Judge refuses jury's request in L.A. officers' trial Deliberations go into third day

April 12, 1993|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- Jurors in the federal trial of officers charged in the beating of Rodney King completed their second day of deliberations af ter the judge turned down their request for a transcript of testimony by a California Highway Patrol officer who said Mr. King was repeatedly hit in the head.

The jury's request yesterday to read the tearful testimony of CHP Officer Melanie Singer, who witnessed Mr. King's violent arrest on March 3, 1991, was the panel's first inquiry after starting its deliberations on Saturday.

After some jurors attended Easter church services in the morning, the jury resumed its review of the evidence at noon and ended about 5 p.m. The panel was to continue its deliberations today.

During a brief court hearing, U.S. District Court Judge John G. Davies told attorneys that he has no plans to provide jurors with transcripts of witnesses' testimony.

"It tends to emphasize the testimony of one witness over another," Judge Davies said.

Officer Laurence Powell, Officer Theodore Briseno and former Officer Timothy Wind are charged with violating Mr. King's civil rights by willfully using excessive force against him during his arrest after a high-speed chase. Sgt. Stacey Koon, senior officer at the scene, is charged with allowing the unlawful assault to take place.

Outside court, defense attorneys speculated as to the significance of the jury's focus on the testimony of Officer Singer, one of two CHP officers first on the scene of Mr. King's arrest.

Officer Singer was called to the witness stand by Mr. Stone, attorney for Officer Powell. But her emotion-filled testimony was viewed by many as largely beneficial for prosecutors.

Officer Singer broke down in tears as she recalled that Officer Powell had hit Mr. King repeatedly in the head with a metal baton.

"There is no doubt in my mind he struck him in the face with the baton," she said. "I will never forget it until the day I die."

But Officer Singer also said in testimony more favorable to the defense that Mr. King's behavior was bizarre, including waving at a helicopter, dancing, grasping one of his buttocks and resisting officers' attempts to handcuff him.

Harland Braun, attorney for Officer Briseno, speculated that jurors may be looking at Officer Singer's testimony about the head blows and comparing it to medical evidence of Mr. King's injuries.

Medical experts who testified for the defense said Mr. King's facial injuries were caused by falling to the asphalt, not by a baton.

Judge Davies also revealed yesterday that jurors had selected as their foreman a member identified only as juror No. 5 -- a white male in his 40s who works in real estate.

Also, Judge Davies said he was assured by federal marshals that jurors who attended church services would not hear comments about the trial or possible results of a verdict.

Judge Davies said ministers at those churches were asked "to refrain from making any comment about this case or the consequences of it, and they have obliged."

Balancing Easter's joyous message with urgent pleas for calm and peace, religious leaders tried to set the stage for verdicts in the trial.

At St. Vibiana's Cathedral, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, leader of the nation's largest Catholic archdiocese, directed parishioners to look toward their faith in overcoming the tension and ill will wrought by the trial.

At the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Central Los Angeles, the Rev. Cecil L. Murray told an overflow audience that the city cannot tolerate another riot.

"We can't afford to lose our heads. We've got to find a way to keep our heads," the pastor said. "I want you to keep this city cool and after the cool, I want you to insist on entrepreneurial gain."

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