Rodney King never asked to be famous. The video that captured his beating at the hands of four LAPD officers plunged an ordinary man into an extraordinary situation. So how did he navigate his new life in the public eye? How did he think about what had happened to him? And how would his struggles affect the trial of the four officers who beat him?
Season 6 of Slow Burn is produced by Joel Anderson, Jayson De Leon, Ethan Brooks, Sophie Summergrad, and Jasmine Ellis.
Mixing by Merritt Jacob.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
A quick warning: this episode has some explicit language on Sunday March. Third, ninety ninety one on trees, here Everett woke up to a phone call from her aunt and she was like trees. I have a problem: Glenn got beat up by the police are Tracy is without doubt a king, the mother of Rodney Glenn King, every one in the family called him goin. They beat him up, really bad ass. She thought she made it a criminal offence attorney on trees. Here was a college student and connected the black leaders around away she reached out to a friend who was the president of the Black Business Association and
ass a dinner and he was like yeah. You know cause Johnny Cochrane, I'm he says he. I just tell him, you know Tyrone repurchase, you know tell Johnny. I have no money the next day a Monday on trees. He spoke with someone Cochrane's office, the risk
option is told her. The cochrane was in the middle of a trial. He wouldn't be available for several weeks later that same day, a tracy I got another phone call from kings,
as she says, on trees, I'm gonna go to China.
news today they have somebody videotaped. The police
men's beating Glenn, so she went there
they showed her. The video that
George holidays have built it, and that evening I came over to the house. Does she called me from works is like,
come over come over, they're gonna show Don T be, am Wendy
came on television, it was just
a surreal moment. I somehow
I cut all emotions I as I was. What
in it, and it was like it was just. I was watching something that wasn't real like. Maybe it wasn't Glenn, it was just happening.
And I knew that I had to be strong because everyone else has just lost it. After seeing the two countries, you knew the family really needed a lawyer. The Johnny Cochrane thing hadn't worked up, but it does. The king told her that that wasn't a problem afterwards. Might he says you don't have to worry? I found an attorney Stephen a lemon
We are an eight, an attorney at law, my job in eighteen. Ninety one was to look after the interests of my then client Rodney King learned was a personal injury.
lawyer, but ninety ninety one he'd been practising in California for nearly twenty years. He got connected the kings mother by tv reporter the day after George Holidays Tape aired on the local news, learning drove to the counties, detention centre and the San Fernando Valley. He met Rodney King and the visit,
Patient area his leg was cast that he was on crutches. His face was a massive bruises black and blue. His face was distorted because of his patient bones that were fractured havens, amass real
so I just had let your mom hired me to represent you. It's just like that
is it you can call me Glenn ice. Everyone cause me Glenn, learned, whipped out his camera and started. Take
pictures he wanted more evidence of what the police had done to king, a deputy, told them to stop. He said you
Take pictures in your costly that I said I
and everywhere bow and take pictures to make sure nothing,
who happens to him on his way down the central jail so that I left the jail
and I had a retainer with wine making signature on our side. Looking at the sky. Thinking, while why me- and then I thought to Myself- why not me every point is the tardy in America would have liked to represent Rodney Glenn king. He was at the centre of one of the first incidents of police brutality to be captured on video. It seemed like it would be simple tool when a big settlement from the city of LOS Angeles and the LAPD, the lawyer, who did that we get a lot of publicity and a big pay out lemons. First, a moment in the spotlight came when king got release from Minsk
jail and downtown allay learned and one of his colleagues waited for king outside the jail along with the crowd of reporters. I had all these microphone struck in front of my face. What he can do about this? What about this? What about that learning love the attention? His father had been a comedian and he was a natural showman.
when king came out of the jail in a wheelchair learned was ready to present him to America forgot something that's Alarmin from Rome.
That's king lemon one at the world to see how badly his client had been beaten. That port with simple it was less clear what story to tell about what kings beating meant not only about the LOS Angeles police Depart
but about race and racism in America, blackened latino activists and civil rights groups held up. The king tape is clear evidence of something they ve been arguing all along that law enforcement, and particularly the LAPD committed violent acts of racist brutality, lemon a white man representing a black climb.
