Judge questions jury foreman in LAPD case

The Associated Press
Friday November 24, 2000

LOS ANGELES — The foreman of the jury that convicted the first three officers to go to trial in the city’s police corruption scandal told a judge Wednesday that he did not engage in misconduct that could void the verdict. 

An alternate juror claimed that foreman Victor Flores told her and another alternate before testimony in the trial that he already thought the officers were guilty. 

California Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor ordered the special hearing to determine whether the jury improperly discussed the case. 

Flores confirmed he had lunch with the alternate jurors, but denied he made remarks about the case and said he kept an open mind throughout the trial, reaching a verdict only during deliberations. 

He said they talked about their food and what each one did for a living. 

The alternate juror, who has been identified as Wendy L. Christiansen, 30, did not testify Wednesday. She has said that other jurors repeatedly expressed negative opinions about the defendants and their attorneys. 

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

Connor said she could not determine who was telling the truth in the conflicting testimony of Flores and Christiansen. She had not been able to contact the third juror present at the lunch. 

The judge said she would continue trying to reach the third juror, and set another hearing on the matter for Dec. 15. 

Defense attorneys maintained that the convictions must be overturned if the other alternate confirms Christiansen’s account. 

On Nov. 15, the jury convicted Sgt. Brian Liddy, Sgt. Edward Ortiz and Officer Michael Buchanan of conspiracy to obstruct justice and other crimes involving the framing of gang members. Officer Paul Harper was acquitted of all charges. 

The trial was the first 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 and nearly $30 million in settlements have been reached. Estimates suggest it could cost the city as much as $125 million. 

During the Wednesday hearing, defense attorney Barry Levin also questioned whether the jury was confused by a police report they later determined was fabricated. 

The report alleged that two gang members intentionally struck Liddy and Buchanan with a pickup truck. The gang members, Levin said, were charged with attempting to inflict bodily injury. 

Defense team interviews with jurors indicated they thought the officers, who were not hurt, tried to charge the gang members with inflicting actual injuries. 

Connor said she found that claim “troubling” and urged the defense team to provide more details at the next hearing.