Lawyers for four police officers charged with violating Rodney King's civil rights are considering measures to keep jurors anonymous to ensure that they are not intimidated by threats or fear of riots.
Lawyers for Los Angeles police Sgt. Stacey Koon and Officers Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno and former Officer Timothy Wind told the Daily News that they are considering plans to keep jurors' names anonymous and use one-way mirrors to block them from view.The four officers will appear in U.S. District Court Feb. 2 on charges that they violated King's civil rights during a videotaped beating after a high-speed chase in March 1991. The officers, who have pleaded not guilty, would each face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted.
The officers' lawyers believe jurors could be influenced by the mass rioting that occurred after the four officers were acquitted by a Simi Valley Superior Court jury in April. Some Ventura County jurors were harassed or threatened after their names were released after they acquitted the four officers in a state case.
Briseno's lawyer, Harland W. Braun, said jurors will have to decide whether to send four innocent officers to prison or risk another riot in which people will die.
"My test of fairness is, `Would you hesitate to not vote guilty because the city will go up in flames, 50 innocent people die and you will be branded a terrible person for the rest of your life?" Braun said. "There's no one that honestly could say they would not hesitate given that unique situation."
Braun said he plans to file a motion to dismiss the case because he believes that a fair jury can't be found anywhere in the country.
Powell's attorney, Michael P. Stone, and Koon's lawyer, Ira Salzman, said they also plan to file motions to protect the jurors' identities. Government prosecutors refused to comment.
U.S. District Judge John G. Davies will hear motions in the case Nov. 12.