- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge announced a hung jury yesterday in the police-brutality trial of a white former officer who punched and slammed a handcuffed black teen onto a squad car during a videotaped arrest.

The jury deliberated more than three days without reaching a verdict in the case of former Inglewood Officer Jeremy Morse, whose arrest of Donovan Jackson at a gas station in July 2002 heightened racial tensions and provoked memories of the 1992 Rodney King beating.

The jury was deadlocked 7-5 in favor of convicting Mr. Morse. His partner, Bijan Darvish, 26, was found not guilty of falsifying a police report. Each could have received up to three years in prison if convicted.

District Attorney Steve Cooley said his office would review the proceedings and decide whether to seek a retrial.

Mr. Morse, 25, sat expressionless with his hands locked after the judge declared a hung jury on a charge of assault under color of authority. Officer Darvish and his attorney banged their fists on the table and quietly uttered, “Yes.”

Someone in the courtroom yelled, “No justice here,” and was silenced by Superior Court Judge William Hollingsworth Jr.

People standing outside the courthouse held signs reading “Peace After the Verdict,” hoping to prevent riots like the ones that devastated the city after four white police officers were acquitted of state charges in the videotaped beating of King in 1992. The four days of riots left 55 persons dead and more than 2,000 injured.

The Los Angeles Police Department yesterday kept officers late on their shifts and increased patrols in the city in case of violence, but authorities reported no violence after the verdict.

“Business as usual,” said Inglewood police Sgt. Calvin Smith.

The judge scheduled a Sept. 22 hearing on whether to hold a retrial, and said any retrial would begin Sept. 29.

Mr. Jackson and his father, Coby Chavis, have state and federal civil rights lawsuits pending against the officers, the city and Los Angeles County.

“We do think that this case should definitely be retried and we look forward to that on Sept. 29,” said Mr. Jackson’s attorney, Camryn Stewart. “We are hopeful that this next time around, justice will be served and we in the meantime will proceed vigorously with the civil lawsuit.”

Mr. Jackson was not in the courtroom yesterday. Mr. Morse and Officer Darvish left the courtroom without comment.

Race was not mentioned at the trial. In closing arguments, prosecutor Michael Pettersen said Mr. Morse was “an angry, out-of-control officer” who administered street justice to Mr. Jackson, then 16, because he had struggled with officers.

Defense attorney John Barnett portrayed Mr. Morse as an officer who was doing his job and had only seconds to decide how much force to use against a dangerous suspect.

The incident began when Mr. Jackson came out of a convenience store after buying gas and a bag of chips to find Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies questioning his father about expired license-plate tags.

Both sides acknowledged that Mr. Jackson made suspicious motions when confronted by officers and resisted arrest. He flailed at officers who took him to the ground after he got out of a police car.

A videotape, recorded by a bystander, begins after that point. It showed Mr. Morse lifting an apparently limp Mr. Jackson by his collar and belt and slamming his head onto the trunk of a police car. Mr. Morse then punched the teen in the head after he said Mr. Jackson grabbed his crotch.

Mr. Morse has been fired, but Officer Darvish remains on the force.


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