LA Riots

It’s been 10 years since the Rodney King riots struck LA. I remember the day well. I had been a bailiff in a military court martial all day. A foolish young man got busted doing and selling drugs at work. He even took his two-year old son in the car to buy drugs one time. At about 9 AM he plead guilty to the charges (there were three if I remember correctly). The judge went over each and every one and explained what it meant and what could happen if he plead guilty. After each one the young man acknowledged his understanding and plead guilty. After that was over (it took an hour or so) the judge recessed to decide if he would accept a guilty plea. After a while the judge returned and announced that he would accept a guilty plea and the trial proceeded to the punishment phase. Lawyers from both sides argued their point about the amount of punishment that would be appropriate. When that was done, the judge gave the panel instructions and sent them off to deliberate. That took a couple of hours and we were back in court. The young man got a pretty stiff penalty I think. When the trial ended it was about 5:30 PM. My head was spinning. I thought when someone plead guilty that was it. I figured we’d be out of the courtroom by lunchtime. The care the court took in punishing this young man really got me thinking about justice. As I left the courthouse I walked past a break room with a TV announcing the Rodney King verdict. I shook my head and thought, “It sure looked like they were using excessive force to me. But if the court found them innocent, then they’re innocent.”

As I left the base that evening, I was passed by a police convoy hauling weapons down to LA to help in controlling the riots. The image of Reginald Denny being drug from his truck and getting cracked in the head still sticks in my head.

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