Transcript for April 29th, 1992 - Freedom for the four white policemen, videotaped as they beat King
No doubt that in America today. And I'm glad it's noted that a royal outrage in Los Angeles and violence in the streets. To bash somebody's head in in the street to go over and spit on them while their line their possibly dying. These people are not protesters these people are boats. Today what the verdict in the Rodney King case. We the jury find the defendant Warren M Powell not guilty of the press freedom for the full white policeman. Videotapes. As they beat king. Tonight the city weighs in whether its own verdict and will hear how one juror or reach the decision in court. This is ABC news Nightline. Reporting from Washington. Ted Koppel. The bare bones of this story are desperately simple the case of Rodney king and the Los Angeles police department seemed so open and shut that the trial of the four white police officers seemed at times. Like a mere formality. But American juries are a stubborn and independent lot. And this jury made up of ten points one Hispanic and one Asian American no blacks acquitted the policeman all four of them. On all counts but one. The jury was split eight to four on that remaining count. President Bush talking to reporters at a state dinner this if either this evening rather issued an appeal for calm and reason in the community. But there how is already been quite a lot of violence in Los Angeles and a great deal of anger. We're gonna take a look right now and alive helicopter shot of Los Angeles obviously from this height and since it is already. After dark in Los Angeles all you can see is that there is a fire going. But we can tell you that has been a fair amount of violence already in Los Angeles some rock throwing there was at one point an assault on a police station. Although nothing to violence seems to have occurred there and eventually order was restored. But again what you're looking at is alive helicopter shot of Los Angeles at night clearly someone has said the fires somewhere. I cannot even tell you what neighborhood that is in Los Angeles but as the evening progresses we will try and get more information for you. And be a little more explicit in some of the details that we can provide you concede. Some action going on down there ever from this distance it's a little bit too difficult to tell you precisely walked. Let us however begin. By giving you an update on what's been happening since the trial and the verdict from James walker in Los Angeles. It did not take long tonight for reaction to the verdict could change from shock to anger to violence. At one intersection in Los Angeles is black community and cars were attacked by rock throwers two people were pulled from one carved a woman was left lying in the street. A third person in the car was also attacked. Police were nowhere in sight. Throughout the area. People were outraged. Let them know let him know what time he had I don't know why it's almost not just an American now what act. The judge is this what other men not what about a man. Fitness showed me that Simi Valley. It's close enough that the red the white vote. At Los Angeles police department headquarters about 200 demonstrators gathered peacefully to protest the jury's decision. But you can't come out show our support are not to feed his family that's. This test can not happen in America I think it's as a. Disgrace but moments later a small group of protesters started throwing objects at the building's front door. This city's official response came from mayor Tom Bradley who made it clear he does not agree with the jury's action know our eyes did not deceive us. We saw what we saw what we saw was a crime. No we will not tolerate the savage beatings of our citizens by a few renegade cops. Reaction to the not guilty verdict had been a media many people who had come to the courthouse outside Los Angeles where shocked. Rather than dolphins are LA Chris them glad about Biden. God we got a rail bike going on right now it's just like a bond so I was sitting on a broad patent you know. Amid this happened is they put a black manager particular dot but they led a career woman off. Still pursuing a young black men what do you want to tell my kids. But not everyone condemned the verdict this woman yelled her support for the police officer. Yeah. Lady yeah. Yeah yeah net and on yeah. Most of the trouble so far has centered on a twenty block area in south central Los Angeles. About an hour ago firemen moved into one neighborhood protected by Los Angeles Police officers to put out two fires. Due to bring you up to date tend we have just gotten in the following reports Martin Luther King hospital says. But they're so busy treating gunshot wounds and assaults they don't have a patient count. A second Haas the reports that they're patient load has doubled with assault cases. A short time ago a police helicopter made a successful forced landing after the pilot thought he had been fired upon. To sum up their has been lots of looting some fires. But most of the violence has apparently been sporadic. And apparently limited at this time to a twenty block area of the city. James walker thanks very much when we come back I'll give you an account of a telephone conversation I had a fairly lengthy conversation with a one of the jurors. And give you some insight as to how the jury reach the verdict that they did. That and the story on the trial when we come back. This is one of those cases in which the first reaction is one of slack jawed amazement how could that jury if they looked at the same videotaped beating that we've all seen a dozen times or more on television. How could they look