Jury awards dollars 3.8m to Rodney King

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The Independent Online
A JURY last night ordered the city of Los Angeles to pay dollars 3.8m (pounds 2.5m) damages to Rodney King, the black motorist whose videotaped beating caused an international furore over police brutality and racism.

The award follows a long battle by Mr King and his lawyers to secure compensation for the violence he suffered from Los Angeles police officers when he was stopped after a high-speed car chase in March 1991 - an incident that ultimately triggered the riots that swept through the city two years ago.

The figure was more than four times higher than the dollars 800,000 suggested in the three-week civil trial by the city authorities, which did not contest liability. However, it did not come close to the dollars 15m sought by Mr King and his lawyers, but Mr King, 29, who faces towering legal fees, may receive more. The jury will tomorrow begin the second phase of the trial, in which they will assess whether Mr King should be paid punitive damages - and if so, how much.

There are 14 individual defendants, including the city's former chief of police, Daryl Gates, and the four white officers whose acquittal of excessive force charges by a state court sparked three days of rioting. Last year, two of the four were found guilty of violating Mr King's civil rights and jailed for 30 months.

In the damages trial, the jury was asked to decide how much cash compensation Mr King should receive for his medical bills, loss of employment and pain and suffering.

The hearing focused on many issues that were exhaustively examined during the police officers' two trials. The city questioned how severely Mr King was injured when he was struck more than 50 times, and whether these injuries were inflicted by baton blows to the head. They also focused on the fact that he was drunk and on parole for robbery when he was stopped.

Mr King's lawyers called experts who said he has permanent brain damage causing mental confusion, blurry vision, headaches and an inability to concentrate. He had become paranoid, they said, wears a bulletproof vest and hesitates to go out in public.

In his most emotional account of events, Mr King told jurors: 'I felt like I had been raped. I felt like I had lost half of my face . . . I could hear my bones crunching every time the baton hit me.'