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Police Joked About King, Nurses Say

March 14, 1992|RICHARD A. SERRANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SIMI VALLEY — Two emergency room nurses testified Friday that Laurence M. Powell, one of four Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the beating of Rodney G. King, joked at the hospital that the police played "a pretty good hardball game" when they struck the motorist with their batons.

The nurses added that Powell and Officer Timothy E. Wind, also charged with beating King, answered with their batons when they were asked at the hospital how the patient was injured.

"Officer Powell sort of patted his baton, and Officer Wind pulled his baton up in the air," said nurse Carol Denise Edwards.

A LAPD communications official testified later that Powell sent a computer message that night in which he said: "I haven't beaten anyone this bad in a long time."

Prosecutors called the witnesses in an effort to bolster their contention that Powell and Wind not only struck King repeatedly and unnecessarily, but also had a cavalier attitude toward him after he was injured.

Defense attorneys, trying to downplay the significance of the testimony, focused on the nurses' reports from that night, in which it was said that King appeared combative while locked in handcuffs and leather restraints at the hospital.

They also elicited testimony from the nurses that the darts from a police stun gun were embedded in King's clothing rather than his flesh. They have contended that with no effect from the stun gun, the officers had no choice but to use their batons on the motorist.

Also Friday, one of the 12 jurors--a 34-year-old sanitation worker for the city of Oxnard--was excused from the panel. Court officials and attorneys would only say that the juror was excused for personal reasons.

In his place, one of six alternate jurors--a white female--was chosen at random. She is a 43-year-old college groundskeeper who lives in Ojai. The jury is now made up of six men and six women, none of whom is black.

Lawrence E. Davis, a nurse at Pacifica Hospital, said King had cuts on his face and head when he was brought into the emergency room on the morning of March 3, 1991. However, Davis said King was cooperative with the hospital staff and that he did not appear to be in pain, although he was struggling to get out of wrist and leg restraints.

Davis said King mentioned that he worked as an usher at Dodger Stadium and wondered if he would be out of the hospital in time to make the team's next big game.

"At that point," Davis said, "Officer Powell said: 'It's a good thing I'm not going to the game. I wouldn't want you to be my usher.' "

Powell next asked King "if he remembered the game they played that night," Davis testified. King responded that "I don't know what you're talking about," Davis recalled. According to the nurse, Powell said: "Oh, come on. Don't you remember? We had a pretty good hardball game tonight. We hit quite a few home runs."

Then King realized that Powell was talking about the beating, Davis said. He said King responded: "Yes, you guys did have a pretty good ballgame tonight."

Davis also said that Wind, when asked how King was injured, "picked up his nightstick out of his holster and said (King) had resisted arrest."

Edwards, the other nurse on duty that night, also recalled the conversation the policemen had about playing hardball with King. She added that Powell told King: "We won and you lost."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Terry White, the lead prosecutor in the case, noted that Wind was present during the banter with Powell and King but never tried to stop the conversation.

"His silence showed he adopted that statement" about hardball, White argued.

Also testifying was Glenda Tosti, a Police Department communications official who described the computer messages that Powell sent to another officer, Corina Smith, about half an hour after the beating.

According to Tosti, Powell messaged Smith: "Oops."

Smith responded: "Oops, what?"

Powell then wrote: "I haven't beaten anyone this bad in a long time."

Smith asked why the beating had taken place, Tosti testified, and Powell responded: "I think he was dusted. . . . Many broken bones later after the pursuit."

Powell, Wind, Sgt. Stacey C. Koon and Officer Theodore J. Briseno have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. The trial is to resume Monday morning.

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