Didn't make. That argument is to keep isn't make you make it areas, though they did it just because he was a black man. This is slobber, I'm your host, Joel Anderson.
rotten king didn't go out for driving on the night of March thirty nineteen. Ninety one looking to become a household. He became a public figure because the worst
moment of his life had been called on to everybody, had some
to say about what happened to run the king, his lawyer, his family activists, politicians, the king himself, mostly stay quiet, it was difficult to figure out
what he was thinking and autobiography publish more than twenty years later. King road, I have never tried to be anyone other than me
and although that is often nothing to be proud of our refused to be a phone or to pretend that I'm something I'm not so
It rightly king navigate his new life in the public eye. What did you think about what had happened to him?
and how would you struggles, affect the trial of the officers who beat him episode for life
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Here's one king right means younger brother. We grew up and out to data California. We lived fifty fifty religious life and my dad was that religious buddy abide by whatever my mom impose. So that's where the other fifty was one in Rodney were to us
four boys born to Ronald and Odessa King, the family.
Settled in a middle class neighbourhood, just north of LOS Angeles near the foothills of the sand. Gabriel mountains. That's the reins you can see just beyond the rose ball
Ronald King had worked as a day laborer in Louisville, where he grew up, but he needed to find more stable work to support his family.
California is not like Kentucky. You know it was more of an education.
wired and Ali basically knew how to do was born
so my mom got together and they started.
a business cleaning, various homes and locking
Glenn, Deal Burbank Hollywood and some business offices in sweeps and that's how they
much made a live in for us Rodney in another brother help their father on overnight shifts often on school nights. I believe is that is that's medical building, where he would take write me a lot because ronicky anodyne buffer net buffer week. We know that heavy piece of equipment, so he took rally a lot more than he took me and rightly kings autobiography he wrote daddy, would have us cleaning and waxing them floors every damn night
He always had a bottle with him and a radio here sit down and say, get to work. Runny daddy with Ankara Holly, that's Johnny Kelly, one or Friday kings, best friends,
so it was tough to really deal with his dad hidden everytime. I saw me with strong
You know I've never seen him ass ever. He says that Ronald's alcoholism, field of violent streak do talk about those beatings and stuff. Like earlier talked about a beaten to death gave him oh yeah, you can argue it.
rocky gauge. The telegram advocating reason would have you. No enemy says that type of situation need either. We we are group, didn't weapons, but riding whip is remorse, warlike, beacons, Rodney, difficult, family life hurt him at school, tired from buffering force all night. He struggled to stay awake in class and keep up with studying. He was placed in special education classes which took a toll on his confidence. He wrote that made me feel terrible kind of worthless. Like I wasn't a normal kid. He dropped out in a senior year of high school, but Roddy had some things working in his favor. He was friendly, he was handsome and he was a great fishermen. He also exalted baseball a sport. He called his great love rightly was getting. Look daddy that took
semi my league at Brookside Park, and he has some scouts that was wanting to give him a chance. You know Nedda semi pro level. I already know you gotta make from no problem. When school in baseball, didn't work out. Ride me started working, can construction and got a union card. He had two daughters to support. One with the former high school girlfriend
another with his then wife, did Nedda Rodney, wasn't a home body. When he wanted to get out. He would call up his friend John,
Kelly, a mere running like bunny glad you know you saw him, he saw me, you know we hung type. Who did that? Would it look like for you? They love the fishing. We did that fishing was a big thing for us. There was I get away. There was anything we had to do. You know we have our backs
made in him and tenders and on a text of you to get our scientists. They were couple homey who didn't go. Looking for trouble, Rodney Johnny like to listen to music smoke and drink forties kings, preferred brain was slit. Smart liquor buys early twenties king had grown to six foot three and about two hundred and twenty five pounds the size of a college linebacker one king says that kept him from having trouble with
gangs of their neighbourhood and that too many people and again one of the really fight they was a big guy. They really want that rational beings, like a gentle giant, you know a bit guide, is real sought. Easy goes off, spoken
very friendly, although when angered he did have a temper, that's a cuz sometimes turned violent in July, one thousand nine hundred and eighty seven when he was twenty two king was arrested after his wife said he hit her and tampered with her car. He was convicted
misdemeanor battery and placed on probation. There was another arrest, two years later, when he was accused of robbing a convenience store
in his autobiography king said he went into the store intending to still call cuts and bread. There's some dispute about what happened. Next, the stores owner said the king was carrying
higher iron king said it was the other way around that the owner had attire Ire Johnny Kelly,
explain to me a big fishing all day was hot. He had the money to pay for it. Just at the guy was bare
weird and when except their foes them so analysis. I saw it key sided. Thigh king fled the store and drove away, but the police tracked down. Ten days later, he pledged guilty to run
hurry and was sentenced to two years. The store owner later said that he'd hit king first and then he wasn't mad at him. King spent ten months and state custody first in a fire fighting camp near Mount Shasta and then in the California Correctional
weather in Susanville. He was released on parole in December. One thousand nine hundred and ninety king was still a role a few months later, when he led police on a high speed chase
from my understanding from right me. He was speed
No doubt about that. You don't want to stop me.
