Florida fears racial unrest as policeman's retrial opens: The shooting of a black motorcyclist has echoes of the Rodney King case

THE LONG-DELAYED retrial of a Miami police officer, William Lozano, accused of killing two young black men in 1989, finally opened yesterday, amid fears across Florida that a not-guilty verdict could trigger unrest both in Miami, where the killings occurred, and in Orlando, the reluctant host to the trial.

The case has strong echoes of the Rodney King trial which led to last year's street rioting in Los Angeles.

Miami was engulfed in three days of rioting after the incident itself in January 1989, when Mr Lozano, 33, shot and killed a black motorcyclist who was fleeing from another police officer in a mostly black area of the city. His passenger also died in the ensuing crash.

Though Mr Lozano, an Hispanic American, was originally convicted on two counts of manslaughter, an appeals court overturned the verdict on the grounds that the jury in the case may have been influenced by a concern to avoid triggering fresh riots.

It is an especially sensitive case for Florida because it touches not only the grievances felt by the black community, but also on long-standing tensions between blacks and Hispanics. In Miami, Hispanics account for 50 per cent of the population, whites for 30 per cent and blacks 20 per cent.

During months of argument over the best means of ensuring fairness for Mr Lozano, the location of the retrial was altered no fewer than eight different times by the courts, with Miami, Tallahassee - the State capital - and Orlando as the three possibilities.

The city of Orlando, an overwhelmingly white bastion of conservatism - and a favourite holiday destination for thousands of Britons - has let it be known that it is far from delighted finally to have won the honour of staging the new trial.

The six-member jury, picked last week, is made up of three whites, two Hispanics and one black. Arguments in the case may take several weeks.

Mr Lozano, whose lawyer, Roy Black, defended William K. Smith in the celebrated Florida rape trial in 1991, still believes that last year's Los Angeles riots have eliminated the chances of a fair trial. 'Anybody in the jury will be thinking that if they absolve me, there will be burning and disturbances and millions of dollars lost,' he has said.

Black leaders in Miami have been deeply critical of the decision to move the trial to Orlando, which they have branded the 'Simi Valley of Florida' - a reference to the southern California suburb where a jury acquitted the four police officers accused of beating Rodney King.

While there was a strong leaning towards keeping the trial out of Miami, because of the local racial volatility, critics suggest that in the end it is only the make-up of the jury that matters - particularly since the proceedings are to be carried in their entirety live on television.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing