LOS ANGELES, April 19 -- A federal jury awarded Rodney King $3.8 million Tuesday as compensation for being beaten up by four white Los Angeles police officers in an incident that shocked the nation and threw the glare of publicity on the amount of force police use to subdue suspects.
The federal court jury deliberated four days before reaching a verdict.
King's attorney Milton Grimes had asked jurors to award the black motorist $15 million for physical injuries and mental suffering, arguing the beating was racially motivated and that the officers called King a 'nigger' and 'killer' while they beat him 'like a dog.'
Grimes told reporters King, who was not present for the verdict, was 'somewhat pleased with the verdict.'
'He was not disappointed,' Grimes said. 'He believed jury analyzed the evidence in the case.'
Grimes said he was 'expecting more,' but noted the $3.8 million was three times more than the city had offered to settle the case. He anticipated being awarded more money in the punitive phase of trial.
Another King attorney, John Burris, said the verdict far exceeds any award to a black person who has been beaten by police and not been killed or lost a limb.
'This is a substantial victory and sends a clear message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated,' he said.
The panel, comprised of six whites, two Hispanics, one black and one American Indian, heard testimony from 38 witnesses, including King.
King contends he has suffered lasting effects from the beating that shocked the nation when the graphic videotaped was shown on television.
Doctors representing King testified he suffered brain damage from the flurry of baton blows, and continues to have vision problems, headaches and visual problems and cannot resume his job as a construction worker.
King said he has racked up $200,000 in medical bills and has been forced to hire a bodyguard because of death threats since the March 3, 1991, beating that sparked debate on police brutality, particularly against minorities.
But doctors for the city testified that King did not suffer brain damage and can return to work. The city assumed liability for the beating and suggested the jury award him $800,000 for lost wages, medical expenses and mental suffering.
'I thought it would be a whopper,' said Michael Stone, attorney for Laurence Powell, one of the officers who beat King. 'It's a little bit high for the city and a little low for the plaintiffs. I wish it would all go away.'
City Attorney Jim Hahn said, 'It's considerably less than the plaintiffs had asked for. This was a case we had tried to settle for the last three years. The jury basically settled the case for us in the last four days. We think, all in all, this is a satisfactory result.'
The jury must now determine whether Powell and Theodore Briseno, Sgt. Stacey Koon, fired rookie Officer Timothy Wind, former Chief Daryl Gates and 11 other law enforcement officers at the scene should pay punitive damages as punishment for their roles in the incident.
The four officers were acquitted of King's beating in a state trial. Those verdicts touched off three days of rioting that left nearly 60 people dead and caused $2 billion in damage.
Koon and Powell, who have since been fired, were convicted in a federal trial of violating King's civil rights and are serving 30-month prison sentences. Briseno and Wind were acquitted.
Briseno wants to rejoin the Police Department. His case is pending.