Ramparts jury alternate heard no improper statements by foreman

(LOS ANGELES) -- An alternate juror in a critical Los Angeles police corruption trial testified on Tuesday that she heard no improper statement by the jury's foreman about the guilt of the officers convicted in the case.

The account by alternate Paola Rojas seemed to contradict an allegation by another alternate juror, Wendy L. Christiansen, who testified that the foreman said he believed the officers were guilty during a lunchtime conversation on the trial's first day. Christiansen's allegation has thrown the convictions into doubt.

Under questioning by Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor, Rojas said she recalled eating lunch with Christiansen and the foreman, Victor Flores, but said there was no talk of innocence or guilt.

''If there would have been, I would have mentioned it to you,'' Rojas told Connor.

Flores testified last week that she never spoke of the defendants' guilt.

Defense lawyers say the alleged misconduct is serious enough that they will ask Connor to throw out the convictions of police Sgts. Edward Ortiz, 44, and Brian Liddy, 39, and Officer Michael Buchanan, 30. The officers are the first to face criminal charges in the corruption scandal centered in the police department's Rampart Division.

Buchanan lawyer Harland Braun said the judge's decision would come down to a credibility contest between Christiansen and the other jurors. Braun questioned Rojas' veracity, saying that Rojas stated in an affidavit that she did not remember if Flores said the officers were guilty.

Braun said he believes Rojas ''now feels guilty that she didn't come forward.''

''How do you explain the other alternate?'' he added.

Also in the hearing, Braun said five jurors have submitted sworn statements in connection with defense allegations that jurors reached their verdict after misreading evidence in the case. Defense lawyers said that jury mistake is also grounds for voiding the verdict.

The officers were convicted on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, perjury and filing false police reports on allegations that they framed two gang members for trying to run down Liddy and Buchanan with a pickup truck.

A hearing on the jury misconduct allegation and the alleged misreading of evidence is expected on Dec. 15.

In a related development Tuesday, two former LAPD Central Division officers pleaded not guilty to charges they kidnapped a homeless man in 1997, drove him to the Los Angeles River and beat him.

Alternate juror says there was no improper talk of guilt in police corruption trial
Matt Krasnowski
November 28, 2000, Tuesday
Copyright 2000 Copley News Service
Copley News Service
November 28, 2000, Tuesday
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