Jury Selection Begins for Trial in Hospital Rampage

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nearly two years after a bloody rampage at a Costa Mesa hospital for the mentally retarded, jury selection began Wednesday for an employee accused of fatally gunning down his supervisor, injuring two others and trying to shoot a fourth.

Testimony could begin as early as today in the trial of Michael E. Rahming of Long Beach, a painter at the Fairview Developmental Center who allegedly opened fire on co-workers with a handgun in July, 1991.

Rahming, 39, has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder. Because of the unusual plea, jurors must make a determination on Rahming's mental condition if they find him guilty of the criminal charges.

Rahming is charged with shooting and killing his supervisor, Allen R. Motis, 53, of Garden Grove, before wounding hospital director Hugh Kohler, 45, of Costa Mesa and supervisor James H. Pichon, 38, of El Toro. Rahming allegedly fired at another man but missed.

Less than an hour after the shootings, Rahming quietly surrendered to sheriff's deputies who were on their way to his home. "Officer, Officer, I am the one you're looking for," deputies recalled Rahming saying as he flagged them down.

Rahming, who lodged numerous complaints of racism and harassment at work, had a history of conflicts with supervisors at Fairview, according to hospital officials. Before the shooting, he had filed several grievances claiming he was treated like an outcast because he is African-American.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Randolph J. Pawloski said the trial before Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald in Orange County Superior Court is expected to last about three weeks.

Defense attorney Michael Naughton said Wednesday he intends to present psychiatric evidence that his client was insane at the time of the shootings and should not be sent to prison.

"In this country, people who are insane should be sent to a hospital for treatment for a very, very long time, not be sentenced to prison," he said.

The case is finally coming to trial after several delays, including a change of defense attorneys and two court-ordered evaluations to determine whether Rahming is mentally competent to stand trial.

One year after the bloody rampage, two civil lawsuits filed by victims' relatives claimed that the shooting spree was foreseeable and alleged that hospital managers were negligent for not preventing the tragic incident.

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