King case put on ice as juror falls ill: Los Angeles braced for fresh violence

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The Independent Online
JURY deliberations in the Rodney King federal civil rights trial in Los Angeles were suspended yesterday after a juror became ill.

The juror was escorted by a US marshal to see a family doctor, said the US district judge John Davies, after summoning lawyers and reporters to the courtroom. He did not specify the ailment, or give any clue to the juror's identity, but he said the jury had indicated that it wished to continue deliberating this morning.

If the juror proves too ill to continue, then he or she would have to be replaced by one of the three alternate panelists and deliberations would have to start all over again, causing a delay in proceedings and prolonging Los Angeles' tense wait.

The judge's announcement, which came on the fifth day of jury deliberations, caused excitement at the federal courthouse in central Los Angeles, where the trial has taken place amid tight security. As rumours circulated that a verdict had been reached, a crowd gathered, while police and media helicopters hovered overhead.

The identity of the eight men and four women on the jury, which includes two blacks, is being kept secret by court order. As their discussions about the policemen accused of violating the civil rights of Rodney King continue, speculation mounts over whether the jury is divided.

Three officers were videotaped kicking and beating Mr King with batons, while their sergeant looked on. Mr King, who was drunk, had been stopped after a car chase on the outskirts of the city, on 3 March 1991. When they were acquitted last April on almost every brutality charge by a state court in a mainly white area outside Los Angeles, three days of rioting ensued in which more than 50 people died.

In Los Angeles, tensions are high as police prepare to step up their presence on the streets before the verdicts are announced. Thousands of residents have bought firearms, and shopkeepers have been boarding up windows and hiring security guards. About 1,000 Marines at Camp Pendleton, 80 miles away, stormed a mock town in an assault exercise and a base spokesman said a unit stood ready to go to Los Angeles if needed.