Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

King Loses Verdict Jury Turns Down His Bid to Get Punitive Damages

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

King Loses Verdict Jury Turns Down His Bid to Get Punitive Damages

Article excerpt

A federal jury decided Wednesday that black motorist Rodney King should not be awarded punitive damages in his beating by white police officers in March 1991.

The beating sparked the worst riots in the United States this century.

The racially mixed jury of six women and three men reached their verdicts on the 11th day of deliberations in the second phase - the punitive damages - of King's lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles and the six officers involved in his arrest. Punitive damages are intended to deter behavior and punish a wrongdoer, not compensate an injured person.

The panel had previously awarded King $3.8 million from the City of Los Angeles in compensatory damages to cover his medical and legal bills and to make up for a future lifetime of lost earnings resulting from injuries he received in the beating.

Wednesday's decision closed a saga that began in the early hours of March 3, 1991, and held the attention of world media for more than three years.

The jury found that former police Sgt. Stacey Koon and former Officer Laurence Powell had acted with malice in beating King following a car chase but decided that they should not pay any punitive damages.

The two were fired from the Los Angeles Police Department after their conviction last August for violating King's civil rights and are serving 2 1/2-year prison terms in a federal penitentiary in northern California.

The jury also found that two other officers directly involved in the beating, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno, did not act with malice and did not violate King's civil rights - and awarded no punitive damages against them.

After the court session ended, no jurors commented, but one of King's attorneys, John Burris, called them "extremely surprising." He added: "(The jurors) concluded that enough is enough, that the officers suffered enough."

But he added that he believed the verdicts sent "the wrong message to police officers that they may not be held accountable for their actions. …

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