The mass-murder trial of Charles Ng, already delayed for more than 10 years, was postponed another seven months Friday, angering the families of victims who said they have already waited much too long for justice.
Orange County Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan reluctantly agreed to postpone jury selection because the newest member of Ng's defense team won't be available to work on the case until March.
"I'm absolutely furious," said Garden Grove resident Lola Stapley, whose 26-year-old son, Scott, was one of Ng's alleged victims. "How long can this go on? This has just become the story of our life."
Ng, 35, is accused of torturing and killing a dozen people in 1984 and 1985 at a hideaway in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Ng has pleaded not guilty and could face the death penalty if convicted. His trial was moved to Orange County in 1994 on grounds that media reports made a fair trial impossible in Calaveras County, where many of the victims had lived.
Jury selection is now scheduled to begin Sept. 1, 1998, in what is expected to be the longest and costliest trial in state history.
The Stapleys, while outraged over the latest delays, said they are at least grateful that the case is being tried in Orange County, making it convenient for them to attend court proceedings.
Not so fortunate was the family of victim Paul Cosner, who traveled from their home outside Columbus, Ohio, this week only to learn of another delay.
Cosner's mother, Virginia Nessley, cried in the courthouse hallway in frustration Friday.
"We're just so very discouraged," Nessley, 73, said. "It seems like it's just useless for us to come. Nobody cares."
The latest delay is to accommodate the schedule of San Francisco County Public Defender Michael Burt, who just joined the defense team.
Ng had refused to cooperate with Orange County Deputy Public Defender William G. Kelley and wanted Burt appointed because he had represented Ng when the defendant was in Northern California.
"We did pick a February  date and fully intended to go to trial," Ryan said from the bench Friday. "[But] Mr. Kelley was not getting much assistance from Mr. Ng."
The prosecution objected to another delay.
"Obviously, we want to go to trial as soon as possible," Calaveras County Dist. Atty. Peter H. Smith told the judge. "This case has been going on for far too long. The people need to stand up for our right to a speedy jury trial."
Ng was arrested in 1985 in Canada, where he fought extradition for six years until Canada's Supreme Court sent him back to California. An alleged accomplice, Leonard Lake, 39, killed himself shortly after his capture.