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Archive for Saturday, November 18, 2000

Verdicts against LAPD in doubt

Allegations include misconduct, prejudging by jurors

November 18, 2000

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— Before testimony started, the jury foreman in the Rampart police corruption trial told an alternate juror the police defendants were guilty, the alternate told a judge Friday. She also claimed other jurors discussed the case outside of court every day.

The juror, Wendy Christiansen, 30, said in a special hearing that jurors constantly expressed negative opinions about three of the defense attorneys and suggested they were condescending to the prosecutors because they were women.

Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor ordered jury foreman Victor Flores and another alternate juror to testify Wednesday.

The jury this week found three of four police officers guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice and other crimes involving framing gang members.

Defense attorney Harland Braun said after the brief hearing that if Flores and the other alternate confirm Christiansen's account, the convictions must be overturned. Braun said that if the three convicted officers win a new trial, he would file a motion to move it out of central Los Angeles.

"I question whether as an LAPD officer you can get a fair trial in Los Angeles," he said. "The jurors come in with an agenda."

It was the first trial stemming from allegations of corruption in an anti-gang unit at the Police Department's Rampart station. More than 100 criminal convictions tainted by the allegations have been dismissed.

The day before testimony began, Christiansen said, she had lunch with the man who would ultimately become foreman and he told her he thought the defendants were guilty.

After that, she said, "Every time we'd come back from being out here (in the courtroom), there were a lot of comments being made about the defense attorneys. They didn't like the defense attorneys. The person they did like was (Joel) Isaacson."

Isaacson's client, Paul Harper, was acquitted of all charges.

"It happened over and over," she said. "They were writing jokes. Two female jurors made a comment that defense attorneys were condescending to prosecutors because they were women, and I totally disagreed with that."

Jurors are forbidden to talk about cases until they are ordered to deliberate, and then only during deliberations.

On Wednesday the jury convicted Sgt. Brian Liddy, Sgt. Edward Ortiz and Officer Michael Buchanan of conspiracy and other crimes against gang members in 1996.

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