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Lawyer for Defendant in Bomb Deaths Is Removed

December 29, 1987|TRACEY KAPLAN | Times Staff Writer

The trial of a North Hollywood makeup artist charged in the bombing deaths of two police demolition experts was postponed after a judge removed the defense attorney from the case.

San Fernando Superior Court Judge John H. Major removed Pierpont M. Laidley from the case after Laidley asked the court for more money to prepare a defense for Donald Lee Morse.

Major ruled last week that Laidley had already been given a reasonable amount of money to pay investigators. The Los Angeles County public defender's office was appointed to replace Laidley, Deputy Dist. Atty. Sterling E. Norris said.

Major postponed the trial, which was to begin next week, to give attorneys time to familiarize themselves with the case.

Morse, 38, is charged with two counts of murder in the Feb. 8, 1986, bombing deaths of Los Angeles Police Department Detectives Arleigh McCree, 46, and Ron Ball, 43. McCree and Ball were killed while trying to dismantle one of two pipe bombs found in Morse's garage.

Search for Gun

The bombs were discovered by police as they searched Morse's home for a gun they believed was used in the shooting four days before of Howard Smit, business manager of the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Union Local 706.

The officers found a pistol, but ballistics tests later determined that it was not the weapon used in Smit's shooting. Smit has since recovered from the wounds.

If convicted, Morse could be sentenced to life in prison without parole, Norris said.

Laidley, who was appointed by the court after he represented Morse in his Aug. 27, 1986, preliminary hearing, said he has spent $143,000 to investigate the case.

He said he plans to file a petition for a writ of mandate with the California Supreme Court so that he can be reinstated as Morse's attorney.

"I'm not seeking to go on a pleasure trip somewhere with the county money," Laidley said. "We need it to finish interviewing witnesses."

However, Norris said Laidley had spent more than $250,000 so far, which he called "an atrocious amount."

Public Defender Wilbur F. Littlefield estimated that it would take attorneys six months to prepare for trial. A case of this magnitude is "bound to generate a ton of paper, although how much of it is of value is another question," Littlefield said. "But we're obligated to go through it all."

Morse is being held without bail in County Jail.

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