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Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

Civil rights panel to review hanging case

July 31, 2003

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— The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said Wednesday it would look into the hanging of a black man because of lingering suspicions in his poor, rural town that he was lynched.

A judge ruled at an inquest Tuesday that Feraris "Ray" Golden, 32, committed suicide. Among the evidence: the bedsheet used as a noose came from home; he had no injuries that would indicate a struggle; he was heavily drunk and also had cocaine in his system; and he was probably depressed, telling his grandmother: "Nobody loves me. I'm going to kill myself."

But Bobby Doctor, director of the commission's Southern regional office, said he would interview family members and investigators about persistent rumors that Golden's hands were tied behind his back.

The commission, which investigates allegations of discrimination in the justice system, will conduct a preliminary investigation before deciding whether to dispatch an investigative team. It would refer its findings to the U.S. Justice Department for a possible criminal investigation.

Golden was found May 28 hanging outside his grandmother's house. Some relatives initially said it was impossible he had committed suicide, claiming Golden was found with his hands tied behind his back.

But police videotape footage shown at the inquest showed the body dangling from a noose, Golden's arms swaying at his sides.

Sevell Brown, the Florida president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called for the civil rights commission's intervention after the judge's ruling Tuesday.

The rare public inquest failed to quell suspicions among some blacks in the rural, largely segregated town of Belle Grade, where about half of the 15,000 residents are black and many are poor.

Brown told a newspaper that the organization founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. found "serious inconsistencies" during testimony.

He would not elaborate on the inconsistencies but said the group would take up the matter beginning Saturday at its annual meeting in Memphis, Tenn.

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