Pubdate: Fri, 22 Dec 2000
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2000 The Washington Post Company
Contact:  1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071
Bookmark: L.A. Rampart Scandal


LOS ANGELES, Dec. 21 (Reuters) -- A judge who presided over the convictions 
of three Los Angeles police officers in the first trial stemming from the 
city's Rampart corruption scandal considered overturning the guilty 
verdicts today over claims of jury misconduct.

After listening to arguments by defense lawyers and prosecutors for much of 
the morning, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor -- who has 
already declared herself "troubled" by the jury's findings -- said she 
would issue a ruling as early as Friday.

A decision by Connor to grant a new trial for Sgts. Brian Liddy and Edward 
Ortiz and Officer Michael Buchanan could be seen as a major blow to 
prosecutors by legal experts and civil rights activists -- some of whom 
hailed the convictions as a turning point in the Rampart scandal.

Liddy, Ortiz and Buchanan were convicted last month of fabricating charges 
that two gang members ran them down with a truck during a 1996 arrest. The 
jury found they had falsified police reports.

But defense lawyers have challenged the verdicts, claiming that jurors 
misread the police reports, that the foreman was biased against the 
officers and that prosecutors made inadmissible remarks in their closing 

Connor has been most troubled by the possibility that the jurors convicted 
Liddy, Ortiz and Buchanan because they believed the officers lied when they 
wrote on the police reports that they suffered "great bodily injury."

Defense lawyers claim that entry was never made by the officers but 
appeared on the report through a computer glitch. They called the 
convictions a "travesty of justice."

Prosecutors said the jury found at trial that the officers lied about the 
extent of their injuries, regardless of how the entry was made on the 
report. Deputy District Attorney Laura Laesecke told Connor that 
"overturning the verdicts would be the true travesty of justice."

The Rampart scandal was unleashed in September 1999 when rogue officer 
Rafael Perez was arrested for stealing cocaine from an LAPD evidence locker 
and began detailing pervasive corruption in Rampart Station.
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