Few Prospective Jurors in Rodney King Beating Case Willing to Sit on Jury
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A preliminary survey of 4,482 prospective jurors in the Rodney King beating case turned up only 240 people willing to leave home for two months for a trial, a federal judge disclosed Monday.
Judge John G. Davies said prospective jurors from seven counties who were queried by letter on the question of being sequestered for a trial were not told it was the King beating case. But he acknowledged it would be easy to guess.
″Another 2,000 invitations will go out in the next few days,″ said the judge who is seeking a pool of prospects from which the jury can be chosen.
The federal trial of four police officers accused in the videotaped beating of King is to begin Feb. 2. The officers were acquitted of most charges after an earlier trial in state court.
The decision to keep jurors away from their families at a hotel for the federal trial’s duration adds an additional problem to a case likely to encounter a difficult jury selection.
Deadly riots followed the jury verdict in the state trial last spring, and lawyers have anticipated reluctance on the part of citizens to accept the responsibility of passing judgment in a new trial that could spark further violence.
In other court action Monday, Davies left undecided a motion to remove one lawyer from the trial for an alleged conflict of interest. Instead, he scheduled a conference on the matter for Jan. 13.
But the judge indicated he is giving strong consideration to Officer Laurence Powell’s wish to have his federal defense handled by Michael Stone, the lawyer who represented him at the state trial.
Lawyers for Sgt. Stacey E. Koon and Officer Theodore Briseno say Stone has a conflict of interest because his law partner, Thomas J. Feeley, represents Koon in a related civil case.
They argue that Stone could have access to confidential information that could be used to Koon’s detriment.
The fourth defendant, Officer Timothy E. Wind, has not joined in the effort to oust Stone.
″The court must balance Mr. Powell’s right to his choice of counsel against Mr. Koon’s fear of being undone as a result of the conflict,″ Davies said.
Stone has represented Powell since March 3, 1991, when the four white officers were videotaped beating King, who is black, after King was stopped for speeding.