The savage beating of 36-year-old Detroit native Malice Green (pictured) at the hands of White police officers Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn during a routine traffic stop occurred on November 5, 1992. On this day that same year, months after the L.A. Riots were sparked by the Rodney King case, the officers were charged with second-degree murder. Green’s assailants — five additional officers — were joined by another White officer in the beating, and Freddie Douglas was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
The details of the case sounded sketchy from the start, with the officers reporting that Green refused to leave his vehicle and produce a vial of crack cocaine – which allegedly sparked the struggle. Beating Green about the head with heavy flashlights, he would be rushed to a nearby hospital and died the night of November 5. The case had Detroit on edge, with residents being patently aware of what happened in Los Angeles and the potential for an explosive response.
An autopsy revealed that Green died from blunt force trauma and as many as 12 to 14 blows to the head.
Yet, the officers had an expert say Green perished due to the stress on his heart from drug use.
In December of that year, Officer Douglas had his charges dismissed as the trials of Nevers and Budzyn raged on. A flamboyant Black female attorney, Kym Worthy, served as the lead prosecutor in the case. The officers were charged together after being refused a change in venue. It was known by the policemen’s defense team that they had little chance in swaying the minds of the predominately African-American public in the Motor City.
On August 23, 1993, both Nevers and Budzyn were found guilty in the murder of Malice Green, possibly averting the potential for outcry in Detroit. Later, the city awarded the Green family a civil agreement of $5.25 million. The officers would appeal their cases in the late 1990s, with Budzyn’s charge being lowered to involuntary manslaughter. He was released in 1999.
Nevers was initially denied appeal, but because of health concerns, he served out the rest of his sentence at home in 2001. The attorneys for Nevers and Budzyn successfully used a courtroom break showing of the Spike Lee-directed film “Malcolm X” for racially influencing the case in favor of the prosecution.
Although this case doesn’t garner the discussion of the Rodney King trial and verdict, it does note the incredible lengths police officers will go to, to protect their interests and abuse the privilege of authority. Malice Green may not have been a model citizen, but he did not deserve to be beaten to death. The officers had the advantage in both strength and numbers and could have averted this tragedy altogether by showing restraint.