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Cause of Denny’s Injuries Disputed by Defense Attorneys : Trial: Prosecutors deny that anything other than the apparent brick shown hitting him on video was responsible. Arguments are key to an aggravated mayhem charge against one defendant.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Any permanent injuries trucker Reginald O. Denny suffered during last year’s riots were caused by something other than an apparent brick shown on videotape hitting him on the head, defense attorneys contended Monday.

Prosecutors dismissed the assertion, maintaining that the videotape proves that the brick caused Denny’s permanent injuries.

Moreover, even if Denny had been injured before the blow to the right side of his head, that blow aggravated those injuries, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lawrence C. Morrison said outside court.

The legal fencing over what object caused which injuries came on a day when Superior Court Judge John W. Ouderkirk replaced one juror with an alternate. The juror, an Anglo woman in her 50s or 60s known only as Juror 233, became ill and was replaced by Juror 49, a Latina who appeared to be about the same age.

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Ouderkirk said he did not want to delay the trial until Juror 233 recovered because doctors who testified Monday might have scheduling conflicts later.

At stake in most of Monday’s testimony is the charge of aggravated mayhem--an assault involving intentional, permanent disfigurement or permanent disability.

Medical testimony has established that Denny, beaten at Florence and Normandie avenues, is missing “a chunk out of his skull,” as Morrison put it to reporters.

Doctors who treated the trucker have also testified that only a piece of plastic the size of a quarter keeps Denny’s left eyeball from falling behind his cheek. He also suffers episodes of memory loss and is subject to seizures, physicians testified.

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Prosecutors argue that the disfigurement to Denny’s skull--noticeable as a depression on the right side of his head--is permanent and that his other injuries are permanently disabling. The permanence of those injuries, prosecutors say, constitute aggravated mayhem--a charge that carries a maximum life sentence.

Damian Monroe Williams, 20, is charged with aggravated mayhem for allegedly throwing the brick in question, which doctors testified is responsible for Denny’s most serious head and brain injuries.

Williams and Henry Keith Watson, 28, also are charged with attempting to murder Denny, as well as with assaulting or robbing five other motorists and two firefighters as they passed through the intersection on April 29, 1992, as rioting broke out.

“The prosecution is saying Mr. Denny’s injuries constitute aggravated mayhem because the object that struck him in the head caused permanent disfigurement and permanent brain damage,” attorney Edi M.O. Faal said outside court.

“We’re saying that’s not Mr. Williams shown on videotape throwing the object,” Faal said. “Beyond that, the object did not cause the injuries described in testimony.”

Faal said that Denny was limp when his assailants pulled him from the cab of his truck, and that Denny testified that he remembers nothing after something shattered his passenger window.

Faal said videotapes show the window being shattered, and one of Denny’s rescuers testified last week that he found a brick or piece of concrete in the truck’s cab as they drove the gravely injured Denny to Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood.

Denny would have died if a tube to help him breathe had not been inserted in his throat, Dr. Leslie Geiger, a neurosurgeon who treated the trucker at Daniel Freeman, testified Monday. But the most life-threatening condition was an expanding blood clot that had formed between his skull and the covering of his brain, Geiger said.

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That collection of blood was pushing Denny’s brain from right to left, Geiger said.

“There was no place for the tissue to go except to a hole in the bottom of the skull where the brain stem lies,” he said. “If there is sufficient pressure on the brain stem, recovery becomes impossible. The patient dies.”

Geiger performed surgery to remove the blood and repair a torn artery that had been pumping blood into that area with each heartbeat, he said.

The object shown on videotape hitting Denny in the head is “consistent with the injuries he had on the right side of his head,” Geiger said. “That blow alone could have caused all the injuries on the right side.”

On cross-examination by Faal, Geiger reviewed the videotape and said the objects appeared to hit Denny in a area above and behind where his skull is pushed in and a blood clot formed. But he repeated his positions that the fractures he saw “seemed consistent with the impact I saw” on videotape.


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