Alternative Truths: The Construction Of Narratives In The Rodney King Trial


  • Soyeon Kim Boston College



Rodney King Trial, Rodney King, Race, Law, Police Brutality, LA Riots, Jury, Court, Trial


This paper explores the exploitation of narrative, character, and ideology to reconstitute the video evidence in the trial of Rodney King, in which four LAPD officers were indicted for violently beating the defendant. Throughout the trial, the prosecution chose to let the video evidence of the beating speak for itself to allow the jury to judge the police officers as liars rather than combat the narrative of the defense. Conversely, the defense reconstructed and reconstituted the form and content of the video, illustrating an ‘alternative truth’ through the use of metaphors, rhetorically identifiable characters, and professional discourse. In the end, the narrative of the defense—which depended on the stereotypical depictions of the dangerous, animalistic black man (Rodney King) and the righteous heroes (the white policemen)—resonated with the racist ideology of the Simi Valley jurors, and, more broadly, with white America.

Author Biography

Soyeon Kim, Boston College

Soyeon graduated from the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in African and African Diaspora Studies. After witnessing a case of police brutality and volunteering with underprivileged communities, she concentrated her studies on issues of social justice, especially those related to racism. Soyeon’s research has been focused on the rhetoric of race in law and media studies, and she was a co-facilitator for Dialogues on Race at Boston College. This fall, she will be serving as an urban education fellow at Great Oaks Charter School in Newark, NJ for a year before pursuing a graduate degree in social work.




How to Cite

Kim, S. (2016). Alternative Truths: The Construction Of Narratives In The Rodney King Trial. Elements, 12(2).