Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner on Monday named veteran prosecutor Joe Martinez to retry McMartin Pre-School defendant Ray Buckey on some of the counts that left a jury deadlocked last month.
Martinez, a former social worker, has spent 23 years in the district attorney’s office and has “handled hundreds of cases,” including about three dozen murder trials, a spokeswoman said.
He recently won convictions against two drug dealers in the murders of two undercover federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Pasadena.
Martinez replaces Deputy Dist. Attys. Lael Rubin and Roger Gunson, who had asked for reassignment before jurors acquitted Buckey, 31, and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 63, on 52 counts of molestation and conspiracy, the spokeswoman said.
Gunson was named to head the district attorney’s Special Investigations Division late last year, and Rubin asked to be transferred to a special trials unit in Santa Monica. Both said they will work with Martinez as he prepares for the trial scheduled to begin March 9, the spokeswoman said.
Legal observers, however, said that the trial will certainly be delayed by a defense motion to disqualify Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Pounders, who presided at the first trial, and by various other pretrial motions.
Prosecutors had said they intended to proceed on all 13 unresolved molestation and conspiracy counts. But Reiner said last week that he will pursue only five counts involving two girls--one a new witness who did not testify at the 2 1/2-year-long first trial.
Nonetheless, the prosecution Monday listed 17 potential witnesses, including all five children named in the 13 charges.
Meanwhile, Buckey told Cable News Network television talk show host Larry King on Monday evening that the two girls are among the “weakest witnesses” against him, and that he believes Reiner is switching prosecutors “because he thinks he could do a better job with someone else.”
In an hourlong interview, Buckey said most of the decisions in his case are “political,” adding that Reiner, who is running for state attorney general, “is looking for a sacrificial lamb. He’s going to sacrifice these two children to make his political career.”
Buckey said that if he is acquitted, he will file a civil suit similar to the multimillion-dollar action filed by his mother, charging malicious prosecution, defamation and violation of civil rights.
Wearing a casual, reindeer knit sweater, and showing occasional flashes of anger, Buckey said his initial reaction to the charges against him and the other original McMartin defendants was a mixture of “shock and disbelief.” He said he assumed his mother “would clear this up.” Instead it became a six-year-long ordeal, five years of which Buckey spent behind bars.
Insisting on his innocence, Buckey admitted he had been fearful of the original trial jury’s verdict--and will be the second time around as well.
“I was afraid they’d say, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire"--particularly after Pounders slashed dozens of witnesses from the defense roster in an effort to get the case to the jury.
But, Buckey said, “You fight because you have to.”
While in jail, he said, he learned “to block out people” and was sustained by “my innocence, my family and faith in people.”
“You either stand up and fight, or lie down and die. But there are moments when you have despair.”