Jury Selected in Retrial of Buckey in Molestation Case
After 13 days of rigorous screening that left some prospective jurors wondering whether they, too, were on trial, 18 regular and alternate jurors were sworn in Thursday for the retrial of McMartin Pre-School defendant Ray Buckey.
Their speedy selection--contrasted to the 2 1/2 months that jury selection took in the first trial--raised hopes that the remainder of the proceedings will be equally swift this time around.
The original trial of Buckey and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, took nearly three years and resulted in his being found not guilty on the bulk of the charges and her complete acquittal. His retrial on eight unresolved counts is expected to last six to eight months.
The case has shrunk dramatically and includes several new participants--a judge known for his efficiency, two new prosecutors, an additional defense attorney, and one new child witness.
The McMartin jury was chosen from 150 candidates who filled out lengthy questionnaires and were then interviewed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg and lawyers for both sides.
The questions were probing and personal, leading one rejected panelist to complain that the answers were “none of their damn business.”
Among the lawyers’ questions: Have you ever been accused of sexual misconduct? Have you ever been a victim of sexual assault? How often do you see your grandchildren? Have you ever seen an X-rated movie? Would viewing photos of children’s genitalia offend you?
Do you consider Playboy magazine pornographic? Do you think it’s possible that children could say they have been molested when they haven’t? Do you think a defendant in a criminal trial should be required to prove his innocence?
What kind of work do you do? Do you belong to a union? Do you get paid by the hour?
The questions were intended to weed out those who either side felt might be prejudiced in some way and unable to decide the case solely on the facts presented in court and legal instructions from the judge.
Neither side would comment specifically on why it decided to “thank and excuse” certain jurors. Some were rejected for obvious reasons, however, such as the defense’s rejection of two law enforcement officers.
The dramatic moment of agreement on the final makeup of the jury came unexpectedly Thursday morning. Neither side had exhausted its 10 peremptory challenges, and the courtroom was still packed with prospective panelists.
“The next challenge is with the prosecution,” said Weisberg.
“The People accept this jury,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Joe Martinez.
“Mr. Buckey does as well,” said defense attorney Danny Davis.
Looking up in apparent surprise, Weisberg immediately scheduled opening statements for Monday. The first child witness, one of three girls scheduled to testify, is expected to take the stand Tuesday.
Six alternate jurors were selected Thursday afternoon.
The surviving jury of six men and six women includes three blacks and one Asian, but no Latinos. Half have college degrees. Their ages range from the late 20s to late 50s. Seven are parents.
They work at diverse, but largely white-collar, jobs. The panel includes a banker, a locksmith, a nurse, an engineer, a utilities worker, a bookkeeper and an IRS official.
“This jury appears to be very bright,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Pamela Ferrero said after the final cut. “Few, if any, have never heard of the case, but feel they are able to set aside anything they’ve heard or learned and judge the case as a new trial.”