Ass. He just hey. I got a job working for the union
trucking in human. He want to go to jail. He wants to eat and go to work which was going to be on that Monday. Jenny Kelly says the king told him that he been confused by what the offer
were shouting at him. He was shot command to him at the same time you were heating, would it take in turn it up and use shouted multiple commands. You know some,
it went about. He was trying to get up and Russia officer know you hit him with that. Taser. You made him get up and you kept doing this big dude hitting the trigger
can a game with him. You know, like everyone else in America, Kelly Watch George Holidays Tape, but he was one of the few people who understood how king could take all that punishment. He was used to that abuse as a kid. So that's why he would get up also, and he could he could take it and he would get up. You know
in that pretty most came from his tat in an interview years later, King accepted blamed for the chase, but not for what happened after he pulled over a wrong number one stop the car thing was on them. Now, let's take a break.
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slash slow burn. Fourteen for up to fourteen free meals and three free gifts, hello, fresh America's number, one milk- it before the video of his beating went national, rightly king,
was virtually unknown to anyone beyond his family and friends. He was a twenty five year old parolee, who work part time dodge a stadium. His only public record could be found in a handful of arrests reports that all changed overnight. After that press conference outside the minced central jail king went to Steve Lemons Office where they got their lemon had imposed for another set of photographs and one of them he standing shortly before white wall. His faces grotesquely swollen, almost completely round and the whites of his right eye, a red from a broken blood vessel, their purpose
bruises all over us torso, an upper arms and scars on his right cheek and under his right, breast Stephen Ermine, and those of the picture that went all over the world. This is it before he got cleaned up.
then repaired by my doctors and the days that followed reporters hounded king and his family members, people from as far away as Australia reached out and offered to send him money. It seemed like everyone in the world had seen that video and had an opinion about it. That included the president of the United States, George H, W Bush. Those terrible scenes stir us all to demand an end to gratuitous violence and brutal
quality of everyone Congress, one person who wasn't ready to grapple with that video was ruddy king. He was just in recovery mode and they really had a s knocked out of him. So I mean I
I thought you would like it to be alive, I think has concentration was, I am asked up learned, had booked king into a hotel under an assumed name, to give them some much needed privacy. It was at that hotel days after kings were
from jail when family and friends realise what bad shape he was in his cousin on trees. You spoke with him on the phone while he recovered at the Beverly hills. Ramada s like I'm bleeding bladders coming out of me. Blood is coming out of me.
all over its coming. You said it was coming out of out of him when he
Your name is
having bleeding in the ears and the nose and stuff like that,
Eventually he had to go back to the hospital kingly
to have a metal plate, Putney Skull, which had been damaged in the beating when he was about to headed the surgery. Lemme got a phone call from LAPD Chief, dear ok,
and he s in first of all, MR learn, I want to thank you
for the way you ve been having this, and then I
Have I to express my thoughts and apologise to MR king. The chiefs call he caught learned by surprise. He put his hand over the phone receiver, so he could speak
the king privately, and I said to him I said running: I said you were gonna phone. I got, I got chief gates and, if only once apologize,
would you have anything to say to him and he could really talk
the jaws wired he yet on the kiss, my ass, so I went back with chief,
I said you know, I think he appreciates
your attention and when he comes out of anesthesia I'll, tell him your thoughts. Thank you can continue to suffer after he was discharged from the hospital. He was in chronic pain and his injuries made it difficult for him to see,
can think. He was also beginning to realize that millions of people had seen him on the ground totally helpless, getting puzzled by the police, Johnny Kelly
It was just an embarrassment to see these cops
jump on him and does a fair all everything he could think about. With a boost to the phase the boost to the ribs they're, just
business. If he was have nightmares about it, you know so
he was in bad shape. King was growing apart from a second wife and decided. It would be a good idea for Kelly to move and to help with security, but he was more than just a body.
where'd. You get to the point where running need somebody within twenty four seven, not for his protection, but to protect him from a safe, sometimes run would go to night.
