Battle-scarred city awaits judgement day

THERE IS talk that, after their verdict, the eight men and four women who make up the jury in the trial of the Los Angeles police officers in the Rodney King beating case will be taken to the roof of the city-centre courthouse and flown to safety by helicopter.

Such a dramatic move is unlikely, but the rumours underscore how after six weeks of evidence, the closely-guarded members of the jury - who are set to begin deliberating this weekend - are having to come to terms with the knowledge that failing to convict the officers could lead to a repetition of the worst urban riots in the United States this century.

When the policemen walked free from a state court last year, it set off three days of rioting in Los Angeles and outbreaks of unrest in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Atlanta. Afterwards jurors received threatening telephone calls. Devastated by the outcry, several jurors were forced to undergo months of counselling.

The jury deciding the outcome of the second trial, on civil rights charges in a federal court, differs from the first in several crucial respects. The first was drawn largely from the predominantly white and conservative Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, and included no blacks. The second is drawn from a far larger area of southern California and includes two blacks. In addition, the current jurors are identified only by numbers, so they can't be traced.

None the less, the fear of trouble should be strong enough to encourage the current jurors to convict the policemen this time. The white officers were videotaped kicking and beating Mr King, who is black. A conviction, however, is likely to prompt further claims that a fair trial was impossible. Other evidence suggests there is the possibility of a hung jury.

Legal sources have told the Independent on Sunday that soon after the start of the second trial a hearing took place behind closed doors when one juror was suspected of being strongly biased in favour of the police. The judge concluded that there was no justification for stopping proceedings.

The panel must be unanimous to convict the officers. If it is divided, a mistrial could be declared, which technically allows the authorities to try the officers for a third time, although this is thought to be unlikely.

Several miles away from the federal courthouse in Los Angeles, another jury will be watching, ready to pass judgement on the trial's outcome: the residents around the junction of Florence and Normandie streets in south central Los Angeles.

It is the turf of the Eight Tray Crips gang, marked out by lurid flourishes of graffiti and reinforced by threats, fear and automatic weapons.

It is where Reginald Denny, a white lorry driver, was dragged from his truck by black youths hungry to avenge the first jury's decision. The live television footage of Mr Denny's near-fatal attack shocked the nation - images of a long-haired, stupefied, figure groping around the tarmac after a youth threw a brick at his skull as if it were a coconut. A year has passed since this tawdry patch of Los Angeles saw the start of the riots, but memories are fresh and passions still raw.

'After the second trial ends, it is going to be crazy around here,' said Charles Matthews, 39, a petrol pump attendant at the petrol station on the corner, opposite Bob's Liquor Store. A cousin of one of three youths now awaiting trial over the Denny beating, he was gazing thoughtfully across the street at a wall bearing a scribbled recommendation to the world to 'Fucc (sic) the Police'.

'And it is not only going to be concentrated at this corner. It is going to go up all over LA,' he continued, 'It is going to happen in Watts and in the Mexican areas. It's not only a black thing. It's a minority thing. There are not enough police in LA to handle what will happen. There will be an uproar if they let these cops go.

'I know guys in Watts who have been building up a stash of weapons. The only question they are asking is what they should do with them. I tell you, it's going to be chaos. Some people don't even care what the verdict is. They still want trouble.'

Whether Mr Matthews is right or not is not clear. The chances are that he is exaggerating, even though the city has been engaged in an arms-buying spree and is in a highly jittery state about the verdict in the second trial, which is expected sometime next week. The sheer numbers which the police plan to send on to the streets - at least 8,000 - will deter many from a rerun of last year's mayhem. In the meantime, the decision - and history - rests in the hands of the 12 men and women at the city-centre courthouse.

(Photograph omitted)

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?