Deliberations due in police beating trial Ex-officers charged in man's death

August 13, 1993|By Chicago Tribune

DETROIT -- Former Police Officer Larry Nevers was a tough but aging rogue cop bent on preserving his street image and prevailing over Malice Green by "the assertion of raw and naked power," a prosecutor told jurors yesterday.

In so doing, Mr. Nevers committed "the ultimate abuse of force," said Assistant Wayne County (Mich.) Prosecutor Douglas Baker in closing arguments in Mr. Nevers' murder trial.

"Malice Green died so Mr. Nevers could make a point: that he is still this effective officer . . . someone to be feared and respected. . . . "

But Mr. Nevers' own lawyer portrayed him as a respected and experienced officer responding to a life-threatening situation.

"In Officer Nevers' mind, it was a life-and-death struggle. The man had his hand on his gun. He was able to stop that," lawyer John Goldpaugh said of the 23-year police veteran.

Mr. Green, 35, an unemployed steelworker, was clubbed with steel police flashlights outside a Detroit crack house Nov. 5.

Mr. Nevers, 53, and his partner, former Officer Walter Budzyn, 47, are on trial, charged with second-degree murder. Two juries, one for each man, are hearing the case.

Closing arguments were to be heard today by Mr. Budzyn's jury. Both juries are expected to begin deliberations tomorrow.

The violence began when Mr. Green refused to reveal what he held inside his clenched hand to Mr. Budzyn. Mr. Budzyn said it was rock cocaine; witnesses said it was a scrap of paper. Mr. Nevers said it turned out to be a set of keys with one held between the knuckles as a weapon.

Mr. Goldpaugh said prosecutors failed to prove that Mr. Green died from the flashlight blows. Defense lawyers have produced three experts who said cocaine and adrenalin played a leading role in Mr. Green's death. Prosecutors produced two who said it did not.

"Officer Nevers got up there on the stand and said, 'Yeah, I hit the guy five or six times.' But he didn't hit him hard enough to kill him. 'I used the force I thought necessary to stop him from getting my gun,' " Mr. Goldpaugh quoted his client.

Mr. Baker, the prosecutor, dismissed debate over the role cocaine may have played. "It's one of those things that is what it appears to be," he said of Mr. Green's death. "There is no mystery to it. The man was beaten to death, pure and simple."

Mr. Baker also assailed Mr. Nevers' claim that he beat Mr. Green to prevent him from taking his gun. He noted that Mr. Nevers made no mention of such an attempt by Mr. Green during the incident or later.

Mr. Nevers' case was not helped by witnesses who testified that they did not see Mr. Green fight back. Mr. Goldpaugh sought to discredit the varying accounts of civilian witnesses, most of whom were admitted crack cocaine users with arrest records.

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