Judge Suggests Telling Jurors How To Break Deadlock - Before They Deliberate With AM-Taped
Apr. 08, 1993
Judge Suggests Telling Jurors How To Break Deadlock - Before They Deliberate With AM-Taped Beating-Bracing, Bjt
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The judge in the Rodney King beating trial suggested Wednesday that even before they start deliberations, jurors be instructed how to break a deadlock.
''I foresee difficulties,'' U.S. District Judge John G. Davies told lawyers during a discussion of jury instructions. ''What can we do to minimize the difficulties?''
Davies later berated the news media for reporting that his remarks indicated he was concerned about a possible hung jury. ''I haven't any idea of what's going to happen in this case,'' he said. ''I don't think any of us do.''
After being told during a midafternoon break about radio reports about his earlier remarks, Davies said angrily that his comments had been ''twisted, distorted, embellished, disguised and then broadcast.''
''It does a disservice to say the judge thinks there will be a mistrial,'' Davies said. ''That's not the case.''
He questioned whether the hearing on jury instructions should be closed. ''We're doing this in open court because the press wants an open court,'' the judge said. ''I wonder if we shouldn't do this in private.''
Testimony in the 2-month-old federal trial ended Tuesday; the jury was expected to get the case by the weekend.
The defendants, Sgt. Stacey Koon, Officers Laurence Powell and Theodore Briseno and former Officer Timothy Wind, are charged with violating King's civil rights in a videotaped beating on March 3, 1991.
The officers, who are white, were acquitted of most assault charges in a state trial last year that sparked deadly riots. King is black.
Davies began Wednesday's discussions by asking why no lawyer had asked to include an unusual instruction used as a last resort in obtaining a verdict.
The so-called ''dynamite charge'' - used when the jury reports being deadlocked - tells jurors to listen to the views expressed by other panelists and reconsider their own opinions. It also suggests that another jury might not reach any better verdict than they and urges them to make a decision.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Clymer said it would be premature to tell jurors how to break a deadlock before they start trying to reach a verdict. ''I haven't researched the law on it,'' he said, ''but it might be error at this time.''
Outside court, defense attorney Harland Braun said he assumed from the judge's initial remarks that he was concerned about a hung jury.
Laurie Levenson, a Loyola University law professor who has been watching the case, said of Davies' remarks: ''It seems that he's anticipating a hung jury.''
She said she had never heard of giving the instruction before a jury begins to deliberate. She also said the instruction has been a subject of controversy among lawyers and judges because it can be used to coerce a jury into a verdict.
Attorneys also argued about instructions involving the use of unreasonable force and the concept of intent under federal civil rights laws.
Davies approved telling jurors that they don't have to find the defendants were thinking in ''constitutional terms'' at the time of the alleged acts. A defendant can be convicted even if he has no familiarity with the constitutional right involved, the instructions say.