Presumed Guilty Book Assignment_Anderson_Richard
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Presumed Guilty Book Assignment_Anderson_Richard
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Presumed Guilty Book Assignment
06 August 2013
Presumed Guilty Book Assignment
Early in the morning of March 3, 1991, the LAPD was called on to assist in the
apprehension of a vehicle driving recklessly and exceeding the speed limit (exceeding
115 miles per hour) through segments of Los Angeles. The LAPD had a helicopter over
the incident in progress, the pursuing CHIP was on the scene where the offenders had
finally stopped, and the CHIP officers had their weapons were drawn. There was vehicle
and pedestrian traffic around the area. The two passengers of the offenders' vehicle were
on the ground, complying with the officers' demands, while the driver, Rodney King, was
behaving erratically, "waving at the helicopter," (Koon 30), and remaining noncompliant.
Sgt. Stacey Koon of the LAPD arrived at this point, and being the most senior officer on
the scene, attempted to take control of the situation.
Sgt. Koon's years of experience provided him with the necessary tools to understand
that the uncooperative suspect controlling the situation, Rodney King, was possibly
intoxicated (perhaps on PCP), talking in "gibberish", and was clearly a danger to himself
and his fellow officers. In addition, King was a very large man.
Koon had the CHIP officers holster their weapons. Koon then ordered his men to
surround King. He then ordered the "swarm" maneuver to subdue King. The swarm
failed in that King flung the officers off of himself one by one. The notion of PCP in
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King's system was for all intent and purposes verified by his ability to escape the grasp of
four police officers by hurling them aside. While loud verbal commands continued,
Officer Koon then tased the violent suspect. The taser first attempt did not subdue King,
and a second taser was fired. It was at this point that King "rushed" Officer Powell of the
Powell "defended himself" with the PR 24 metal baton. King went down. Koon
ordered the officers to stand down and evaluate King's condition. King continued to
refuse to comply by attempting to rise once again. King employed what Koon knew to
be the "Folsom Roll," (Koon 42) a tactic to subdue and take control of an officer and his
weapon. Several non-lethal baton strikes, two taserings, shoving, and verbal commands
had been employed by this time in attempt to get King to lie down in the felony arrest
position; face down with hands behind the back. Koon considered the chokehold, but
decided not to employ this tactic because it had been discontinued by the LAPD Police
Commission on May 12, 1982. Non-lethal powerstroke baton maneuvers to the joints
were employed. A final swarm by eight officers was ordered by Sgt. Koon against King.
King's face had hit the asphalt a total of three times during the entire exchange. He had
resisted against verbal commands, several baton strikes, two-plus taserings, and the
attempted physical restraining of more than eight police officers in his noncompliance
with orders by CHIP and LAPD, but he was alive and in custody.
Had the Los Angeles city fathers not discontinued the use of the chokehold, this
incident, as well as the riots which followed one year later, may not have ever occurred.
Had the LAPD adopted the use of the "net," to subdue King, this incident would have
been avoided. This tragic episode in American law enforcement could have been handled
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differently in that King could have possibly been shot once he assaulted Officer Powell.
Also, the LAPD could have simply let the speeding offenders drive away at the onset, but
that is not what they are paid for; allowing potentially dangerous criminals to go on about
their way. There were no other options for the officers on the scene. They exhausted, at
the professional guidance of Sgt Koon, all non-lethal options to subdue a dangerous law-
breaking person in the middle of the night, just short of killing him.
The LAPD policy change of not permitting the chokehold had serious repercussions
regarding the arrest of Rodney King. Sgt. Koon was a law-abiding officer. He was
aware the chokehold had been banned and chose not to use it. Police Commissioner
Daryl Gates pleaded with Mayor Tom Bradley, the Police Commission, and the City
Council to reinstate the chokehold in his 1984 report, stating that violent confrontations
between suspects and police were rising, and "the number of injuries to suspects [had]
increased 395 percent since the chokehold had been banned. But his pleas fell on deaf
ears. Also, there was strong opposition by the ACLU with regards to the occasional
lethal effect of the chokehold, and led by Robert Farrell, the ACLU said they would
rather deal with the "cost effectiveness for broken bones . . . [rather than] pay settlements
to the families of individuals who die from application of the chokeholds," (Koon 59).
This cost effectiveness boasted by Farrell is debatable considering the millions of dollars
lost in property damage and civil lawsuits after the 1992 riots, as well as the cost in lives.
Past experiences on and off the job effect the way in which law enforcement officers
make decisions. Sgt. Koon is an accomplished conscientious individual. He is college
educated, holds multiple degrees in criminal justice, is a family man, and enjoyed his
work as a police officer. Koon worked the 77th Street Police Division, "the most violent
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in Los Angeles," (Koon 67). He faced an individual who had fired an AK 47 at fellow
officers, and exchanged gunfire with the offender and apprehended him. Koon had also
shown restraint during his experience confronting a deranged pregnant woman while
working Hollywood prior to the 1984 Olympic Games scheduled to be held in LA. Koon
had also faced many offenders intoxicated with PCP, and knew not to take them lightly.
On several occasions, offenders had demonstrated a resilience to the effect of a taser as
well as doing something as stupid as "jumping through a picture-window," (Koon 78).
Koon had also seen what happens during a situation where one suspect is allowed to go
on their way, as in the case of the "Capri [which] burned rubber at a stop sign," (Koon
82), only to find out later the suspect killed two young women in a head on collision
afterward. This memory was instrumental in not allowing the King car chase to continue.
