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4 L.A. OFFICERS GO ON TRIAL IN KING BEATING

A courtroom becomes a screening room for the most-watched home video of all time as four white Los Angeles police officers, accused of clubbing and kicking a black motorist, go on trial.

Opening statements were set for Thursday in the case, which was moved 35 miles from Los Angeles to escape the publicity and political fallout that resulted when the footage of Rodney King's beating was shown on national television.Deputy District Attorney Terry White said he would play the video during his opening argument and call the onlooker who made it as his first witness.

Lawyers for the four officers planned to argue that police who pulled King over for speeding believed he was ready for a fight because he was on parole and feared a return to prison.

The videotape of the March 3, 1991 beating in suburban Lake View Terrace stirred outrage and prompted charges of police brutality and racism after it was broadcast.

Sgt. Stacey Koon, 41, and Officers Laurence Powell, 29, Timothy Wind, 31, and Theodore Briseno, 39, are charged with assault. Koon and Powell also are charged with filing false reports on the beating.

If convicted, they could get sentences ranging from four to eight years in prison. Koon, Briseno and Powell are on suspension. Wind, a rookie, was fired.

The 12-member jury has no blacks, one Asian and one Hispanic. The rest are white. The seven men and five women range in age from 34 to 65.

Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg ruled Wednesday that defense lawyers could tell jurors in opening statements that King was on parole when officers beat him after an auto chase. But Weisberg barred lawyers from mentioning the robbery for which King was imprisoned or any other part of his criminal record.