at that and then vote for acquittal. The jury has decided not to talk to the press but earlier this evening I reached one of the jurors by phone. And on the condition that I gave neither the gender nor the identity of that juror we talked for about twenty minutes. Why did they voters they did. In a nutshell we were turned around by the total package of evidence by the fact that Rodney King had been chased for more than eight miles. But he totally refused to cooperate with the police time and again the juror told me king controlled the action. He could've stopped it when he got out of the car he could have put his hands in the air he wouldn't have been touch. The jury looked at the tape over and over they looked at it in slow motion they looked at it frame by frame. They watched that tape more than thirty times. A lot of those blows said the juror when you saw them in slow motion were not connecting. They looked at the evidence of the injuries done became. Those but tongues or -- be the juror told me but when you looked at king's body three days after the incident not that much damage was done. Rodney king's size and strength obviously weighed heavily with the jury. That and the perception that he seemed out of control that he'd have a lot to drink that he appeared to be armed PCP. At one point the jurors said king belongs debt and connected with a officer Powell the cops were simply doing what they've been instructed to do. They were afraid he was going to run or even a tank then. He had not been searched so they didn't know if he had a weapon. He kept going for his pants so they thought he might be reaching for a gun that's all a doric quote from the juror. The defense obviously did an effective job with the jury in undermining the video. Unsteady. Out of focus zooming in and out and it was shot from a 170 feet away from a second story. The fact that king wasn't called as a witness seems to have had an effect. Had king been able to talk to roast majora told me the video might have been looked at differently. As for the suggestion that racism was involved in the police action. The juror pointed to the presence of two other blacks in king's car they gave themselves up they weren't beaten. Final words of our conversation and this is a quote I have no regrets about the verdict. I'll sleep well tonight. Los Angeles stood still earlier today long enough to hear the verdict as Judy Muller reports. It's all around Los Angeles people stopped to hear the long awaited verdict. And all around Los Angeles people were wondering why and why did the jury reach a verdict of not guilty. It was a question complicated by the jury's decision not to talk to reporters. They left the courthouse together on a bus. No one could be wondering more about that question and prosecutor Terry White. Wellemeyer action is. It's shock first and in disappointment. Obviously we filled the evidence warranted a conviction. On the defendants and to do jury disagreed with us and we must abide by their decision. Throughout the six week trial white asked jurors to believe their own eyes to believe that the four defendants beat Rodney King beyond the force necessary to subdue him. Over and over again the jurors watched a videotape that shocked the nation. In fact white never called king to the stand relying instead on the power of that amateur tape to tell a story. But the defense asked the jurors not to believe their own eyes arguing that the tape did not tell the whole story of what happened that night last march. Dissecting the tape frame by frame defense attorneys attempted to show that the officers were frightened of king. Because he refused to Obey their commands and because they believed he was on PCP. Sargent Stacey Koon said king had Hulk like strength and grown like a bear. Officer Laurence Powell who administered most of the baton blows it said king was so aggressive he feared he would have to shoot him. The only officer to break ranks with the other defendants was tender senior. For said he tried to stop what he believed was an excess use of force at times for senior sounded like a witness for the prosecution there. LAPD commander Michael Bostick who was a witness for the prosecution. Testified that almost everything shown on the tape was outside the department's guidelines for use of force. In the end the jury apparently bought the defense's argue. Well I don't know how important history held video tape was of the jury. We felt the jury the videotape was important are tasty but also has a supports bodies Elizabeth Hurley he would do you disagree. One of the things that up. I thought was very important in this case in the beginning was to try to put the jurors in the shoes of the police officers at the scene all of them. And I think we were able to do that or even though the district attorney Chris filed new assault charges against Powell on the one count declared a mistrial today. Howell was on a victorious mood. All right yeah. Very happy. Officer Tim lindh's attorneys spoke or hip. Is certainly. Those have the feelings of gratitude for the fact that he got a fair trial. Got a fair shape and there are the case wasn't dominated by the people who prejudged the incident almost fourteen months ago. There are those who argue that moving the trial to Simi Valley a predominantly white suburban community that is home to hundreds of police officers. Produced a jury that might have been inclined to believe the white officers over a black suspect. The methods at the same consistently from slavery until now when why America's justice system tries another flight. When it comes to the lies are the abuse of an African American. It's not worth anything where they