L.A. riot trial delayed King case nears verdict Beating of trucker to be tried in July

April 08, 1993|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- A judge delayed the start of the Reginal Denny beating trial until July, distancing the riot-related case from verdicts in the Rodney King trial.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Ouderkirk approved the delay yesterday at the request of attorneys who said they needed more time to prepare the defense for three men charged with beating the suburban Covina trucker at the onset of the Los Angeles riots.

In his ruling, Judge Ouderkirk cited only attorney Edi M.O. Faal's request for added time to prepare his case. Defense attorney James Gillen had argued for a delay in light of the "ticking time bomb of civil unrest" posed by the King case.

With verdicts in the federal King trial approaching, community leaders and police welcomed the delay regardless of reason.

"Given the volatile nature of this particular trial, I think a delay is certainly in everybody's best interest," said Kerman Maddox, chairman of the Political Outreach Committee at First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

"A lot of people in the community are just anxiety stricken about the conclusion of the King trial and the beginning of the Denny trial," he said. "There is concern that this may be too much . . . for a whole city to bear."

Trial was scheduled to begin April 12 for Damian Monroe Williams, 20, Antoine Eugene Miller, 20, and Henry Keith Watson, 27, who are charged with attempted murder and other felonies in the April 29 attack on Mr. Denny, 36, and other motorists.

The three men remained jailed in lieu of bail.

Prosecutors did not oppose the delay.

While Judge Ouderkirk's ruling delayed the trial by 90 days, defense attorneys began attacking the prosecution's case yesterday during pretrial proceedings on grounds of racial discrimination.

Mr. Faal, Mr. Williams' attorney, told Judge Ouderkirk he plans to call several witnesses beginning today -- including former District Attorney Ira Reiner -- to prove his claim that the district attorney's office discriminates against African-Americans in filing of criminal charges.

Judge Ouderkirk said that he would not bar the defense from presenting evidence, though he asked attorneys to research the law on how to conduct a hearing on a motion of discriminatory prosecution.

The judge also warned: "I don't intend to conduct another trial of the Rodney King case in this courtroom."

Closing arguments were set today in the federal trial of four Los Angeles Police Department officers charged with violating Mr. King's civil rights by beating him. The officers were indicted following their acquittals in suburban Simi Valley last year on state charges.

Yesterday, defense attorneys and prosecutors debated the wording of the instructions the judge will give to the King jury before it begins deliberating.

Other issues debated included what constitutes unreasonable force and what constitutes intent.

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