Sgt. Koon was also labeled a racist by many after the Rodney King event. This
preposterous media-promoted idea is cast into the waste basket when one reads about his
helping an African-American officer regain his financial support which had been denied
by the LAPD, as well as the incident whereby Officer Koon assisted a struggling,
potentially AIDS infected, African-American already in custody by giving him mouth-to-
mouth resuscitation. Would Robert Farrell of the ACLU have done the same? It is
The trial of Officers Koon, Powell, Briseno, and Wind was an excellent example of
the sometimes efficient processes of the American judicial system. One year of media
hype, strongly biasing the world against the four accused officers, did not produce what
television cast as the obvious result of a conviction of police brutality. Being tried by an
impartial jury is a right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
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The initial judge, Judge Kamins, was overruled in his attempt to circumvent change of
venue requested by defense. Judge Stanley Weisberg got assigned to the case, and Simi
Valley became the site for the jury pool selection.
A few weeks prior to the trial commencement, the defense prepares their case. After
analyzing the George Holliday video tape, the defense dissects it frame by frame, and
demonstrates the controlled scenario of well-placed baton hits about King's body, and not
the head-bashing wrongly accused by CHIP officer Melanie Singer. The defense also
demonstrates that the often omitted first two seconds of the tape shows Officer Powell
being assaulted by Rodney King. The jury hears how the LAPD are taught to use force
judiciously, how head shots are not employed (supported by views of the video
recording), and that King's head injuries were caused by his face hitting the asphalt, not
the PR 24 batons.
The prosecution attempts to portray King's injuries as very serious, and perhaps has
endured brain damage due to the nonexistent baton head strikes. But medical reports
provided by Pacific Heights Hospital, as well as statements by the paramedics, indicate
King was lucid just after his arrest, and his injuries were minor.
The defense points out that Rodney King was "in control of the situation," (Koon
149), not the officers. Melanie Singer is a witness for the prosecution, claiming that King
was struck repeatedly to the head, but medical evidence and the video tape impeach her
as a witness. Her husband, Tim, was also at the scene the night of March 3, 1991, and
testifies that King was a "monster," (Koon 161), and that he "kept on coming." The
prosecution's attempts to flat out lie and distort the facts do not sway the jury. Rodney
King is not allowed to testify, the prosecution knew his testimony would be disastrous.
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And to the prosecution's surprise, Officer Koon is called to the witness stand and "stands
his ground" under cross-examination for hours, culminating to a climax when prosecutor
Yochelson asks, "Did Mr. King have any weapons?" to which Koon responds, "Yes, his
body under the influence of PCP," (Koon 186). More witnesses were called but the die
was cast. The prosecution failed to provide any evidence to demonstrate the Officers
involved did anything but defend themselves against and properly contain a dangerous
"felony evader," Rodney King. The media-driven prosecution further failed in their
attempts to "string up" the LAPD officers by originally failing to charge the officers with
"lesser crimes," (Koon 188), and would not get the defense's approval in presenting such
arguments. The jury further demonstrated their obligation to rendering a truthful
assessment of the incident by taking seven days to deliberate. They render the
appropriate decision of not guilty.
The media was instrumental in causing much of the harm surrounding the post-
Rodney King tragedy of rioting and death, not to mention a year of discourse between
many private citizens who debated what exactly had happened during the early morning
hours of March 3, 1991.
The difficulty arises immediately by mass production and repeated display over mass
media of George Holliday's amateur video recording of Rodney King being legally
subdued by law enforcement. No legal insight into proper police procedure is displayed
by the media. No information concerning the eight-minute chase at high speeds is
focused on. King's danger to the public, to himself, nor to the police officers involved in
the pursuit of a reckless driver, a felony evader, is forced into viewer's minds; only the
seemingly random application of deadly blows to an as yet "innocent motorist" is
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pumped out over the airways to millions of viewers, trying, convicting, and sentencing
courageous Los Angeles Police Officers. And during the trial, accurate information of
what was discussed during the trial by both prosecution and defense was given to the
media, but the "whole truth" is bound only to inside the courtroom, not to the jester's box
of television. The media is partially, if not wholly, responsible for the riots which
followed the acquittal of Officers Koon, Wind, Powell, and the defector Briseno.
In conclusion, lessons may actually have been learned by the media, if not admitted
to by the guilty, from the riots following the officers' acquittal decision. America was
once again thrown into turmoil when a young black man, Trayvon Martin, was killed
during a conflict by a neighborhood watch individual, George Zimmerman. Some
whispered that an outbreak of violence would occur should Zimmerman not be found
guilty of premeditated murder, or at least voluntary manslaughter, but this was not to be.
Outrage by the black community brought the issue to the public's notice, and eventually
went to trial. And when the unspeakable happened, the decision that the gun-toting legal
observer, Zimmerman, was acquitted and determined to have acted in self-defense,
Americans held their breath to see if cities and towns would burn across the United
States, and perhaps other parts of the world. This did not happen. In short, it is this
author's belief that the nonpartisan descriptions and discussions over the presented
evidence in the Martin/Zimmerman case kept the audience of millions in balance. The
final verdict was a disappointment to many, but did not appear to be a miscarriage of
justice as happened with the inflammatory rhetoric beat into our skulls by the media over
the Rodney King Tragedy.
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Koon, Stacey C., Robert Deitz. Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney king Affair.
Wallentine, Ken. The Resurgence of Carotid Control: Managing the Risks and Getting it