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Doctor Says He Was Surprised King Survived Beating : Trial: Ophthalmologist testifies that the victim's eye socket had to be rebuilt. Damages owed to King are at issue.

March 25, 1994|JOHN MITCHELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An ophthalmologist testified Thursday in Rodney G. King's federal civil rights lawsuit that he saw pulverized bone in King's eye socket less than a week after his 1991 beating by police and that he was amazed the man survived.

Dr. Charles Aronberg, chief of ophthalmology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said he has been King's primary care physician, coordinating much of his medical treatment, including a delicate operation to restore a sunken right eye socket.

"I was surprised that Mr. King had withstood this and was still alive, and the other doctors thought so, too," said Aronberg, who testified for the plaintiffs in King's lawsuit against the city and several current and former police officers.

Aronberg was the first medical expert called to testify during the initial phase of the trial in which the seven-woman, three-man jury will determine how much King will be paid for his injuries. The city has already accepted liability for the injuries King suffered. In the second phase of trial, the jury will determine whether individual defendants will also be liable for punitive damages.

Negotiations to reach an out-of-court settlement have stalled, with both sides indicating that such an agreement now seems unlikely. King's attorneys say they have reduced their offer from $9.2 million, but thus far, the city has not indicated whether it is willing to go higher than $1.25 million. King's medical expenses amount to $200,000.

Aronberg said he believed King's injuries were consistent with being hit with a blunt-force object in the face at least five or six times.

Aronberg said King was suffering from numerous injuries when he examined him five days after the incident. When he touched his face, the doctor said, he could "feel the bone dip in very deeply on the right side." King had multiple facial fractures, had trouble speaking and could not chew. Delicate surgery was required to rebuild his eye socket.

Aronberg said he examined King before the trial and found he was still suffering from dizziness and headaches. Because of the injuries, he said, King runs an increased risk of glaucoma, retina detachment and cataracts. He has advised King against returning to construction work and has recommended against him driving because of reduced concentration, blurred vision and memory loss.

On cross-examination, Aronberg was asked if the injuries could have been caused by a fall. The doctor said some injuries might have resulted from a fall, but others would not have.

After Aronberg testified, King's attorneys put a neurologist on the stand who testified that King has suffered from back pains, sleep disturbances and facial numbness.

Over the objections of the defendants' attorneys, U.S. District Judge John Davies agreed to allow California Highway Patrol officers Melanie and Tim Singer to testify about the police chase that preceded the beating. The married officers initiated the high-speed pursuit of King that ended in the Lake View Terrace area, where Los Angeles Police Department officers took charge. The Singers are expected to take the stand today.

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