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FEDERAL PROSECUTORS AVOID PITFALLS

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After the first full week of testimony, the prosecution in the federal civil rights trial of four police officers charged in the beating of Rodney G. King has chosen a far different path from the one taken in the state's failed prosecution of the four last year in Simi Valley.

From the start, prosecutors have avoided what experts called glaring pitfalls in the state trial on charges of assault and excessive use of force. That resulted in acquittals that touched off three days of deadly rioting and caused nearly $1 billion in damage.The defendants, Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, Officers Laurence M. Powell and Theodore J. Briseno and former Officer Timothy E. Wind, each face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if they are convicted of violating King's civil rights.

In the first trial the state prosecutors deliberately omitted testimony and evidence that could have rounded out the case, believing a seemingly unambiguous amateur videotape of the beating was sufficient to convict the defendants. By contrast, federal prosecutors appear to be leaving nothing out.

So far, the federal case has differed from the state trial in these respects:

- Eyewitnesses told jurors that King appeared to obey police orders when they stopped him after a chase. They testified that he appeared to cry out in pain during the beating and said he moved his body to evade baton blows, not to escape as the defense contends. In the state's case, prosecutors did not call any eyewitnesses except for the man who taped the beating.

- Jurors have been shown slow-motion, high-contrast renditions of the video using the latest in enhancement techniques, enabling prosecutors to show what it contends are illegal baton blows and kicks by the officers. In Simi Valley, it was the defense that exploited nuances in the video to try to show that King provoked the beating.

- Prosecutors said they would call King to testify. Many said the state prosecutors' decision not to call him in the Simi Valley trial dehumanized the beating in the eyes of the jury and contributed to the acquittals.