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4 Officers in King Case Win Delay on Appeal

<i> From United Press International</i>

A state appellate court Monday delayed court proceedings for four police officers charged in the Rodney G. King beating so it can study a challenge to a decision to keep Superior Court Judge Bernard Kamins on the case.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal granted the defense request for a stay in the case so it can have time to decide whether to hear the appeal.

Defense attorneys have asked that Kamins be disqualified from presiding at the officers’ felony assault trial, saying he has shown bias against them.

An Orange County judge rejected the contention last week, and attorneys for the four officers filed an appeal, asking the higher court to consider their argument that Kamins was motivated to make rulings favorable to the district attorney’s office because “he cannot bear to be criticized by the prosecution in the inevitable press release in this high visibility case.”

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Facing trial in the King beating are Sgt. Stacey C. Koon and Officers Theodore J. Briseno, Laurence M. Powell and Timothy E. Wind.

It was not immediately clear when the appeal court would decide whether to consider the arguments, or if it did, how long before a decision would be made.

In his ruling Friday, Orange County Assistant Presiding Superior Court Judge James L. Smith stopped short of absolving Kamins of wrongdoing in his handling of the case.

“It is axiomatic that a judge may commit error and yet have no predisposition or bias against either party,” Smith wrote.

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The defense motion to disqualify the judge focused largely on an out-of-court communication that Kamins had last month with prosecutors amid confusion over the prospect of moving the trial to another county.

Judicial ethics prevent a judge from communicating with only one side in a case.

The district attorney’s office declined comment on Monday’s postponement. Kamins was on vacation.

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal ordered the officers’ trial moved to another county, saying publicity and political fallout from the March 3 videotaped beating of the black motorist by the white officers has tainted the jury pool in Los Angeles County.

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