Putting Justice in the Dock

With more at stake than a courtroom verdict, both sides in the Rodney King trial made stronger cases

The first time police officers went on trial for beating Rodney King, Los Angeles looked at itself in the mirror and saw Caliban. Not everyone recognized the same monster. Some saw racist authority and biased justice. Some saw a lawless citizen and mob madness. But for almost everyone, inside and outside the smoking city, the trial became a symbolic test of national values -- something that trials, with their focus on factual specifics and winner-take-all outcomes, are not constructed to be. The acquittals were so shocking to a nation mesmerized by a videotape, and so achingly rejected in riot and rage,...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!