Jurors in Rodney G. King’s lawsuit seemed nowhere near a decision on their fourth day of deliberations Friday as they asked the judge to provide video equipment and yellow highlighter pens and asked if the Christopher Commission report could be used as evidence.
The jury’s note specified that it wanted equipment that plays frame by frame and in slow motion, indicating that members want to analyze the videotape of King’s beating.
When U.S. District Judge John G. Davies said he did not have the equipment at hand, attorneys for King purchased a $416 state-of-the-art VCR and rushed it to the courtroom before the jury retired for the weekend at 3 p.m.
“They seem to know that they are doing something historic, and they are being very careful,” said Milton Grimes, an attorney for King.
John Burris, another of King’s attorneys, joked to reporters that they should “bring camping gear.”
The jury is weighing evidence in the punitive damage phase of the trial. The same panel awarded King $3.8 million in compensatory damages from the city April 19 during the first phase of the trial.
King’s lawyers have asked the jury to award between $3.8 million and $15 million in punitive damages from former Los Angeles Police Sgt. Stacey C. Koon; former Officers Theodore J. Briseno, Laurence M. Powell and Timothy E. Wind, and current Officers Rolando Solano and Louis Turriaga.
The jury request on whether information from the Christopher Commission report could be used as evidence touched off a brief debate in the courtroom.
Defense attorneys objected to Davies’ decision that the document would go to the jury, arguing that the judge had instructed the panel that the controversial report only applied to former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, who no longer is a defendant in the case.
The commission investigated the Police Department after King’s March 3, 1991, beating and found evidence of brutality and racism within its ranks. It also concluded that the department needed to make management changes.
Now that Gates was out of the case, defense attorneys argued, the report should not be used against the six remaining current and former officers. But Davies denied the request, saying the defense opened the door for the report by arguing that police policies and guidelines were partly responsible for the beating.
“You people made it relevant by the nature of your defense,” Davies said. “You created the hook on which we’ve hung the evidence.”