed its roster of prospective witnesses in half, lawyer Danny Davis told the jury, "On behalf of Mr. (Ray) Buckey, we would rest our case in chief."
"On behalf of Mrs. (Peggy McMartin) Buckey, the defense rests," attorney Dean Gits said.
Still to come are weeks of rebuttal testimony and final arguments by each side. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Pounders has vowed to get the case to the jury for deliberations by Dec. 1. The Buckeys are charged with 65 counts of molestation and conspiracy involving 11 children who attended their family-owned nursery school in Manhattan Beach between 1978 and 1983.
Outside the courtroom, Davis was reticent when asked whether he believes the defense has created a reasonable doubt:
"I will not presume nor suggest the verdict. I am disappointed we didn't present our full case. . . . It has been measured by time, not fairness. I fear for what follows unless the judge takes a more even keel. . . ."
Co-counsel Gits was optimistic: "We've utterly decimated any contention that children were molested. What appeared preposterous has been proven impossible. . . . Every witness--save the complaining witnesses--never saw any molestation or anything that suggested molestation was going on."
The defendants expressed relief that the case is coming to an end.
"It's terrible that it (the case) happened. It's hurt a lot of people," Ray Buckey said. "But I believe the jury's common sense will let us prevail at the end."
Davis and Gits ticked off what they view as the defense's key accomplishments:
* The jury was presented a chance to look at and listen to the defendants in detailed testimony and cross-examination that revealed their personalities.
* Jurors were able to visit the preschool--re-created to look as it did at the time of the alleged crimes--and were provided a realistic sense of its size and appearance.
* Testimony showed that at least four of the alleged victims attended the school when Ray Buckey was never there, although his alibi witnesses for that time period were cut by the judge. In addition former teachers and others involved directly or indirectly with the school testified that they could not have avoided seeing the alleged activities if they had occurred.
* Employees of various places the children identified as sites of molestation--a church, carwash and market--testified to the "impossibility" that anything untoward happened.
* A British physician refuted the prosecution's medical evidence or at least raised questions about the certainty of physical signs of long-past molestation, signs Davis termed "a set of buzzwords arrived at by a consensus of carpetbagging experts."
* Early videotaped interviews with the children on which the case was based were shown to be suggestive and leading.
Davis said the final witness, the father of the child considered the linchpin of the case (but who did not testify), brought the case full circle.
"He came in at the end to tell us what happened. That his son had diarrhea on Aug. 11, 1983. Which (because of misinterpretations of the redness and discomfort it caused) turned into a criminal accusation," Davis said, tracing the widening circles of that initial accusation. He described how Manhattan Beach police then contacted parents, parents held meetings, children were subtly pressured to admit to being molested and doctors, therapists and prosecutors were off and running.
The father testified that he noticed that his son had loose bowels, but not diarrhea, and denied that he had ever molested him, as Davis had asserted early in the case. Davis said Wednesday that he no longer believes the child was molested by anybody.
The prosecution's first rebuttal witness, William Guidas, a district attorney's senior investigator who had Buckey under surveillance for 2 1/2 months in 1984, took the stand late Wednesday.
Guidas said he observed Buckey driving around Manhattan Beach wearing a wire pyramid hat on one occasion, and watching preschoolers at play at an Orange County day-care center for as many as four hours on another.
The investigator said his job was to prevent Buckey, who was under investigation at the time, from contact with children or from fleeing California. He noted that Buckey seemed more interested in watching the youngsters than in noticing "a number of good-looking women walking by" him on the college campus adjacent to the playground.