BY WILLIE REID AND ROSA GARMENDÍA
DETROIT - The recent release of the second cop convicted of the murder of Malice Green has provoked sharp reactions here.
"This is a slap in the face for people who live in Detroit," said Keith, an auto worker who did not want his last name used. "It's as if people in Detroit are not competent enough to make a judgment."
Neatra Massey, Green's oldest daughter, said the family had expected both officers to be freed. "They're getting out. My daddy's dead," she said. "They're going to get what they want no matter what."
On December 31 the city of Detroit woke up to the news that U.S. district judge Lawrence Zatkoff had overturned the conviction of former Detroit police officer Larry Nevers for second degree murder and ordered his released from prison. Five months earlier, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Walter Budzyn. Both former cops were convicted in 1993 for the brutal beating that killed Malice Green. Nevers was serving a 12-25 year sentence. His partner Budzyn has been granted a new trial following an early release from his 8-18 year prison sentence.
Green, an unemployed Black steelworker, was killed in 1992 by savage blows to the head from police flashlights after cops stopped his car in a working-class neighborhood on this city's southwest side. Ambulance technician Mithyim Lewis testified at the trial that he saw Green hanging out of his car window, his body almost touching the pavement, "..He was covered with blood, his entire face, his hair, appeared to be soaked with it."
Zatkoff's approval of Nevers' routine writ of habeas corpus appeal is unusual. Fewer than 1 in 100 such requests are normally granted. In his ruling, Zatkoff wrote that "the guilt or innocence of petitioner Larry Nevers .. is not at issue in this case. What is at issue is the question of whether (Nevers) was afforded his constitutional right to a fair trial."
Zatkoff's justifications for his ruling include:
The trial should have been moved from Detroit because of pretrial publicity.
The movie Malcolm X, which opens with video footage of the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police, should not have been shown to jurors as entertainment during a break. "The movie Malcolm X was particularly harmful because of the undeniable parallels between the images and words of that film and the conduct alleged against the defendant(s)," Zatkoff claimed.
Jurors knew Nevers was once a member of STRESS (Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets), an undercover police unit responsible for the killing of 20 people in the early 1970s. Former members of STRESS reportedly raised funds for the defense of the cops who killed Green.
Jurors knew of the cops' highly publicized preparations for a possible riot, and so feared that would be the result of an acquittal. This was a theme of the pro-cop forces who organized to defend Nevers and Budzyn at the time of their trial.
Nevers' lawyer, Neil Fink, called the judge's opinion "a terrific piece of work." Nancy Nevers, his wife, who has campaigned for his release, said, "This should have happened five months ago. I'm just so thrilled that we finally found some justice today."
A swastika was discovered January 1 on the Green memorial portrait. The phrase "Nevers rules" was also scrawled on this mural, painted at site of his murder. The mural was quickly restored.
Both the Wayne county prosecutor Doug Baker and Mayor Dennis Archer feel the pressure from the continuing anger about this case. "[The new trials] shouldn't be held anywhere else but the city of Detroit," said Archer, who added that "justice will be served" at the new trials of Budzyn and Nevers.
People have begun to visit the Green memorial site. They and others feel differently. "Both of those cops should stay in jail," said Jimmy Ellis, a visitor at the site.
"They already had a fair trial," said Detroit artist Bennie White, who painted the mural of Green.
Rosa Garmendia is a member of the United Food and
Commercial Workers. Willie Reid is a member of the United Auto
Workers. Both are from Detroit.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home