The Police and Rodney King: Try, Try Again

Four L.A. cops are charged with violating Rodney King's civil rights -- but convicting them won't be easy

The mobs that torched and looted South Central Los Angeles last April reacted to the verdict with primal rage. Few Americans condoned the violence, but many shared the rioters' shock and amazement at the trial's outcome. After all, the grainy videotape of Rodney King's 81-second beating at the hands of L.A. cops looked like a clear-cut case of police brutality against an unarmed and helpless citizen. A flawed state prosecution, a shrewd defense and a white suburban venue had conspired to produce the stunning outcome: acquittals for four officers. When federal authorities indicted the four last week on civil rights charges,...

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