Pubdate: Sun, 24 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. 23 (AP) -- Three police officers found guilty of 
corruption in the worst scandal in department history had their convictions 
tossed out by a judge who said the courts shouldn't remedy the scandal with 
an unfair verdict.

In a ruling obtained late Friday, Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor 
said jurors disclosed in post-trial statements that they had focused on an 
issue that was never raised in the trial.

Connor overturned the convictions of Los Angeles Police Department Sgts. 
Edward Ortiz and Brian Liddy, and Officer Michael Buchanan, who were 
convicted last month of conspiracy and other charges involving framing gang 

"While recognizing the enormous pressure on the community, on the police 
force, on the district attorney's office, and on the courts to 'fix' the 
Rampart scandal, this court is only interested in evaluating the fairness 
of the proceedings and determining whether justice was done in this case," 
Connor said in her 18-page ruling.

The officers were the first members of the now-defunct Rampart station 
anti-gang unit to be tried on charges based on the allegations of 
ex-officer Rafael Perez, who said police beat, robbed, framed and sometimes 
shot innocent people in the city's tough Rampart neighborhood near downtown.

The ruling reversed the convictions on the basis of jurors discussing the 
wrong issue and failing to decide a key question -- whether two policemen 
were struck by a vehicle driven by a gang member.

Instead of discussing whether the accident occurred, Connor said the jurors 
focused on whether any of the injuries rose to the level of "great bodily 

"While the court cannot and will not presume to guess whether a correction 
of the errors would result in any different verdict, it most certainly 
concludes that the verdict in this case cannot stand," Connor said.

Defense attorneys said they were elated and hoped the reversals would mark 
an end to the case. The next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 16, when a 
new trial could be scheduled.
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