So my stream and having kicking waken up, you knew he would recognize you.
be with him all day. He can fall asleep. Wake up. He wouldn't recommend you I mean: there's was situated were made, him got into fights yeah, so it was bad Steve, Lerman, eventually, both came out of the hotel and it's a massive apartment, complex and Ellis Miracle mild district. It was a good place for king to hide from all the people trying to track him down in that apartment.
We got an up close look at the data day. Reality of rotten kings life must not his face with now and others I began to feel in. There was no taste in his mouth. So yet it didn't like they say, Limited beat the taste out EU did beat to taste out of it. He did
It tastes, pepper, hot, south. Anything and I found out was eaten one day and he was put noticed, pepper, Onest class him out the house moment. You he's, I can't taste to shit anyway worthwhile doctors that king had permanent brain damage,
and murmured hard a psychiatrist, freedom for depression, the damage to his looks with particularly hard for king to deal with. He took a lot of pride in his look. He cared about his face. He cared about his here. It cared a lot about his teeth and he did
or by his appears, what he looked like an honor typist up, but he knew he s an issues and he was trying to deal with the best he could you know king was terrified of going out in public and getting recognised. He wore wig of dread. Locks to disguise himself
AIDS rank. He was trying to medicated serve to get away from paying, and so that's why you start drinking so heavy. In an interview years later, King talked about his addiction hogging test trickle down. You know what it was all in. Some of the drinking over the years was
embarrassment to me? I can walk and run issues. You know
beer would he went through. So to me, I felt like ok,
this. Gonna have the paying you know. All I can do is let you know go for it. You know what I who was just support system during all this time and who,
U, I who did you talk to about a man run as Mr Brok
really can talk to nobody
Jesus man here, Sir
we just may arise when king and Kelly did venture outside Kelly says they usually went to the same
place. We live in a law office, we will go.
Every day to laughs everyday. He no doubt
Margaret was explaining to us.
Get in trouble and how to do certain things.
how to carry yourself and all kind of stuff. You know it was Steve learn
had his own reasons for encouraging king to keep a low profile
every nine I worried every night I worried about
A lawyer, stealing am I worried about. Having to him, I worried about him
Frisking, going out again with king is his client. Lemon was now at centre stage and
sending Rodney King met, making a lot of big decisions about legal strategy and about how to tell the story of what happened a king or march third. Ninety ninety one. Ninety two
on kings case learning new. He wouldn't present the beating as a racist acts. He was aiming to get the best possible settlement from the city and thinking about what kind of appeal would work best on White Jim
is because I thought that of his civil case went to trial. People didn't want to hear about that. The black thing in consequence guilt at a white people for the beaten crises black. They beat him because he is rightly king. Bullshit we're talking about rainy kings, he's got the man was black, thus does not give
and he was a law student and community organizer in south central. So you got his lawyer once Strip in mothers. Blackness goes about race, so expose the racism in the UK.
That's what a good lawyer for the community would have done. Kings cousin on trees here says the family. Faced a lot of pressure to find a black attorney to represent him lotta black, professed.
As you know, they felt some type away like you know. Why would you all have this caucasian man?
sending you when you know this is a black thing right here. You know this happen to a black man. How will these people represent?
You know Rodney in any type of way. If you needs representing how I will this fight work, you know privately, the king family was divided about how to present his case. The LA times reported that soon after
He was arrested. He told his family enlargement that the office is it taunted him with a racial slur. He later confirmed it had been the word Nigger kings ought told the newspaper that she urged him to go public with that
allegation, but kings mother Odessa overruled her. She was a devout Jehovah's witnesses who is opposed to political action.
That's one of the reasons. Why should we want to be around anyone? Michael sharpen cause? She didn't believe in making public statements about things like this in the months after he got attacked by the police. King rarely spoke for himself instead still broken from his beating. He lit his mother call the shots and allow learned to do the talking. King showed no interest in becoming the face of campaigns against police brutality or being part of the larger movement for racial justice. Will sharpen states to protest calling on LAPD Chief Darrow Gates to resign? King was nowhere to be seen. Jesse Jackson, let a similar march and king again wasn't involved. King also didn't show up when one hundred and thirty students, a cow state, North Rich, held a rally on campus
Dermot givens refused to believe the king was making his own choices, people in the community of the activists. We see this. We we had a feeling. We knew what was going on is nothing we can do he's got his lawyer. They going to get paid
They shut rightly killing off. He had now has no access to black folks, it's hard to know what precisely Rodney King was thinking in the months after the beating or if he was ever thinking straight at all, it's very clear that he wanted to be left alone. It's also possible that he felt things about the world about what had happened to him, that he didn't want to say a public hearing.
interview, Steve Lerman gave in March nineteen. Ninety one guinea has only public statement about the beating Rodney King said he did not think it racially motivated
His lawyers said he was asked about it again today. He said I'm scared to say. Yes, I'm scared. I dont want to start a riot. Let's take a break.
