Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 Summary
In the conventional sense, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 has no plot or story line at all. The work consists of a series of monologues, the words of real persons interpreted by Smith in her dual role as playwright-performer. The monologues are edited redactions made up from interviews that Smith conducted in the aftermath of the events that seriously divided the Los Angeles community in the wake of the Rodney G. King beating on the night of March 3, 1991.
The playwright, to remind both her audiences and her readers of the issues, provides a "Time Line" in production playbills and the published work. The Time Line is a chronological outline of the important events referenced by the various voices in the play. It is that which provides the "story." The major occurrences from that Time Line are summarized below.
1991: March 3-15
On March 3, after stopping King for speeding, members of the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) severely beat and arrest him. George Holiday, a nearby resident, captures the episode on video tape and distributes it to television networks, which repeatedly show it in broadcast news. Three days later, LAPD Chief Daryl F. Gates calls the King beating an "aberration" as the community clamors for his resignation. King is released from custody, and on March 15, four LA policemen—Sergeant Stacey Koon and officers Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno—are charged with a felony and arraigned for their part in the beating.
1991: March 15-26
On the night of March 15, fifteen-year-old Latasha Harlins, an African-American girl, is shot to death by Korean-American Soon Ja Du in a South LA liquor outlet. On March 26, on the same day that the four officers charged in the King beating enter an innocent plea, Soon Ja Du is arraigned for murder.
1991: April 1-July 22
On April 1, Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley empowers a special commission under Warren Christopher to investigate the LAPD. Three days later, the LA Police Commission places Gates on leave, but he is immediately reinstated by the City Council. On April 7, Gates takes disciplinary action against the four indicted officers, firing Wind and suspending the other three. The Christopher Commission releases its report on July 9, recommending that Gates and the whole Police Commission resign. On July 16, the Police Commission orders Gates to reinstate his assistant chief, David D. Dotson, whom Gates had forced to step down after Dotson complained of the chief's failures to discipline police officers. About a week later, Gates announces his intention of retiring in 1992.
1991: July 23-November 15
On July 23, the Second District Court of Appeal orders a change of trial venue for the four LAPD officers charged in the King case. Some two months later, the prosecution in the trial of Soon Ja Du begins presenting its case. On October 11, the court finds Soon guilty of involuntary manslaughter. A month later, on November 15, she is sentenced to five years' probation, four-hundred hours of community service and a $500 fine.
1991: November 26-29
Judge Stanley Weisberg names Simi Valley in Ventura County as the Rodney King trial venue. Three days later, on November 29, LAPD officers kill a black man, leading to a confrontation with about a hundred housing-project residents in the Watts area of LA.
1992: February 3-April 29
Pretrial motions precede the actual trial of the four LAPD officers in the Rodney King case, which begins with opening arguments on March 4, before a jury lacking a single African-American. Two weeks later the prosecution rests its arguments. On April 13, Briseno admits that King was never a threat to the arresting officers. Meanwhile, on April 16, Willie L. Williams is named as Gates's successor as police commissioner. On April 23, the King-trial jury begins its deliberations, returning a verdict on April 29. The officers are found innocent, except for one charge against Officer Powell for the excessive use of force. The verdict, which results in a mistrial,...
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