King's actions cited by juror Jury thought officers' actions were justified.

April 30, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- In the end, the now-famous videotape -- 81 seconds of footage that shocked the world with its grainy images of a prone, seemingly defenseless Rodney G. King being clubbed by Los Angeles Police officers -- didn't matter.

Instead, it was what Mr. King did before the camera started rolling that prompted the jury to return verdicts of not guilty in the celebrated trial of Officers Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, Timothy Wind and their sergeant, Stacey Koon.

"I know the film was horrible, but there's a lot more to it than the film, and a lot more to it than the small pieces of film that were shown on TV," said one juror interviewed by the Los Angeles Times. "The film does not show all of the things that went on before."

The jury's verdict proved to be a resounding endorsement of the police officers' conduct. The juror -- who spoke out despite a pact reached by the jurors that they would not talk to the media -- said the panel made the only decision it could have, based on the evidence presented. There was no wavering, and no discussion of reasonable doubt.

The jury believed that if Mr. King had complied with orders from the police as they tried to arrest him, the beating would never have occurred.

"He refused to get out of the car," said the juror, who asked not to be named. "His two companions got out of the car and complied with all the orders and he just continued to fight. So the police department had no alternative. He was obviously a dangerous person, massive size and threatening actions . . . Mr. King was controlling the whole show with his actions."

The prosecution's decision not to put Mr. King on the witness stand may have hurt its case, the juror said, because Mr. King was not able to explain his actions.

"I wonder, could he have been a help to the case? Maybe he could have offered us some insight as to what his thinking was."

The juror said that the panel found the officers' testimony credible. Jurors did not believe race was a factor in the beating -- if it had been, the juror said, Mr. King's companions would have been beaten. Jurors also felt that the officers acted within the scope of police department regulations, and that the injuries to King's head occurred as he fell to the ground, not -- as the prosecution asserted -- from the beating he received.

As for the officers, the juror said, they were justifiably in fear as they attempted to arrest Mr. King.

"They're policemen, they're not angels," the juror said. "They're out there to do a low down dirty job. Would you want your husband doing it, or your son or your father?"

For the jurors, the deliberations were exhausting. The seven men and five women -- none of them black -- had been thrown together in their task after a painstaking, month-long process of jury selection in which 248 other Ventura County residents were eliminated.

They represented all corners of society -- a cable splicer, a bank clerk, a retired real estate broker. A phone company technician, a computer analyst, a housekeeper. A retired Naval aviator, a park ranger, a trash collector. A program manager, a retired mental health worker, a nurse. Throughout the trial, their identities had been kept a closely guarded secret, and upon its dramatic conclusion, they fought hard to keep it that way.

Although it had been reported that the jury concluded its deliberations Friday on all counts except the one that resulted in a mistrial, this juror said that was not the case. In fact, the final straw votes on all the counts were taken yesterday. The jury spent "long and tedious hours" going over evidence in the case, looking at the videotape over and over, sometimes slowing it down so that it could be viewed frame by frame.

Count by count, the jurors examined the testimony and tried to reach conclusions. The discussion was emotional, but not volatile. The first straw vote came at the end of the second day of deliberations, and several straw votes followed.

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