NEW YORK - The defense rested Friday in the trial of an alleged mother-son scam and murder team after the mother shouted that she was afraid of the judge and New York's criminal justice system.
The outburst came after Sante Kimes, 65, said she would not testify in her own defense because the judge would allow prosecutors to ask about her slavery conviction - one of the few in this century - and other crimes.
Though she declined to testify, Mrs. Kimes continued yelling at the judge, her face turning red, until Justice Rena Uviller threatened to have her ejected from her own trial if she didn't be quiet.
Mrs. Kimes and her son, Kenneth, 25, are on trial in Manhattan's State Supreme Court, charged with the presumed murder of Irene Silverman, 82, as part of a plot to steal her home. The woman's body has never been found.
Silverman vanished July 5, 1998, the day the Kimeses were arrested on a stolen car warrant from Utah. Prosecutors say the Kimeses had many of Silverman's personal papers when they were arrested, and this and other evidence led to the murder charges against them.
''I am this boy's mother,'' Mrs. Kimes said. ''We are innocent and more than anything in the world, I wanted to take that witness stand.''
Mrs. Kimes had insisted she would testify, but 10 minutes before her lawyers rested, her son leaned toward her and mouthed the words, ''Mom, don't do it.'' Her lawyers had spent the morning begging her not to testify.
A source close to the defense said they were worried that Mrs. Kimes would self-destruct on the witness stand if - given the number of black and Hispanic jurors hearing the case - she admitted to a slavery conviction.
Uviller ruled Friday morning after a hearing that prosecutors could ask Mrs. Kimes about her 1986 conviction. She served nearly four years in prison for forcing teen-age girls, brought from Mexico, to work in her Las Vegas home for virtually nothing but a bed and food.
After the judge told her she was free to testify, Mrs. Kimes replied, ''OK, I'm afraid of you. I'm afraid of this system. I'm afraid of the gossip, the lies that have been fed about my son and me.''
''I'm afraid of this,'' Mrs. Kimes said, turning to face the packed courtroom and holding up a Daily News article from March 26, 1999, with the headline, ''Poll: NY cops out of control; need federal monitor.''
''We're innocent!'' Mrs. Kimes yelled. ''For God's sake, help us!''
The judge spoke: ''Have a seat ma'am. Another outburst and you will be excluded.'' Uviller also warned that if the Kimeses interfered with the trial in any way before Monday, the trial would continue without them.
At the beginning of her comments, Mrs. Kimes asked the judge to restore her telephone privileges in jail so she could talk to her lawyers.
The judge, who ordered the telephone privileges withdrawn because Mrs. Kimes was calling reporters, said she may call her lawyers - only.
Uviller rejected Mrs. Kimes' request to have cameras brought into the courtroom so the public could see the trial.
The judge told the jury that summations will start Monday morning, following the three-month trial in which prosecutors called 129 witnesses and the defense called one - a law professor who has a low opinion generally of handwriting analysis.
He was called after a handwriting expert testified for the prosecution that a bogus signature of a Florida lawyer on a credit card was consistent with Kenneth Kimes' handwriting.
The judge denied a defense request to let the jury visit Irene Silverman's $10 million, six-story, beaux-arts mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side, where prosecutors say the Kimeses killed Silverman.