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Ng Loses Last Bid to Delay Murder Trial

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Accused mass-murderer Charles Ng, who is acting as his own lawyer, lost a major battle in court Wednesday, bringing him closer to trial and leaving relatives of victims overjoyed that 13 years of legal delays may be coming to an end.

Ng, accused of slaying 12 people in Northern California, asked a judge to drop the charges in a last-ditch effort to avoid going to trial. But Orange County Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan denied the motion and told Ng and prosecutors to be ready to begin on Sept. 1.

Ng, 37, had attempted to delay legal proceedings again by complaining that his poor eyesight had slowed his reading of legal documents. He also said that his paralegal had “disappeared” without delivering important legal documents to him, that he has problems obtaining private telephone access in the Orange County Jail and that he is still learning to use the computer loaned to him.

“A lot of things haven’t been done,” Ng said. “I’ve tried my best. It’s kind of hard when you have so many tasks you are responsible for.”

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Calaveras County Deputy Dist. Atty. Peter Smith objected to further delays and reminded the judge that Ng is now his own attorney and has to take responsibility for his problems.

“He can’t play the blame game anymore,” Smith said. “He can’t say it’s someone else’s fault for his not being prepared.”

Ryan said Ng had provided him with “no reason whatsoever” for further delays.

Ryan had ruled in May that Ng could act as his own attorney.

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Ng had said that he does not like nor trust William G. Kelley or James Merwin, the public defenders who had been assigned to help Ng fight charges that he tortured and murdered 12 people in the mid-1980s.

Kelley and Merwin have been ordered to act as advisory counsel to Ng but must continue preparing for the case in the event they must step in.

Ng, dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps, was one of two people arrested in the case. The other suspect, Leonard Lake, killed himself by swallowing a cyanide pill after his arrest.

Prosecutors allege that Ng and Lake committed the murders on Lake’s property in Calaveras County in the Sierra foothills more than a decade ago.

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After Lake committed suicide while in custody, Ng fled to Canada. He was captured but waged a six-year battle against extradition before he was returned to California in 1991. Three years later, the case was moved from Calaveras County to Orange County because of extensive publicity.

The mammoth case has amassed more than six tons of paperwork and is expected to be one of the longest and costliest trials in California history.

Ryan’s refusal to grant a further delay and his swift denial of the motion to have the charges dismissed delighted Garden Grove residents Dwight and Lola Stapley, parents of one of the murder victims.

“I’m ecstatic, absolutely ecstatic,” a smiling Lola Stapley said outside court. “This is the first time I’ve been really optimistic.”

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The Stapleys’, 26-year-old son, Scott, was among those killed. They have attended more than 70 court hearings over the years. This is the first time they believe a trial will actually to take place soon.

“I think we’re going to make it” to trial, said Lola Stapley.


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