The judge in the highly publicized McMartin Pre-School molestation trial told jurors Monday that they must not be influenced by "passion, prejudice, public opinion or public feeling" in deciding Ray Buckey's guilt or innocence.
He said they must base their decision on "the facts and the law" alone, leaning toward innocence unless they find that the prosecution has proved guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt . . . to a moral certainty."
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg gave the seven-woman, five-man jury half an hour of instructions before sending them to the jury room to begin deliberations. They will meet for six hours daily until they reach a verdict or deadlock.
In anticipation of a speedy verdict in this second trial of Buckey, Weisberg ordered the defendant to remain in the downtown Criminal Courts Building while jurors decide his fate.
Buckey's lawyer, Danny Davis, argued that the order was unreasonable because "it could be a (lengthy) deliberation."
"I will reconsider if it looks like deliberations are going to take a lengthy period of time," Weisberg said. "At the outset I'll order that Mr. Buckey remain in the courthouse."
Jurors in Buckey's first trial deliberated nine weeks before acquitting him of 40 of 53 counts of molestation and conspiracy.
Buckey, 32, is charged with eight counts of molestation--including rape, sodomy, oral copulation and digital penetration--involving three girls who attended his family's Manhattan Beach nursery school. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 22 years in state prison. He has already spent five years in County Jail. He took the stand at both trials to deny the charges against him.
On Monday the judge told jurors, half of whom are parents, that the testimony of children is neither more nor less credible than that of adult witnesses, although a child "may perform differently."
Weisberg instructed them to consider the factors surrounding the youngsters' testimony and their age, but reminded them that "failure of recall is a common experience" among witnesses of any age.
Three girls, ages 10 to 13, testified that they had been sexually abused by Buckey, often under the guise of game-playing, and that they had remained silent for years because he had threatened to kill their parents if they told.
Outside court, a confident Buckey told reporters that "I know the truth is there for them (the jury) to see."
Both sides expressed optimism. The defense maintains that the case against Buckey was "weaker" than that presented at the first trial. The prosecution contends that it gave a succinct presentation of "the best evidence."
In contrast to the earlier trial, which lasted nearly three years and involved 124 witnesses, Buckey's retrial took three months, and 43 witnesses testified.
Parents of former McMartin students were critical of the prosecution, saying it went through the motions of putting on a case after District Atty. Ira Reiner made what they called a politically motivated decision to try Buckey a second time.
"The victory (for the families involved) may or may not come from the courtroom," said one mother who attended Monday's proceedings. "The significant victories are that we found out our kids were molested and got the appropriate treatment for them, the case resulted in changes in the judicial system, and there is now a tremendous international awareness of child molestation."