King decision is expected this morning 'Let's all be cool,' Mayor Bradley tells Los Angeles

April 17, 1993|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- After 40 hours of deliberation over seven days, the jury in the Rodney G. King federal civil rights trial will make an announcement this morning, according to top city officials.

It was not clear if the jury has reached a verdict or is deadlocked.

"The jury in the Rodney G. King civil rights trial has asked to return at 7 a.m. [10 a.m. EDT]," Mayor Tom Bradley said.

"Meanwhile, we should ignore all rumors and speculation. Let's all take a deep breath," he said during a two-minute, televised address last night. "Let's all be cool."

Los Angeles Police Commissioner Stanley Sheinbaum told the Los Angeles Daily News, "The jury will be called in at 7 a.m. The verdict will be released then." Later, the Associated Press quoted him asking, "Is a hung jury a verdict?"

Earlier yesterday, the Los Angeles Police Department was placed on a citywide tactical alert, as all officers on duty were prevented from leaving their shifts until further notice. The action was one step short of a full mobilization.

Also yesterday, the judge in the trial, bending decades of federal court precedent, said he would allow live audio broadcast coverage of the jury's verdict.

Judge John G. Davies said that "it seems petty" to deny the public and news media instantaneous transmission of the news.

The judge's action -- coupled with the proposed timing of the announcement -- appeared to be a carefully orchestrated effort by federal and city officials to avoid a repeat of last year's riots that swept through Los Angeles.

There were 53 deaths and almost $1 billion in damage after riots erupted following the state trial acquittal of four police officers on most assault charges in the beating of Mr. King.

"To those who may be itching for an excuse to harm our neighbors, I have this warning: You will not get away with it," the mayor said. "So don't even try."

Officers Theodore J. Briseno and Laurence M. Powell and former Officer Timothy E. Wind are accused of stomping, kicking and striking Mr. King with batons on March 3, 1991, in violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be safe from unreasonable force during an arrest.

A fourth defendant, Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, did not strike Mr. King, but he was the senior officer at the scene and is accused of violating Mr. King's 14th Amendment right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.

If convicted, the four men face maximum prison terms of 10 years and fines of $250,000.

Harland Braun, an attorney for Officer Briseno, predicted there would be a "hung jury."

Ira Salzman, Sergeant Koon's attorney, said, "I don't know what the jury is going to do."

Shielded from the official maneuvering and the stepped-up police presence, the jurors met behind locked doors in the Edward Roybal Federal Building, deliberating the fate of the four defendants.

Throughout the tense week of deliberation, the jury has provided few clues to its direction.

And yesterday was no exception.

The jurors have "been very quiet," Judge Davies said. "They've asked for nothing."

Only one day after he had threatened a showdown with the news media for the inadvertent audio transmission of court proceedings, Judge Davies made his announcement of allowing a live audio feed of the verdicts.

Speaking with a pool of reporters in his chambers, Judge Davies saidhe decided to "have you arrange it so you may take the voice of the person reading it [the verdicts], and you may broadcast it."

"That's what I think we should do," the judge continued. "You should have that right."

Following the spectacular radio and newsreel coverage of the 1935 Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, rules were rewritten, barring broadcast coverage of federal court cases.

In December 1990, the federal courts in six cities began experimenting with audio and visual coverage in civil cases.

But this will be the first time in recent memory that the verdict in a federal criminal case will be broadcast, said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola University legal scholar following the proceedings.

Los Angeles firefighters were also placed on alert yesterday, and other fire companies in the Los Angeles area were contacted.

Six hundred California National Guardsmen remained in their barracks.

"We're ready when the governor says he needs us," said Deirdre Allinham, speaking for the Guard. "We don't want to go into an added state of readiness."

According to Judge Davies, this is the process the jury will follow when it makes its announcement: The jury will send a note to him by a marshal, saying they have reached a verdict.

The jury will then come into the courtroom. The judge will ask the foreman if they have, indeed, reached a verdict. When the foreman says "yes," the verdicts will be passed to the clerk, who will then hand them to the judge.

It will be the clerk, James Holmes, who will then read the verdicts aloud in the courtroom.

The audio transmission will begin when the clerk says, "All rise for the jury."

And then, the defendants, the city and the nation will discover the verdict in one of the most-watched criminal cases in history.

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