Lawyers for two Los Angeles policemen convicted of violating Rodney G. King's civil rights filed motions seeking a new trial Thursday, accusing federal prosecutors of using perjured testimony to garner guilty verdicts.
The issue centers on the videotaped testimony of Officer Theodore J. Briseno from the 1992 state trial in Simi Valley of the four officers originally accused in the videotaped beating of King. Portions of the tape were shown to jurors during the closing phase of the federal trial.
On April 17, a U.S. District Court jury convicted Officer Laurence M. Powell and Sgt. Stacey C. Koon. The jurors acquitted Briseno and Officer Timothy E. Wind.
During the federal trial, prosecutors Steven D. Clymer and Barry F. Kowalski accused Briseno of lying about at least one incident in the case. However, their statements were made outside the jury's presence and no evidence was presented to support a perjury charge.
During the Simi Valley trial, Briseno vigorously criticized the actions of the other officers in the March 3, 1991, beating. He chose not to testify in the federal trial, but the government used parts of his videotaped testimony on rebuttal.
Koon's attorney, Ira Salzman, says in the motion that "it is violative of due process for a prosecutor to put on testimony that is knowingly false."
Powell's lawyer, Michael P. Stone, contends in his motion that the use of the video violated his client's rights to confront and cross-examine Briseno. He said that between the time Briseno testified in Simi Valley and when the federal trial began, new evidence became available in the form of enhanced video and audio tapes.
But he said he was unable to use the information because he could not cross-examine the videotape, which U.S. District Judge John G. Davies admitted over strong defense objections.
Stone also asserted Thursday that federal prosecutors unfairly lightened their burden of proof "by arguing to this jury that they could disregard the expert evidence and that they were the conscience of the community."
"The government effectively gave the jury permission to convict without determining whether there was a specific intent to violate Mr. King's civil rights," Stone said.
The defense lawyers asked Davies to grant the officers a new trial or an outright acquittal. New trial motions are filed routinely after convictions and granted infrequently.
Powell and Koon face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 fines. A hearing on the motions filed Thursday is scheduled Aug. 4, the day that the two officers are to be sentenced.