The Judge Trivialized the Law


August 09, 1993|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON — Washington.

U.S. District Judge John G. Davies strained beyond anything the law should ever allow, to be nice to the two Los Angeles policemen convicted of violating the civil rights of motorist Rodney King by beating him mercilessly.

In showing incredible leniency in sentencing Sgt. Stacey C. Koon and Officer Laurence M. Powell, Judge Davies has given dangerous credence to arguments that America's criminal justice system is racially corrupt and unworthy of the respect of minority people.

He added explosives to the powder-kegs that endanger virtually every urban area in the land.

I'm not referring just to the fact that this white judge sentenced Koon and Powell to only 30 months in prison when the federal sentencing guidelines for their crimes called for five to seven years or more in the slammer. The Justice Department can appeal and probably get stiffer sentences.

Judge Davies' real contribution to urban upheaval and racial warfare in America lies in the words and excuses he used to justify his leniency toward the two white policemen who, the interracial federal court jury decided, brutalized King unlawfully.

First, Judge Davies showed his bias when he said that the federal prosecution of the policemen, after their acquittal in a flawed state trial, ''has the specter of unfairness.''

He then engaged in double-speak by saying that the federal prosecutors acted legally. It remained clear that he would have preferred no federal prosecution of the policemen.

Then Davies talked about what a bad guy Rodney King was, an ex-convict boozer who led police on a high-speed chase, resisted arrest and wouldn't lie still during the first 107 seconds when Powell was beating him mercilessly.

Davies tells us that Powell only broke the law when he beat King for 19 seconds after the latter lay helplessly ''unresisting.''

This judge is telling America that ''nice cops'' are free to beat the hell out of ''bad people'' as long as they know when to stop.

''Nice cops?'' Davies spoke of Koon and Powell as solid family men whom he wouldn't fine because fines would cause economic hardship for their wives and children.

He gave no weight to the fact that cops in the case had expressed violent racism, describing black people as ''gorillas in the mist,'' and had boasted about the magnitude of the beating.

Judge Davies ignored the important fact that Koon and Powell had strutted and bragged about their role in the beating, and that neither had shown the slightest remorse for what an interracial jury had decided was very serious criminal behavior.

Davies' ''soul brotherhood'' with Sergeant Koon and Officer Powell reached an outrageous level when the judge justified his light sentences on grounds that the two policemen have already suffered greatly by having been vilified in the media as symbols of police brutality.

Apparently it never occurred to Davies that the actions of Koon and Powell in beating King, and getting caught doing it on videotape, are what made them the symbols of police lawlessness -- not the media or the federal prosecutors.

Davies showed almost endless sympathy for Koon and Powell, saying that ''their status as police officers makes them unusually susceptible to abuse in prison.''

He obviously hopes the Bureau of Prisons will let them do time in the relative comfort of a predominantly white, upper-class, semi-country club. It is judges like Davies who have imprisoned a fourth of the young black men of America, many on charges that are trifling compared with what Koon and Powell did. Small wonder that Davies worries about mixing Powell and Koon with these enraged black prisoners.

We all become prisoners in our homes and on our streets when our criminal justice system becomes poisoned by racism, class status and police brutality, leaving judges to make decisions on those bases.

Where there is no respect for or confidence in a criminal justice system, there never will be law and order.

How bad is our system? Just note that Rodney King has a multimillion dollar lawsuit filed against the city of Los Angeles. Who is scheduled to preside over that case?

Judge John G. Davies!

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.