Police searched computer files after fatal beating, trial told

July 07, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

DETROIT -- As Malice Green lay dying in the back of an ambulance, the Detroit police officers accused of beating him went to their in-car computer to search repeatedly and in vain for information that he was driving a stolen car or wanted for a crime.

But the two fired officers accused of murdering Mr. Green knew two hours earlier that he was driving his own car. And they should have known that a similar-looking car reported stolen was already located, according to testimony yesterday from a police expert who analyzed computer records.

Sgt. Robert Marcinkowski was one of five witnesses to testify in an unusually fast-paced day in the murder trials of former police partners Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn and former officer Robert Lessnau, who is accused of assaulting Mr. Green. Mr. Green, 35, a black unemployed steelworker, died after being beaten by white police officers with flashlights Nov. 5.

Other witnesses yesterday included a bystander who insisted a white police officer told him at gunpoint to "keep my black ass on that side of the street" and a man who admitted that while his wife was hospitalized, he had lent her car to a girlfriend, then reported it stolen.

Sergeant Marcinkowski read computer dispatches sent between police cars driven by Officers Nevers and Lessnau in the hours before and after the incident with Mr. Green.

The testimony could undercut a claim made by Officer Budzyn's defense lawyer, Michael Batchelor, that Officer Budzyn stopped Mr. Green's car in the course of regular police duty, after being told to look out for a red car involved in a robbery.

Mr. Green's car was a 1984 red Mercury Topaz, similar in appearance to the 1989 Ford Tempo reported stolen. But Sergeant Marcinkowski said Officers Budzyn and Nevers had gotten computer messages four hours before they questioned Mr. Green that the Tempo had been located and was under surveillance. At 8:10 p.m., someone in the Nevers-Budzyn car ran a computer check of Mr. Green's license plate, and it came back clean, he said.

It was after 10 p.m. when Officers Nevers and Budzyn pulled up behind Mr. Green's car outside a drug house and began questioning him. By 10:21 p.m., he was injured and bleeding profusely, according to earlier EMS testimony.

According to computer records, as Mr. Green was being taken by ambulance to Detroit Receiving Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the Nevers-Budzyn car made a third check of the license plate, twice requested records of any warrants or arrests on Mr. Green and then asked for a full criminal history.

In addition, someone in the car driven by Officer Lessnau sent a computer message to Officers Budzyn and Nevers, asking: "What's the bad guy's name?"

An earlier witness, Byron Gibbs, testified that Officers Nevers and Budzyn drove him around Nov. 4 looking for his wife's red Tempo after he flagged them down and reported it stolen. He testified yesterday that the car was in fact not stolen but that he had lent it to a woman while his wife was hospitalized and she had not returned it.

"I panicked," he said about making the false report.

Gregory Sims ended his second day of testimony yesterday. Mr. Sims was a passer-by shortly after the beating. He said that as he approached the scene, a white police officer ordered him at gunpoint to "keep my black ass on that side of the street."

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