cannot all waste setting them free so far Rodney King is maintaining his silence but his lawyer is not. I'm outraged at this result. I think there's. Any right thinking. Normal person. That did see that videotape. And it has experience that is the the there's shocking and and viciousness of this event. Camp can't sit with this this verdict is being the final say. Lerman says he plans a tough legal assault of his own when king's case comes up in the civil courts but the man who lost this round prosecutor Terry White. Says the city must abide by this court's decision no matter how many people it anchors. I don't 102. Imply that this is a miscarriage of justice this of the way our system works. You present the evidence to a impartial Trier fact and that Trier fact comes to a verdict and sometimes you disagree with the verdict but that's the woods system works. The way the system worked this time has prompted an outpouring of anger. Again as soon as the verdict was announced. I'm Judy Muller for Nightline in Los Angeles. Let's just take a quick look at they live helicopter shot that we have on Los Angeles. At last report there five serious fires. In the region of south central Los Angeles near Ingle of those torture looking at right now again that's a live helicopter shot. Things are going apparently from bad to worse in that region you're free can give your another look. What's happening at city haulers a demonstration going on there are not a particularly interest to you showed of that right now. Fairly large crowd appears to have gathered outside Los Angeles City Hall. And let's switch back if we can out of that aerial shot of Los Angeles. Once again you get a sense of the but desperation that is being reflected in that city tonight or if not the desperation is the frustration and the anger. Which is being expressed in this kind of violence. What looked like some really bad fires going there right now we are joined. Right now live from Los Angeles by the assistant district attorney Terry White. And by one of the attorneys for patrolman Powell Michael Stone. Gentlemen can hear him in aren't. Innings as the stones and America. Mr. like very good evening did you hear the account that I gave. Of the the juror with the west spoke. Hired most of it serious. It it seems to me that you were particularly effective. In undermining the jury's confidence. In that videotape in other words don't believe your lying eyes believe what I'm telling you. Yes I can well. All right the videotape. Presents. Distorted view of the scene and the jury is required in these cases to. Look at the evidence through the eyes or look at the scene through the eyes of the officer that's what the jury instructions required them to do. So the videotape is not sufficient for that purpose. It also was seen was that they were particularly. Impressed by your account and the other defense attorneys accounts. All of the training that they offices have been given and how they were following precisely training could you give us a sense of order was that you told moments in Jerusalem as the ulcer we spent quite a bit of time during the defense portion of the case presenting evidence of the training them policies and the procedures of the Los Angeles police department with respect to the use of force. Course this was a big part of the case whether or not these officers were acting. As they have been trained to do and responding to. A person who was resisting arrest or whether they were merely acting as as thugs as the expression that I used today during closing argument. And it seems to me that the verdict indicates that they found. That these officers were acting according to their training we certainly presented the jury with a lot of evidence that affect. Hang in there if you were for a minute Terry White assistant district attorney or prosecutor of the carrier's commuter Aaron. It's a gamma scalpel mr. white it it appears. Rose suspect the jury was was told not to place too much emphasis on this or not to place any legal emphasis on this by the judge. But it appears that they were impressed nevertheless negatively. By the fact that you did not call Rodney King the stand. And undone or if you heard my account of what the juror told me Brooklyn they seem to feel that if only mr. king had been there. And had been able to give his own account of what went on that that would have made a big difference. In retrospect do you feel a mistake was mine. No I don't I think we made a proper decision. We had testimony from one of mr. king's passengers who could who told the jury what occurred up to the point. That the video basically start it we have testimony of the California Highway Patrol officers who taught about mr. king's actions after got a car. We felt that was the would have been inappropriate. Two try to place the the focus of the case and mr. king which would have occurred if mr. Cain testified he would've been on the stand for up to a week. And the focus would have been taken away from the offices on the mr. Cain. And we felt that would have been inappropriate and we. In retrospect I still think we made proper decision. In a sense I must tell you it seems as though the defense succeeded in making mr. king the focus nevertheless. Again and again and again the juror told me mister I think was. Accurately reflecting the view is of the other jurors. Their feeling was it was mr. king who controlled the action at any time he could have said enough put his hands up or gone under what they. They called it the prone position. And the beating would've ended. Well I disagree with that. There is part of the tape clearly near the end of the tape where mr. king is just on the