Arthur McDuffie
Arthur McDuffie was an African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 who died as a result of injuries suffered at the hands of five white
White American
White Americans are people of the United States who are considered or consider themselves White. The United States Census Bureau defines White people as those "having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa...

 Miami-Dade police officers after a traffic stop was conducted. He had led the officers on a high-speed chase on his motorcycle, and was driving with a suspended license. The officers were acquitted of charges in McDuffie's death. One of the worst race riot
Race riot
A race riot or racial riot is an outbreak of violent civil disorder in which race is a key factor. A phenomenon frequently confused with the concept of 'race riot' is sectarian violence, which involves public mass violence or conflict over non-racial factors.-United States:The term had entered the...

s in United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 history broke out in the black neighborhoods of Overtown and Liberty City in Miami after the officers' acquittals. The federal government tried Veverka, one of the officers, on civil rights violations in 1980; he was acquitted. In 1981 Dade County paid McDuffie's family a settlement of $1.1 million after it filed a civil lawsuit against the officials.


In the early morning hours of December 17, 1979, police officers pursued 33-year-old McDuffie, who was riding his 1973 black-and-orange Kawasaki
Kawasaki Heavy Industries
is an international corporation based in Japan. It has headquarters in both Chūō-ku, Kobe and Minato, Tokyo.The company is named after its founder Shōzō Kawasaki and has no connection with the city of Kawasaki, Kanagawa....

 motorcycle. McDuffie had accumulated traffic citations and was driving with a suspended license. He was a working man, father and military veteran. He led police on an 8-minute high speed chase through residential streets at speeds of 80+ MPH.

The officers involved in the chase (Ira Diggs, William Hanlon, Michael Watts), and Alex Marrero later filed a report claiming McDuffie had run a red light and led police on an eight-minute chase. They said that, after McDuffie lost control of his vehicle while making a left turn, he attempted to flee on foot but was subdued by the officers. McDuffie was accused of kicking Diggs during the scuffle. By the end of the struggle, the officers had cracked his skull "like an egg", in the words of the prosecutor at the trial.

McDuffie was transported to a nearby hospital, where he died four days later of his wounds. The coroner's report concluded that he had suffered multiple skull fracture
Skull fracture
A skull fracture is a break in one or more of the bones in the skull usually occurring as a result of blunt force trauma. If the force of the impact is excessive the bone may fracture at or near the site of the impact...

s after being struck by a blunt object.


The four officers were indicted for manslaughter, as well as tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. Marrero's charge was later elevated to second-degree murder. Acting director of the Dade County
Miami-Dade County, Florida
Miami-Dade County is a county located in the southeastern part of the state of Florida. As of 2010 U.S. Census, the county had a population of 2,496,435, making it the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States...

 Public Safety Department, Bobby Jones, suspended the officers on December 27. He said that since 1973, the four had been cited in 47 citizen complaints and 13 internal affairs probes. In addition, two other officers, Herbert Evans, Jr. and Ubaldo Del Toro, were charged with being an accessory to the crime, as well as fabricating evidence. The six officers were fired less than a month later.

Due to the volatile atmosphere in Miami, which presiding judge Lenore Carrero Nesbitt
Lenore Carrero Nesbitt
Lenore Carrero Nesbitt was an American lawyer and judge.Nesbitt was born in 1932 in Miami, Florida. She received her Associate of Arts degree from Stephens College in 1952, her Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University in 1954, and her LL.B. from University of Miami School of Law in 1957...

 had termed a "time bomb," the trial was shifted to Tampa
Tampa, Florida
Tampa is a city in the U.S. state of Florida. It serves as the county seat for Hillsborough County. Tampa is located on the west coast of Florida. The population of Tampa in 2010 was 335,709....

. Jury selection began on March 31, 1980. The trial was heard by an all-white, all-male jury. The lead prosecutor of the case was Janet Reno
Janet Reno
Janet Wood Reno is a former Attorney General of the United States . She was nominated by President Bill Clinton on February 11, 1993, and confirmed on March 11...

, later the U.S. Attorney General .

The defense said that the police were under attack. Officer Charles Veverka, who received immunity in exchange for his testimony, disputed this. Veverka said that officers hit McDuffie 10-12 times with clubs and fists until he was motionless. They attempted to cover up the attack by using a police car to run over the motorcycle and claim that McDuffie's injuries were the result of an accident.

