Title

The Trials of Los Angeles Police Officers' in Connection with the Beating of Rodney King

Document Type

Article

Abstract

It seemed like an open-and-shut case. The video, played on television so often that an executive at CNN called it wallpaper, showed Los Angeles police officers - as their supervisor watched - kicking, stomping on, and beating with metal batons a seemingly defenseless African-American named Rodney King. Polls taken shortly after the incident showed that over 90% of Los Angeles residents who saw the videotape believed that the police used excessive force in arresting King. Despite the videotape, a jury in Simi Valley concluded a year later that the evidence was not sufficient to convict the officers. Within hours of the jury's verdict, Los Angeles erupted in riots. When it was over, fifty-four people had lost their lives, over 7,000 people had been arrested, and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property had been destroyed.

Why did the twelve members of the jury fail to convict any of the officers? Was the jury racist, as some charged? Or did the jury see something in the evidence that justified the brutality witnessed on the Holliday videotape?

The second trial of Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno began on February 25, 1993 in federal court in Los Angeles. Unlike the Simi Valley jury, the federal jury was racially mixed. On April 10, the case was submitted to the jury and, six days later, the jury concluded its work. The jury found two of the officers, Koon and Powell, guilty. They acquitted Officers Wind and Briseno. In October of 1993, Koon and Powell began serving 30-month sentences in separate federal correctional camps. Rodney King, meanwhile, won a $3.8 million verdict from the City of Los Angeles. He used some of the money he received in damages to found a rap record business, Alta-Pazz Recording Company.

Publication Date

2007

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