In Oakland, a heavily African American city plagued by spiraling crime and a record murder rate, the yearlong trial of three veteran police officers accused of beating and framing black suspects has set residents, civic leaders and police on edge, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The trial of the officers – nicknamed the Riders – has lasted so long that one juror and the wife of one of the defendants became pregnant and gave birth. The jury, deliberating since May, has become the longest-sitting jury in local history, and it has sent scores of notes to the judge seeking judicial guidance.
Jurors returned to court last week deadlocked on 27 of 35 charges, but Alameda Superior Court Judge Leo Dorado ordered them to return to their task – causing one female juror to burst into tears. Frayed tempers among the panel had already prompted Dorado to warn against “name-calling, rudeness or antisocial behavior.”
With a decision expected within days, police worry that not-guilty verdicts could spark riots.
At issue are the actions of a clique of four graveyard-shift police officers who, over 10 days in the summer of 2000, made a series of allegedly illegal arrests in the city’s tough northwest corner. The case has been compared to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart corruption scandal.
All the officers have been fired. Three are being tried on charges including kidnapping, falsifying arrest reports and assault. They have been accused of beating a handcuffed suspect in the face, stomach, back and legs. They face lengthy prison terms if convicted on even some of the charges. The alleged ringleader of the Riders, Frank Vazquez, 46, has fled and is being sought by the FBI.