Thu, Jul 31, 2003 - Page 6 News List

LA police beating case ends as judge declares a mistrial

REUTERS , LOS ANGELES

A Los Angeles judge declared a mistrial on Tuesday in the case of a white, former policeman accused of assaulting a black teenager during a videotaped arrest last summer after the jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked.

A second officer was acquitted of a felony charge of writing a false report to allegedly cover up the incident, which occurred at a gas station in the largely black Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood.

Black community leaders expressed outrage with the jury's actions and said it proved that little had changed in Los Angeles in the decade since four white officers were acquitted in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King.

"We have videotape ... but still no justice. No justice in America," activist Molly Bell said outside court.

The videotape, taken by a bystander, showed then Inglewood police officer Jeremy Morse slamming 16-year-old Donovan Jackson onto the trunk of a police patrol car and punching him in the face while the teen was handcuffed.

About 1,500 yellow-shirted volunteers fanned across Inglewood on Tuesday in a government-sponsored attempt to calm tensions, although police were ready to swoop in at the first sign of unrest to prevent a replay of the 1992 riots that followed the acquittal of the officers in the King beating.

Najee Ali, director of the Project Islamic HOPE, said: "We are very angry right now, but our anger is very controlled. It is going to be expressed in a constructive manner."

The six-man, six-woman jury, which included one black member, deliberated for about three days before telling Superior Court Judge William Hollingsworth that they were hopelessly split over the felony charge against Morse, 25. The jury foreman said the panel had split 7-to-5 in favor of finding Morse guilty.

The jury found Morse's former partner Bijan Darvish, 26, not guilty of filing a false report.

Hollingsworth declared a mistrial against Morse, prompting cries of "There is no justice here" and "Pig" from Ali and another black activist who immediately left the tense, heavily guarded courtroom.

Darvish, who sat impassive during the seven-day trial, closed his eyes in apparent relief and pounded the table upon learning that he had been acquitted.

Outside court, defense attorney Ron Brower, said Darvish and his family were relieved that the yearlong ordeal was over.

Brower said Darvish was to return to work yesterday and was "looking forward to getting back to being a police officer."

Morse's attorney John Barnett, said his client was disappointed to have to face prosecutors again on Sept. 22 to learn whether they will retry him.

Barnett said he would ask the judge to dismiss the felony charge of assault under color of authority "based on the impossibility that any jury would convict ... and on the contention that there isn't enough evidence to convict him."

Jackson, who is developmentally disabled and who prosecutors said was unable to understand police commands at the scene, did not speak.

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