LOS ANGELES, JAN. 20 -- Attorneys for three defendants in the Rodney G. King case described King as a "PCP-crazed giant" who invited his beating, and one lawyer said today that the defense will try to put the black motorist on trial.

Previewing a strategy that could inflame racial tensions in the city, the attorneys asked U.S. District Judge John G. Davies in court papers Tuesday to require prosecutors to prove that the Los Angeles police officers beat King because he is black.

Attorney Harland Braun, who helped to write the motion, denied that he was trying to incite further violence. He said the attorneys were trying to show the officers' state of mind on the night of the beating March 3, 1991.

"It may appear that we're trying to crucify Rodney King, but that would not be useful," said Braun, who represents Theodore J. Briseno. "It's how Rodney King appeared to the officers that's important."

But he added that King's criminal record would be at issue and said, "I guess in a sense we are putting Rodney King on trial."

In their motion, attorneys for Briseno, Timothy E. Wind and Stacey C. Koon said the force used against King after a traffic stop was reasonable and should not be second-guessed.

Briseno, Wind, Koon and Laurence M. Powell are accused of civil rights charges in the King beating, videotaped by a nearby resident and broadcast nationwide.

King's attorney, Milton Grimes, told the Los Angeles Times that the characterization of King was a "sickening attempt to influence the public through the media with statements that have absolutely no foundation."

He said King never tested positive for PCP.

The officers' acquittal on all but one charge in their state trial sparked three days of rioting last spring in Los Angeles that caused nearly $1 billion in damage and killed more than 50 people.