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Music or you can listen ad free by joining, wondering, plus and wondering app on March twenty six nineteen. Ninety one Steve Lerman File, the claim against the city of LOS Angeles on behalf of Rodney King a claim is a direct request for damages. It doesn't go through the court system luminous for eighty three million dollars the city attorney's office rejected that request. Lerman responded with the federal lawsuit seeking an unspecified mountain damages any urged his client to stay out of trouble while that suit worked its way through the court system. My greatest worry
and I mean my greatest fear was that the parole department would violate him and he got violated and sent back to two state. Prison thou be the end of a case bitterly them just be the end. Just three days after Lerman felt that lawsuit king got pulled over by shares deputy. He was cited for driving with unexpired registration, tinted windows,
and not caring his license. He was issued a warning and allowed to go to weeks later king got into more serious trouble a new dimension to the last time she was police brutality case tonight, the unarmed black motorways.
who was beaten in that incident has had another run in with the law. According to the police, king was driving when he solicited sex worker at an intersection, ease Hollywood. Here's the police version, two might officers in Hollywood, sign
spected male prostitute, dressed as a woman get into a car. The man got into kings car and they drove into a dark
leave behind a nearby apartment, complex, a pair of LAPD Vice cops, followed king in an unmarked car. When the undercover offices approached him, king put his car into reverse and sped away almost hitting one of the officers in his autobiography king wrote.
He was a cop and I thought he was trying to rob me a short time later. King flag got a different pair of cops and pulled his car over when the officers found out who they'd nabbed they consulted with their superiors and Daryl case, was looked in, released later. That night gates insisted that he was treated like any other suspect, here's TIM Fowler
kings, parole officer. Well, they turn a case over to the attorney general's office to investigate the attorney General General investigate I dont extensive investigation. It was clearly too.
Hey any individual has the right to protect themselves and run away
He had no internal running them now. You know therefore, no charged with
there was no pearl valleys and there, the general public assume this guy getting away with murder lets. You know it was getting. There was no violation. It was a rare stroke of good luck for king a disaster narrowly averted, but the pressure on him was about to get even more intense as a civil suit got under way. Prosecutors were building a criminal case against the four LAPD officers who beaten him. All four were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force to them. Stacy Coonan Lawrence PAL were also charge with filing a false report, one of the biggest questioned the prosecutors,
I was whether to put Rodney king of the witness stand. Here's Terry White, he was led prosecutor in the case against the for police officers. Learn was the only actress I had a key Iraq as chairman
I have no access to it. So
when you just have to be low gentle little easy with him.
Please I felt that way. Otherwise, you would just taking away period white knew it might look bad if king didn't testify, but he also worried about what would happen. If king did you got very agitated will we saw oppress them about details,
They might have done across examination. He got fairly agitated, not really loud, but you could tell he's gettin sore upset, which we didn t he just didn't,
then why went through my mind was world. This is what's gonna. This is what it will be like on cross examination. I can have him blow off across the emotion people's up across the admiration. I might go home cases over Steve Worm and told me that he thought king, which struggle of the witness stand, especially well.
suffering the effects of a traumatic brain injury. They reality is I I I I I didn't think it would be good,
because you'd be at a disadvantage because cod,
every he was challenged. Besides lemon thought, the DA's office didn't need kings, testimony
surely the videotape alone would be enough to secure a conviction. Rightly king never acts to be famous
at the lowest moment of his life in an encounter that broke his body and damaged his brain. He was pushed into the very centre of the public eye king disappointed just about everyone, his failure or refusal to make any kind of public statement about race or racism irked a lot of black activists. His lawyers were frustrated that he couldn't stay out of trouble. The prosecutors decided he'd be useless as a witness, more likely direct their case than to win a jury. Sympathy. The only people king didn't let down were the ones who knew him before the beating the ones like his cousin, who called him going. He was
never enough for any one. At that moment in time he found himself work. He could not meet the standards of anyone
So he he just took these blows
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Transcript generated on 2021-11-24.