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McMartin Case Judge Calls Informant Story 'Damning'

October 25, 1987|LOIS TIMNICK | Times Staff Writer

After testimony that the judge in the McMartin Pre-School molestation trial termed "very detailed, extensive and damning" against chief defendant Raymond Buckey, jail house informant George Freeman stepped down from the witness stand last week.

It will be up to the jury to decide whether Freeman, a self-admitted liar and perjurer, was telling the truth this time.

Six days of tedious questioning by Buckey's attorney, Daniel Davis, came to an abrupt halt Thursday when the exasperated judge, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Pounders, gave Davis a 10-minute warning and then announced, "Cross-examination is now at an end." He later told the persistent lawyer to "sit down and shut up."

With a straight face, Davis said, "I trust the court is not angry with counsel."

"Yes, I am," Pounders shouted from the bench after jurors had left. "I don't want to sit here the rest of my life being bored to death like I have been this week" by questions that are "irrelevant," "repetitious," "argumentative" and "oppressive to the witness."

Undermining a 'Great Job'

He told Davis his interminable inquiries were undermining the "great job" he had done initially in destroying Freeman's credibility.

In fact, Pounders said, "You had convinced me that the conversation (between Freeman and Buckey) never occurred. Now you're convincing me that the conversation . . . may well have happened."

Freeman, 45, a career criminal who has been convicted of at least nine felonies, testified during three weeks on the stand that during two days in March, 1984, when he and Buckey shared a cell at Men's Central Jail, the 29-year-old Buckey had talked freely about sodomizing the 2 1/2-year-old boy whose allegations triggered the massive Manhattan Beach nursery school investigation.

The burly Freeman was not viewed as a key witness when he first took the stand. The prosecution called him to help establish a single count of molestation against Buckey involving the boy. Buckey faces a total of 79 counts of molestation and one count of conspiracy shared with his mother, defendant Peggy McMartin Buckey, who is charged with 20 counts of molestation.

But Freeman's testimony went far beyond that single count as he described hours of conversations with Buckey about his sexual proclivities and practices.

"He (Buckey) said he didn't like to have sex with women," Freeman testified, among other things.

Key Testimony

He said Buckey told of having sex with several children at the McMartin school and at a preschool in San Diego and talked of a long, incestuous relationship with his sister. He testified that Buckey discussed having shipped pornographic films to Denmark through a contact in Venice, Calif., and having buried a suitcase of sexually explicit photographs of himself and youngsters during a hurried trip to South Dakota shortly before his arrest.

Freeman also testified that Buckey's lawyer, Davis, had visited him in jail in March, 1984, and threatened to have him killed if he talked further with his client or testified against him. Davis has denied making such a threat.

Davis has claimed in court that Freeman, being savvy in how to work the prison system, frequently traded information to authorities for favors.

Although Freeman had only 10 days left to serve in jail when he came forward with his claims against Buckey, Davis pointed out that Freeman has spent most of his adult life behind bars and suggested that he could be trying to curry favor with prosecutors, should he get into trouble in the future.

Freeman still faces an assault-and-battery charge and remains a suspect in the 1979 strangulation murder of a woman near Griffith Park.

Proclaims Innocence

Davis said he had "reliable" information that Freeman had confessed to that murder and that prosecutors had suppressed the evidence. Freeman insisted that he is innocent, and the detective investigating the case denied that Freeman had ever made any admission. The angry judge instructed the jury to disregard Davis' "insinuations."

Murder charges against Freeman were dismissed in 1979 for insufficient evidence.

Although the murder and Buckey's arrest were separated by more than four years, Davis suggested that "so long as he (Freeman) does big favors in big cases, this (district attorney's) office may be the type willing to trade for perjury and murder."

Just before cross-examination began, prosecutors advised Freeman that he needed an attorney because questions were bound to come up about previous perjuries, which he had admitted to the district attorney's office before being called as a witness.

After being advised by a court-appointed attorney, Freeman invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions until he was granted immunity from prosecution for those past perjuries. The judge threatened to declare a mistrial unless prosecutors sought immunity for him because the jury had already heard the gist of Freeman's testimony.

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