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Court Moves Cop Trial

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Court Moves Cop Trial

Article excerpt

Court moves cop trial

Judges cite |massive' media coverage since police beating of black motorist was captured on videotape, igniting political fire storm

Citing "massive local media coverage," a California appellate court has ordered a change of venue for the trial of four Los Angeles police officers charged in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King.

In ruling on the defendants' request for a trial away from Los Angeles, the 2nd District Court of Appeals concluded there was "a substantial probability Los Angeles County is so saturated with the knowledge of the incident, so influenced by the political controversy surrounding the matter, and so permeated with preconceived opinions that potential jurors cannot try the case solely upon the evidence presented in the courtroom."

King's beating and the arrest of the officers have drawn world attention. In Los Angeles, the case has created what the court called a political "fire storm" after a videotape taken by a bystander was seen on television.

Linda Deutsch, veteran court reporter for the Associated Press, said in an interview that this was only the third time in Los Angeles history that a court has ordered a change of venue in a criminal case.

Deutsch, who had predicted the appeals court would move the trial, said the action was not surprising since the case "will be on the front pages for weeks."

"It's the most important story affecting this city in the last 20 years," she said. "I don't see how you can overplay it." She believes that local newspapers covered the King story "very well" and does not view the court's ruling as a rebuke to the media.

The appeals court said it would not have decided to change the trial's location on the basis of publicity alone.

"What compels our decision," it explained, "is the high level of political turmoil and controversy which this incident has generated, which continues to this day and appears likely to continue at least until the time when a trial . . . can be had."

The justices pointed to a March 22 Los Angeles Times poll, which found that 94% of all respondents were upset by the beating, and 75% described themselves as "very upset." The survey also revealed that two-thirds of the city's residents believed the beating was racially motivated. …

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