Pubdate: Mon, 25 Dec 2000
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Los Angeles Times
Contact:  Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053
Fax: (213) 237-7679
Author: Twila Decker, Times Staff Writer
Bookmark: (L.A. Rampart Scandal)


Rampart: The crime report used an abbreviation that became a deliberation
issue. The judge says she erred when she denied a jury request for a

Defense attorney Barry Levin says he will never forget the moment he
began to suspect the worst: The jurors deliberating the fates of three
Los Angeles police officers had been confused by police lingo.

His hair, he said, began to "stand up on the back of my neck" as he
rechecked a computer-generated police report that had been given to
jurors and reread the tiny line on the top. It said, "AD w/GBI."

His attention had been attracted to the abbreviation because he had
been firing questions about it.

To Levin, a former police officer representing one of three
defendants, it was simple. That line was "cop speak" for section 245c
of the penal code, assault with a deadly weapon likely to produce
great bodily injury.

But to the jurors, he began to fear, that line meant something
entirely different.

He feared the jurors were taking literally the abbreviation of the
crime--"w/GBI"--on the police report. He thought the jurors believed
that the police officers, in reporting the incident, had claimed they
suffered great bodily injury when a pickup truck carrying gang members
Raul Munoz and Cesar Natividad struck them in the alley.

The officers, however, never claimed such severe injuries and the
prosecution never contended that they had.

Judge Jacqueline Connor also began to suspect a problem. She even
contacted attorneys on both sides during the final day of
deliberations to alert them.

The jurors' questions to the judge indicated they too were focused on
the "great bodily injury" issue.

At first, Connor refused their request for a rereading of relevant
sections of the transcript, saying it was irrelevant. Then she had
second thoughts. But before a rereading could be arranged, the jurors
sounded the buzzer: They had reached a decision. The defendants were
guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice by framing gang members.

The problem became clear after the verdicts, when jurors agreed to
talk to prosecutors and defense attorneys about their decision.
Defense attorneys, incensed by the verdict, walked out in frustration.
But Scott Ross, an investigator for Harland Braun, a defense attorney,
stayed and affirmed suspicions about the jurors' deliberations. He
later gathered the affidavits. "I went to Harland and said, 'We have a
problem,' " he said.

Connor said she had made a fatal error by denying the jurors'

"Had the read-back been provided, the jury would have heard the
response by Sgt. Ortiz that the only charge intended was 245c and that
both Mr. Munoz and Mr. Natividad were charged with that same crime,"
she wrote in her opinion. 
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