ground rolling around. And he still being struck and even at the portion of the tape where he is in the prone position and is putting his hands behind his back. He's stomped to the back when that by one of the defendants and in the dean starts up again so I would disagree with that analysis by the jury. But of course we do accept that even though we do disagree with. You know I I understand them and please understand I'm not trying to get and there are hundreds this river review or someone who has only seen the video I find some of that a little harder except also but I'm simply telling you. What the impression of the jury seems to have been. And I'm wondering if you feel that somebody lost a little control there are a by not bringing mr. king on and be. By letting there be such a close analysis literally frame by frame by frame. All of this video so that it became a question then of how many times the but Don actually struck mr. Kim. Well we didn't wanna frame by frame analysis and we but we couldn't stop the defense would try to put that on we tried to stress to the jury. Over and over again especially in closing argument that they had to look at the totality of the evidence they had to look at the totality of the videotape. And that there was a point that videotape where enough was enough and these officers should stop and gone and handcuffed mr. king doubts that also what our point was. We never tried to portray mr. Cain is an innocent victim we never tried to retain him as just a motorist who was drive along was pulled out of the cardinals beat and mr. king there were some liabilities. That mr. Cain brought to the case. But we felt that the videotape clearly showed a man who is down and they continue to be. Mr. Stoner final thoughts. Well I I disagree of mr. white sick characterization it would have been objectively unreasonable for those officers to allow mr. king to get to his feet again where he would present a greater threat at greater risk and they might have to escalate beyond the force of measures to deadly form force. That's what I think this jury understood about this case. Michael Stone terror where thank you both very much for joining us when we come back we'll be joined by Maxine Waters and Jesse Jackson. Now is congresswoman Maxine Waters of California are critic of police abuse who represented south central Los Angeles and areas and includes the site of the infamous watts riots. She joins us in our Washington studios also joining us here in Washington is the reverend Jesse Jackson a long time civil rights leader and founder of operation push. If former presidential candidate and the shadow senator from the District of Columbia. Congresswoman waters that area that we're showing ever go back to that lot of helicopter shot that's that's your district right. That's my district and I'm sitting here extremely paint an angry. About. That verdict. And the unrest and that it is causing in my community we were very very hard. To try and get rid of police abuse and trying represent the people. And you know tad too to see the kind of verdict that we have seen here this evening just undermines everything that we attempt to do and undermines. They read the whole criminal justice system and the court system. I'm very angry to see him. Let me let me ask and obviously it is in that spirit that both you and then mr. Jackson has come in here this evening. In so far as it is possible turn to calm the anger. We always pride ourselves in this country on the jury system when it goes our way we say that's the American jury system. When it doesn't aren't we are obliged also to say well those were twelve citizens who who looked at the facts clearly didn't see the facts the way we saw that video. But do we have any right or any reason to jump to the conclusion that what they did was somehow a travesty of justice. Well certainly I feel that I have a right to maybe ever won does not share. My feelings. I knew we were in trouble when we had a change of venue on this case. That case was moved to and basically all white community. That community is where lots of a police who worked in the Los Angeles police department live. And retire. I and others I guess we're weren't that that case was allowed to be moved there. And while I am you know not happy I suppose I'm not really shocked about what took place there. What we see is. A classic case. Majority of white jurors. Who did not see this man is a human being the talk about his size of talk about. Him grunting lack of full. Other talk about him being something other than a human being. I helped drive them tune the conclusion that he deserved what he got I don't like it to I don't think it's fair. We aren't even even as you're not talking congresswoman waters where you're looking at some more of that lies or zero. South central Los Angeles atlases are other very many fires. Was there right now of there are a number of demonstrations that are taking place in las Angeles this evening this is one of those times reverend Jackson when. You you almost have to take things in order of priorities and the greatest dangers seems to be. It's spring time now. Mean the day is a longer it's warmer out people are on the streets and the potential for violence the potential for danger is so great is there any way. That we can analyze this case deal which is what over the perceived injustices may be without people getting hurt. Well you have what when you add the injustice. To feelings of hopelessness from the square. And one of a cent unemployment in the first place. Police department whose chief all prior themselves intro cold in the Rodney King case is not isolated. That's been a history of abuse. By the