Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Verdict in Los Angeles Is Dissatisfying, but What Should It Have Been?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Verdict in Los Angeles Is Dissatisfying, but What Should It Have Been?

Article excerpt

The April 1992 verdicts in Simi Valley came like unexpected blows to the solar plexus. The cops who beat Rodney King were innocent!?

The ordinary chain in police brutality cases is that some person of no standing claims to have been beaten by the police. The police deny it, counterclaiming that the alleged victim was unruly and abusive. The rest of us believe as our experience leads us to: The cops are right, the victim is right, or the truth lies somewhere between. Usually the cases don't make the news.

The Rodney King case made the news because, for once, it wasn't just the word of a nobody against the cops. America was the witness. We saw the beating on videotape, and that was the reason for our shock: that 12 decent men and women could see what we saw and refuse to believe their eyes.

Now here we are again. A jury of decent men and women watch a tape showing a vicious and unprovoked attack on Reginald Denny and cannot bring themselves to say they see what they see.

The result must again disappoint those who love justice, though, in truth, the verdict in Los Angeles was nowhere near as shocking as that in Simi Valley. We had been told that the Denny charges might be tough to prove, no matter the evidence of our own eyes. Finally, the two men charged in the Denny case were convicted of something, though they were acquitted of the most serious charges against them.

I can't tell you that I wish Damian Williams and Henry Watson would spend the rest of their lives in prison. I can't tell you that I'm certain it was their intention to kill or permanently maim Reginald Denny, though it does seem clear that what I saw on the videotape goes far beyond a mere misdemeanor.

What happened in Los Angeles looks more like a political/racial riot-prevention balancing act than justice. Williams was convicted of felony mayhem for his part in the Denny assault (a count that could cost him up to 10 years in prison) and of lesser charges in attacks on other people in the rioting after the Simi Valley verdicts. …

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