White officers guilty of murder

TWO WHITE police officers were last night convicted of murdering a black motorist in a case which both raised further alarming questions about police practices in the United States and heightened already fraught racial tension.

The policemen were found guilty of second-degree murder after a court heard how Malice Green, 35, died following a struggle on the streets of Detroit in which he was clubbed on the head with police torches. An autopsy showed he suffered at least 14 blows to the head, and had part of his scalp ripped off.

The attack happened in November, six months after riots erupted in Los Angeles when a state court acquitted four white police officers involved in the notorious Rodney King beating. Two of them have since been sentenced to 30 months in prison for civil rights violations.

The Green case immediately prompted allegations that his attackers were motivated by racial hatred, although no evidence to support this was presented to the court, which was presided over by a predominantly black jury and a black judge. The policemen were acting under the supervision of a black officer, who has yet to be tried for neglect of duty.

Veteran officers Walter Budzyn, 47, and Larry Nevers, 53, who were dismissed after Green's death, were convicted after an 11-week trial before two separate juries. They face the prospect of prison terms of between 20 years and life when they are sentenced in October.

Prosecutors told the court that Nevers repeatedly smashed the blood-drenched Green over the head with his torch after Green refused to reveal what he had in his hand. They claimed Budzyn began the confrontation, which happened outside a Detroit 'crack house', by leaping into Green's car and hitting him on the hands and head.

Nevers broke down in tears as the verdict was read and there were cheers from a small crowd outside the court. A third officer, Robert Lessnau, 33, was acquitted on a charge of intent to do great bodily harm.

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