Thin Lines

Courtroom artist Mona Shafer Edwards shares her sketches of the second Rodney King trial

By the time Mona Shafer Edwards took her seat inside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and Courthouse for the federal trial of four LAPD officers in the beating of Rodney King, the courtroom artist had been sketching cases for KABC-TV News for nearly a decade. This one was different. “It was a hive of activity,” she says. “A strange feeling came over that trial because of what had happened in the city.”

After the verdicts were read—Officer Laurence Powell and Sergeant Stacey Koon were found guilty; officers Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno were acquitted of all charges—Edwards went on to cover other high-profile trials. “Human beings are flawed,” she says. “People make mistakes. But we could get along if we try.”

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Rodney King sits at the counsel table. “He was like a deer in the headlights,” says Edwards.

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Officers Theodore Briseno, Timothy Wind, and Laurence Powell stand trial. “All these people’s lives just fell apart after this,” says Edwards.

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Sergeant Stacey Koon (the supervising officer during the arrest of Rodney King), Laurence Powell, Powell’s wife (praying behind him), and Powell’s father.

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Theodore Briseno’s attorney, John Barnett, with Laurence Powell’s attorney, Michael Stone. “I loved Michael Stone’s attitude. He was fun to draw,” says Edwards.

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Judge John Davies. “He had a real flair,” says Edwards. “People either liked him or didn’t. He kept total control in his courtroom.”

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George Holliday, the witness who videotaped the Rodney King beating, holds up the cassette. “He was really nervous and not particularly well spoken,” says Edwards. “I think he felt that he was given the short shaft of the media attention. After everybody got his tape, he was pretty much ignored.”

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Rodney King points to the iconic picture of his injuries. “This is one of my favorite drawings because the witness is pointing to his own face,” says Edwards. “It was just kind of strange.”

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Rodney King. “All of these posters were displayed like it was a medical anatomy class,” says Edwards.

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Ira Salzman, the lawyer for Sergeant Stacey Koon, shows a document that details officer training.

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Expert witness Sergeant Charles Duke demonstrates a headlock on attorney Ira Salzman. “Duke knocked Salzman off his feet,” says Edwards. “I think he wasn’t anticipating it to be that strong!”

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An officer demonstrates for the jury how to properly perform a power swing with the baton.

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An officer demonstrates for the jury how to properly perform a power swing with the baton.

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Timothy Wind demonstrates how he would use the baton.

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Michael Stone demonstrates “cord cuffing” for the jury.

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Theodore Briseno can be seen stomping on Rodney King in the famous video Edwards says has been seen “five trillion times” in the courthouse. Here he is giving testimony with his boot.


See more of Edwards’s sketches here