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Defense Sees Bias in Denny Juror Prospects

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Defense attorneys for two men accused of trying to kill truck driver Reginald O. Denny at the start of the Los Angeles riots said Friday that questionnaires show that many prospective jurors have prejudged the case.

Earl C. Broady Jr., who represents Henry Keith Watson, 28, said he looked at questionnaires completed by most of the 39 prospective jurors who survived an initial screening Wednesday and found that about half indicated they had already made up their minds.

Edi M.O. Faal, attorney for Damian Monroe Williams, 20, said he has reviewed 16 of the forms and believes that Superior Court Judge John W. Ouderkirk will have legal grounds to excuse more than half of the prospective jurors because of their acknowledged biases.

Jo Ellen Demetrius, a jury selection consultant employed by the defense, told reporters that most of the jurors who expressed opinions said they believe Williams and Watson are guilty.

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They are charged with beating Denny at Florence and Normandie avenues after not guilty verdicts were returned on four Los Angeles police officers in the first Rodney G. King beating trial last year. The Denny beating was videotaped from overhead by television news helicopters and broadcast live.

Williams and Watson have pleaded not guilty.

Their trial began Wednesday when a first batch of prospective panelists was questioned about whether it would be too much of a hardship to sit on a case that is expected to last until late October. Most said they would suffer financially and were excused.

By the end of Friday’s session, 309 prospective jurors had been excused for hardships and 133 had been tentatively accepted as panelists. Those who passed this first hurdle were asked to fill out detailed questionnaires to return for oral questioning by attorneys beginning Thursday.

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Ouderkirk said it is “possible but not likely” that 12 jurors and six alternates acceptable to the defense and prosecution can be chosen from the 133 remaining panelists.

He said he has asked court officials to summon more prospective jurors to appear Aug. 11 or 12.


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