police department against black people and Hispanic people in that area. It's been read that look up to get an indictment. Of course mr. gates attitude has been something less than than than congenial. And so vast and been a breakdown of trust between the affected people and the police. Also what would remind you the reason we appealed to Mr. Bush. Fourteen months ago that takes some kind of stand the first hit TV by our call this took place on moss the third. On March the six Mr. Bush and by that the police chiefs of the country. To the White House he did not rescind the invitation investigates human believed that some of those controversy and while the police used Avaya. Point investigates and American top cop hero. So it seems as. Back is no justice in Los Angeles and no justice from Washington to you have this bad just abounding we must do something. To try to stop this escalating. Cycle of violence across more people would get hurt. Mall would get kill some bread difficult moment and this at this moment to get people's attention phils or heard and so angry. Let me just interrupt here for a moment just been told over my your phone that mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles is declared a state of emergency. Has requested state help apparently in putting out some of the fires and putting down some of the violence. We're gonna take a short break let's just go out on on another one of those aerial shots of Los Angeles and we will be back with our guests in just a moment. Once again you were just looking at a live helicopter shot of south central Los Angeles wearers are considered a number of fires seem to be raging out of control I mentioned just before the break. That the mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley has requested state assistance presumably both to control. Some of the violence. Seems to be spreading. And orchard looking there are now. News was seen as it was just was short time ago in front of the Los Angeles Police headquarters. Been demonstrations going on in front of the earlier PD headquarters. For much of the evening. It was seriously Roger Stone verdict came down. Late this afternoon Los Angeles time. That was the scene as a senator few moments ago still Wear those congresswoman Maxine Waters. In whose district south central Los Angeles. Those fires are currently raging in and former presidential candidate reverend Jesse Jackson has had its hands. Member at this point again that. That the release Hamdan jury of the AMP is. The run The King and I have a juror of his peers and that is a big factor in the situation. Second that there are gays predict a few days ago that if the man with the Klan innocent. That could be riots even that suggestion. Has heightened the climate of tension in in and that area and that's why tomorrow morning movement immune the president journal Baugh. Because the Justice Department must now step and that must be some leadership give and by the justice the plot meant. And indeed not most of bush himself because it's not just LA this is a very national situation. Whether this fell upon they all been shot in the back by police and the jurors that they walk away celebrating. Around the king BN Dracula lynched before people's eyes and they walk away. Is a sense of national outrage as a black man I feel. Vulnerable. And paying rent and I'm determined that Mr. Bush and the Justice Department must respond and do so quickly. Apparently. They have heard you were congresswoman waters again I just received word then the Justice Department has apparently announced that it is going to investigate. This onto that. Let me tell you something we met went. The Justice Department right after. The Rodney King beating in now march and they were supposed to have been investigating. Following a meeting with us at that time. I don't know what they have done because there's not a report back from them. I don't have a lot of faith in them at this point I suppose we will continue to try and do the responsible thing. They have let us down just as that jury has led us down in this case. Got a big welcome I'm gonna talk with them but that anger that you see expressed out there in Los Angeles in my district this evening. It's a righteous anger and it's typical for me to say to the people don't be angry. I fear for those people out there but also my people and I love them. I hate to see them in a position where their lives are in danger and the endangering other people's lives this evening. This Justice Department is a day late and a dollar shot and I simply do not want to be patronized by them one more time I'm hopeful. That they will at least leave up to live up to their charge in their responsibility. And move. Quickly to try and do something about the situation is not just mark tonight. We're going to be confronted with this but the rest of this week all through the weekend and beyond and lives will probably be lost. The cause of the situation that we find ourselves. Ms. waters I empathize with your hang worship and I hear what you're saying but by the same token. You know you can't both where's if you're going to meet with the people at the Justice Department it has to be with a sense that there is something they can. And sure do. Yeah I will meet with them one more time. I suppose I'll always be there. Why the meeting by the organizing for the confrontation but I'm getting a little bit sick and tired of it too. And I say this public lead this evening and thank you for allowing me to sing it because perhaps my anger. And my sincere indignation. Will be heard by more than the people we're going to meet with the mark. Perhaps the president of the United States who