A man pictured with Peggy McMartin Buckey in an Associated Press photograph in Tuesday's editions was not her son, Raymond. The man's identity is not known. (Published 7/16/87)
LOS ANGELES, JULY 13 -- The long-awaited McMartin Pre-School trial opened today with prosecutor Lael Rubin telling a packed Los Angeles superior courtroom, "This is a case about trust and about betrayal of that trust."
Rubin graphically described the acts of molestation allegedly committed by defendants Raymond Buckey, 29, and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 60, against 13 children who were students at the Manhattan Beach preschool they operated, and said she will present medical testimony from several doctors who examined children froom the school.
"At least five doctors examined children from the school," Rubin said, standing before a display of photographs of the 13 children involved. "You will hear medical evidence of sexual abuse."
The Buckeys face 101 counts of molestation and conspiracy in the case. The sexual-abuse charges include rape, sodomy, oral copulation, intercourse and fondling. They also are accused of photographing and drugging children and forcing them to participate in satanic rituals.
The trial's opening day came after three months of jury selection and almost four years after Raymond Buckey was first arrested. The delays were the result in part of a 1978 California supreme court decision that entitles the defense to a full review of the prosecution's evidence in preliminary hearings and to numerous appeals of points of law and procedure.
Rubin said the primary evidence for the prosecution will be the testimony of the 13 young alleged victims.
"These children have gone through a long, difficult process of disclosure," Rubin told the seven-man, five-woman jury. "They will tell you of dramatic events that were repulsive and embarrassing. They will tell you about a game called naked movie star . . . where the Buckeys told the children to take their clothes off and took pictures of them."
"Many parents will tell you that their children started having recurring nightmares," Rubin told the jury. "Some will tell you that their children stopped wearing underwear while attending the McMartin Pre-School."
During Rubin's opening statement, Raymond Buckey, thin, with short black hair and wearing a dark gray suit, watched intently, while his mother, a gray-haired and matronly woman in a bright blue dress with a lace collar, rarely looked up. She is free on $500,000 bail, and he is being held without bail.
Raymond Buckey was originally arrested in September 1983, after a mother phoned Manhattan Beach police to say that her 2 1/2-year-old son had been molested at school by "Mr. Ray." Buckey was released for lack of evidence, then rearrested with six other people in March 1984.
The Manhattan Beach Police Department sent a form letter to hundreds of parents whose children had attended the school. The letter asked parents to question their children about possible sexual abuse at the school, and when the response was huge, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office took over the case.
The district attorney's office called on Children's Institute International (CII), a Los Angeles child abuse diagnostic and treatment center, to interview the children on videotape in late 1983 and early 1984.
The tapes have become a source of controversy and policy in the case. Defense attorneys claim they show children being "goaded and prodded into making incriminating statements" against the Buckeys.
District Attorney Ira Reiner agreed up to a point, calling the tapes "suggestive" last year in a decision to drop charges against five of the defendants in the case. Reiner said at the time, "It was a grievous mistake to in effect turn this investigation over to CII."
Attorneys on both sides agree that the outcome of the case will depend on the children's credibility, both in past interviews and on the witness stand. Defense attorneys will give their opening statements Tuesday, and evidence will be presented starting Monday.