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By Dennis McDougal

Death penalty appeals specialist Richard Power told me recently, "I think I wound up with Kraft because I was used to doing 10,000 and 20,000 page cases."

It took him five years to produce the 38,000 page "brief" - excuse the expression - for the California Supreme Court. He filed it March of 1998 and has been waiting for a court date to argue for Kraft's life ever since. Sometime within the next year, he predicts ... but he's not holding his breath.

Randy Kraft during his 1989 murder trial

"I'm waiting as fast as I can," says Power.

In a phone conversation from his Northern California home, Power referred to his most infamous client as "Handy Randy." Power tries keeping his law practice as quippy and light as possible, under typically very grim circumstances. He even operates a website (www.appealsunlimited.com) which plays tongue-in-cheek mood music along with tips on how to avoid lethal injection. Any net surfer who punches the proper button on his computer keyboard while scanning Power's website can hear computerized renditions of "Staying Alive," "California Dreaming," and - perhaps Power's personal favorite - "Maniac."

Randy Steven Kraft could claim that last tune as his theme song. He's a 54-year-old former Long Beach computer programmer whom Power is trying to keep out of San Quentin's execution chamber. Believed by law enforcement in three states to be responsible for dozens of murders over a decade-long killing spree that began in the early 1970s, Kraft was arrested May 12, 1983, with a strangled Marine in the passenger seat of his Toyota. Following a $10 million trial in Orange County that ended with Randy's death sentence in 1989, Kraft became Power's first capital appeal case three years later.

And - while some might see it as less than judicious or even mildly imprudent to flatly speak of his own client in less than flattering terms - Power is among the first to maintain that Kraft is nuttier than a fruitcake.

"He has never admitted to any of the murders," including that of the dead Marine, Power observes. That and several other homicides irrefutably implicate Kraft, but Randy is so schizoid he actually believes that he killed no one - a stretch that even gets Power giggling like, well, a maniac.

And, yet, Power believes that at least some of the 16 murder counts against Kraft can probably more likely be laid at the feet of the late William George Bonin -- the so-called "Freeway Killer" who was executed two years ago for leading a band of teenaged halfwits on his own rampage of Southern California serial murders during the late 1970s. Hours before he died, in a final radio interview, Bonin said his only real regret was that he had not stuck to his teenage passion of bowling long enough to have turned professional.

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