claimed he was sole second when he saw the videotape. Will interject himself in it and provide some leadership by this country on at least one domestic issue and that is police abuse. I want what went and Emmitt teel was industrial in this visit if I could started just for one moment and if you'll take a look I'm I'm sure those television and there are somewhere take a look at this aerial show it again. Of what's going on and I was just looking on another screen it appears to me as though there are now. Dozens of fires are raging in the south central Los Angeles almost everywhere you look wherever there the helicopter camera pans there are scenes of all the fires. He shall I. There's quite a far that's about a block from my home to head is that right that's right the though the point I wanted to make and and our north support the doesn't need to be made that the two of you but I'm maker for those in our audience who perhaps a reason to younger don't remember. The same kinds of things broke out in 1968 you both remember after. The assassination of Martin Luther King who got hurt here in Washington. Who was most damaged here in the District of Columbia the very people who were the followers of Martin Luther King. They were the ones whose homes were destroyed they were the ones who stores were destroyed I mean what is the most. All the wrought the Rodney King thing did it look this fall understand explodes fuel that was over the them you look at the level of desperation there. Good tips and unemployment. Guns and drugs and jobs out. This is just a pot of urban abandonment and urban neglect and that's while remain popular night the Mr. Bush. Mr. Clinton mr. brown with the parole those foot bail out lead nation. Must not speak alt and urban policy. No more tinkering little bit it packs that kind of thing that packed an east the new video games it's time to address the real America. Unfortunately it's one weapon flames bout children. That's more of a commitment the jail them than to educate them. And meg really commitment to re act them that they react to them train them from jobs are really cannot separate this crisis in night. From twelve years of dissent let urban abandoned met the desecration of human beings. To have the point that you were about to make about people hurting themselves. When people are angry and enraged they do do senseless things they do act even sometimes out of character. And that's why it is the responsibility. Of America to try and avoid putting people in these kinds of situations. We know that some of the things that we are going to see may be senseless. But that's a kind of anger. That says I'm fed up and I'm not going to take it anymore it does not make good sense that a black man in America. Must fear for his life and then come to the realization and understanding that there's nobody that can do anything for them are about it. Why thinking was beaten. And we socked with our all eyes the juror who talk with you this evening to head and told you that he or she was going to sleep very well. What I certainly hope they look out over what is happening in Los Angeles if they can sleep whale watching that burning watching that. Going on in Los Angeles then something is wrong with them and I understand why they made that kind of came to that kind of couldn't. Pollution. Let me just because I know that Michael Stone went through one of the attorneys for one of the patrolled his his store where this mr. stone as you hear this conversation. Did you feel a complete disconnect between the case on the one hand Andrea and the violence and they and they arson the fire that was erupting in Los Angeles. Well mr. Koppel might my involvement in this case as you know was the trial lawyer and I job whispers to bus to present the evidence to that to the jury has Charleston also were you're also a citizen and and I've I didn't want to have is sitting there and are good your chance to respond to what to what's been services. Well I'm I'm saddened by what I see I'm very sad for the community because. It's and so on necessary. But I disagree respectfully disagree with your other. Distinguished guests with respect to why it's happening and whether or not this case is as they have characterized at the brutal beating. A black man. As water area where there is it's where we must and we regret. That this violence occur and we shall do all be canned. The discouraged the violence and explosion but more than that this is SA for taste blonde nation this is the time we must address this. In mass scale only remember failed exploded in 196 to three. And then there was a whole sum will read some of it and then we have the credit report. And the crowd airport has not been addressed and so here we -- tonight looking they bill that what we see just some vacant lots there have been vacant. That's there wants rides open a five years ago. Let me on that pointed to rupture we are we are out of time I'm very grateful to you mr. Jackson congressman waters to you for joining us this evening. Obviously what has been happening here this evening in Los Angeles is an outgrowth of the verdict earlier today. In the Rodney King beating case in which fall Los Angeles policeman were acquitted on all but one charge and the jury was hung on that one charge. We will of course continue with the ABC news coverage of what is happening in Los Angeles tonight then presumably will be happening into the early hours of the morning. ABC world news now will be covering this story through the night and Good Morning America will pick up tomorrow morning. For all of us here at ABC news in Washington I'm Ted Koppel there.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.