The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 28           August 18, 2003  
Black man may have
been lynched, say
Florida civil rights groups
(front page)
MIAMI—Robert Doctor, director of the southern region of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, decided July 30 to launch an inquiry into the death of Feraris “Ray” Golden. A 32-year-old Black man, Golden was found hanged from a tree next to his grandmother’s house in Belle Glade, Florida, on the morning of May 28. Doctor’s decision was prompted by persistent statements by civil rights groups and some of Golden’s relatives that he was lynched because he was dating the daughter of a white cop. The federal inquiry was announced one day after a local inquest judge ruled that Golden committed suicide.

The Belle Glade NAACP has demanded an investigation into Golden’s death. According to Associated Press and the Miami Herald, some in the town said that Golden’s hands were tied behind his back when he was found, which would be proof of a lynching. “When you get this kind of allegation, a young man’s hands tied behind his back, you have to take it seriously,” Doctor said. Police contend that a video camera attached to a patrol car showed the man’s hands were dangling and not tied when they found him.

Sevell Brown, the Florida president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), called upon the Civil Rights Commission to intervene and conduct an investigation after Circuit Judge Harold Cohen ruled that Golden had committed suicide. He said the SCLC had found “serious inconsistencies and inadequacies” during the testimony at the inquest. According to an Associated Press report, Brown said witnesses did not come forth because they felt uncomfortable calling attention to Golden’s relationship with a white police officer’s daughter.

Belle Grade is a town of nearly 15,000 people, 40 miles west of Palm Beach. The population is more than half Black and largely agricultural. The town is dominated by sugar plantations and cornfields. It is reportedly among the poorest and most segregated towns in Florida. In the mid 1980s, Belle Grade drew international attention for having the highest AIDS rate in the country. Many residents tell stories of police brutality. African-Americans there have a median income lower than residents of 96 percent of U.S. cities.

According to the medical examiner’s report, Golden’s blood had a high alcohol content to the point of being “legally” drunk. Golden was also allegedly found to have traces of cocaine. Many residents argue that if this is the case it weakens the cops’ claim that he got a sheet, climbed to a tree limb 10 feet off the ground, and hung himself. They also noted that the cops who came to the scene didn’t check for other footprints and didn’t examine Golden’s shoes to determine if he was brought to the lynching site. The police story was first reported as a “suicide in progress” when they received a call from family member Henry Drummond. Daniel Paige, a lawyer working with the NAACP, questioned the investigation and the suicide ruling.

He noted that everyone called to testify came believing that was the only possibility. “Don’t close out the case and just say suicide,” he said. “That’s not an inquest. That’s a quest. It’s a quest to show that it was a suicide.”  
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