Hanlon, who also had received immunity, testified that he had choked McDuffie to the ground with his nightstick before Marrero began striking the man. He said that Marrero struck McDuffie with a flashlight. Hanlon said that he was the officer who had driven over McDuffie's motorcycle. The only defendant, Alex Marrero, took the stand.

The three men who gave sworn statements were Veverka, Hanlon, and Meirs. Hanlon was charged with felonies, while Veverka was charged with a civil rights violation, and Veverka was acquitted.

On April 25, the officer Mark Meier was given immunity. He testified that the high-speed chase had slowed to 25 miles per hour when McDuffie shouted, "I give up." Meier said that 3-8 officers surrounded McDuffie, pulled off his helmet, and proceeded to beat him with nightsticks. He said that Marrero struck him at least twice. Because the murder weapon was not identified due to inconsistent witness testimonies, the jury determined there was sufficient reasonable doubt to acquit Alex Marrero.

One medical examiner said that McDuffie's injuries were the equivalent of falling out of a four-story building. Ronald Wright, Dade County's chief deputy medical examiner, said McDuffie had suffered the worst brain damage he had seen in more than 3,600 autopsies.

On May 8, Del Toro was acquitted. Judge Nesbitt
Lenore Carrero Nesbitt
Lenore Carrero Nesbitt was an American lawyer and judge.Nesbitt was born in 1932 in Miami, Florida. She received her Associate of Arts degree from Stephens College in 1952, her Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University in 1954, and her LL.B. from University of Miami School of Law in 1957...

 saying the state had failed to prove its case. Nine days later, a jury acquitted the remaining officers on all 13 counts of the indictment after less than three hours of deliberation.


The verdict resulted in opponents going into the Miami streets; approximately 5,000 people attended a protest at the Downtown Miami
Downtown Miami
Downtown Miami is an urban residential neighborhood, and the central business district of Miami, Miami-Dade County, and South Florida in the United States...

 Metro Justice Building. By 6:00 pm, the protest had turned into a riot; three people were killed and at least 23 injured, with several of those in critical condition.

The Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 governor Bob Graham
Bob Graham
Daniel Robert "Bob" Graham is an American politician. He was the 38th Governor of Florida from 1979 to 1987 and a United States Senator from that state from 1987 to 2005...

 ordered 500 National Guard troops into the area; despite his doubling their number the next day, the riot continued. Twelve more people were killed and 165 were injured as violence spread to the Black Grove, Overtown, Liberty City, and Brownsville sections of the city. In addition, fires, burglaries, and looting increased, with police reluctant to enter some areas due to sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....


By the third day, the violence declined as the city imposed an 8 pm to 6 am curfew, coupled with a temporary ban on the sale of firearms and liquor. Graham sent in an additional 2,500 National Guardsmen to the 1,000 already in the city.

Local police barricaded parts of Coconut Grove to warn motorists away from the area. Drivers reported having rocks thrown at them. The city came to a standstill as smoke billowed from areas on fire. Reports of sniper fire at freeway drivers also stopped traffic until the guards could restore order.


On May 22, the former defendant Michael Watts was rushed to the hospital. He had tried to commit suicide by breathing carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide , also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly lighter than air. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities, and is thought to have some normal...

. The police said his attempt was related to a romantic breakup and not his trial.

The federal government declared Miami a disaster area, and authorized the release of funds to allow the city to rebuild. The following day, the five officers who had been acquitted were reinstated in their jobs. The Miami Fraternal Order of Police had threatened a walkout unless the officers were reinstated.

Days after the verdict, the U.S. Justice Department said it would seek indictments of the policemen for federal civil rights violations. On July 28, 1980, a federal grand jury indicted Charles Veverka, despite his having received immunity from the original charges filed by the state during the first trial.

The federal trial was held in San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States of America and the second-largest city within the state of Texas, with a population of 1.33 million. Located in the American Southwest and the south–central part of Texas, the city serves as the seat of Bexar County. In 2011,...

, after Atlanta and New Orleans asked that it be moved from their venues due to its controversial racial aspects. Journalists referred to the case as "The Trial That Nobody Wants." On December 17, Veverka was acquitted in the week-long trial after the jury deliberated for more than 16 hours. Minor incidents of violence were reported in Miami after the verdict was announced.

On November 17, 1981, Dade County commissioners agreed to a $1.1 million settlement with McDuffie's family in exchange for their dropping a $25 million civil lawsuit against the county. Of that amount, the family's legal team received $483,833, while McDuffie's two children each received $202,500, and his mother, $67,500.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.