A Superior Court judge ruled today that his colleague who presided over the McMartin Preschool molestation trial could not preside at the retrial of one of the defendants, Raymond Buckey.
The trial judge, William Pounders, had scheduled the retrial for March 9, and it was not immediately known how his removal today would affect that date.
The decision was issued by Judge Michael R. Hoff, who held that Judge Pounders had disqualified himself by granting interviews to news organizations immediately after a jury last month acquitted Mr. Buckey and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, of 52 counts of child molestation and conspiracy while deadlocking on 13 counts against Mr. Buckey.
Judge Hoff said that given those interviews, Judge Pounders would be in a particularly difficult position in overseeing jury selection at a retrial, since he would have to determine what a prospective juror might think about remarks that Judge Pounders himself had made.
The motion to disqualify Judge Pounders from the retrial of the longest criminal proceeding in American history had been made by lawyers for Mr. Buckey. In a response to that effort, Judge Pounders said in papers filed Feb. 8 that he had publicly commented on the case so that he could defend the judicial system and the jurors, whose verdicts were under attack by parents and other supporters of the children who had testified against the Buckeys.
But today Judge Pounders said that upon reflection, he concurred with Judge Hoff’s ruling. ”I have relief,” Judge Pounders said. ”I’m finally free after three years and three months. The only problem is, I won’t see the case through to its conclusion.” Judge Hoff said the assignment of the case to another judge would be made later.