Accused child molester Raymond Buckey will take the witness stand in his own "common sense defense" in the McMartin Pre-School case, defense attorney Daniel Davis promised the jury as he concluded his opening statement Tuesday.
"He will provide information that hasn't been revealed in this case about why the charges may be false," Davis said.
Davis said he will also call as witnesses a former prosecutor in the case and at least four teachers who were once defendants, as well as the 2 1/2-year-old child, now 7, whose allegations four years ago triggered the investigation.
The child's father has told The Times that his son will testify "over my dead body."
Prosecutors have said they do not plan to call the youngster but will rely instead on the testimony of other witnesses, including 13 children, to make their case against Buckey, 29, and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 60. The Buckeys are charged with 99 counts of molestation and one count of conspiracy involving 14 children who attended the now-closed Virginia McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach.
Davis portrayed his client as a credible and sympathetic individual who, because of the district attorney's reliance on bungled interviews with about 400 children and erroneous conclusions drawn from medical examinations, wound up as a victim in one of the most bizarre and notorious child molestation cases in history.
He described Buckey, who is accused of sexually abusing the children, then torturing and mutilating rabbits, turtles and a pony to ensure the children's silence, as a "normal human being" who attended the same preschool as his alleged victims. He noted that Buckey had perfect attendance in high school, attended college, coached sports, worked with children and befriended many animals, including most recently the cockroaches in his jail cell.
"He will reveal all he knows about this case. Please consider that there are victims on both sides," Davis told the five-woman, seven-man jury that will hear the first testimony today in a trial expected to last at least a year.
Davis urged the jury to "keep an open mind when experts, parents and children speak and weigh the evidence, no holds barred."
Outside court, Davis said his client, who did not testify at the preliminary hearing, "is prepared to deal with the truth, even though it (testifying) may be difficult because he has been in jail so long."
Buckey has been held without bail since 1984.
Outlining his "common sense defense," Davis said several factors should cause jurors to have "reasonable doubts" about Buckey's guilt:
- Therapists who interviewed the children used what he called suggestive techniques to put words in their mouths and lead them to believe that they had been molested.
- The medical evidence can be interpreted in varying ways, he said, depending on the expertise and bias of the examining physician.
- A jail informant who briefly shared a cell with Buckey is not credible, Davis said, because he has admitted lying under oath in a previous case to get better treatment.
- Evidence will show that two children whom prosecutors claim were molested by Buckey may have been molested--but by someone else, the lawyer said.
- Buckey was not teaching at the school at the time some children alleged that he had molested them, Davis said, and was in jail during at least one reported molestation.
The defense holds that the youngsters were "artificially traumatized into believing, when they weren't, that they were molested" and that once the parents were convinced and the district attorney's office had decided to file charges, there was no turning back.
Davis predicted that many of the children--some of whom will be testifying for the third time--will change their stories, in some cases alleging more wrongdoings, in others backing down. One 12-year-old who testified earlier that she had been drugged now recalls that she was given a pink antacid, for example, he said, and now claims that she was penetrated vaginally with fingers, although she testified earlier to the contrary.
Davis added one new twist to the litany of factors underlying the criminal prosecution of innocent people, suggesting that this is a society caught up in change, at the end of the women's movement and the beginning of a child movement, and that such changes inevitably focus on a scapegoat.
Three hundred years ago, he said, those scapegoats were witches. During the McCarthy era, they were "pinkos." Today, with most children being cared for outside the home, Davis said, the scapegoat is "the molester."