Relief in Los Angeles
IN all the anguish and ugliness of the Rodney King beating and the subsequent attack on truck driver Reginald Denny, Mr. Denny's reaction to his horrendous experience and to those who attacked him was a marvel of compassionate humanity.
Even after partial verdicts were announced, he said he was satisfied with them and that it was time to ``get on with life.''
The verdicts in the trials of the policemen who were convicted of using excessive force against Mr. King and of the two men who attacked Denny will be much debated by members of the legal profession and by citizens befuddled by the twists and turns of the two trials. The less-than-comfortable feeling on the part of onlookers and participants that justice might not have been completely served in either case is unlikely to dissipate soon.
One of Denny's assailants, Damian Williams, was convicted of simple mayhem, a felony, and four misdemeanors. But he was acquitted on the more serious charge of attempted murder. He remains in jail at this writing. The other attacker, Henry Watson, was convicted on one count of misdemeanor assault. The judge declared a mistrial on a second assault charge against Watson.
Public opinion, recorded by media across the US, made clear that whites and nonwhites were troubled and confused by what they perceived to be very light sentences.
The role of electronic devices - particularly video recorders, which were prominent factors in both trials - is both significant and troubling. In the Los Angeles trials stemming from the Rodney King case, electronic devices provided significant information. But these trials also demonstrated that video recorders and similar devices are susceptible to misuse and distortion. Human observation and memory are also fallible, but at least testifiers can be put under oath and can face perjury charges.
Los Angeles Mayor Richard Roirdan and Police Chief Willie Williams urged citizens to accept the verdicts in both the King and Denny cases ``and move on.''
Many will be watching for further explanation of some of the legal elements in the trial - on the part of the bench, the defense, and the jury box.
America has made impressive progress in human relations in this century. More needs to be done. Reginald Denny's attitude toward his apparent adversaries, manifested when he embraced Mr. Williams's mother - provides a good place to start.