Arthur McDuffie, whose name has beenturned into a battle cry by members of Miami's black community, had some minor brushes with police before the incident that resulted in his death.
He once had his driver's license suspended for writing a bad check to cover a appear in court for driving with outdated license plates.
Early Dec. 17, 1979, according to police reports, Mr. McDuffie led police on a high-speed chase through Miami after running a stoplight.
The initial police report said Mr. McDuffie's motorcycle hit a curb, injuring him. Despite his injuries, according to the report, he assaulted one of the officers. As other officers arrived, they tried to subdue Mr. McDuffie (an ex-marine who had a black belt in karate). A later police report said instead that four officers stopped Mr. McDuffie at an intersection after a brief chase.
The chief county deputy medical examiner said Mr. McDuffie's injuries resulted from a beating with long, heavy, blunt objects.
Four officers were charged Dec. 28 in Mr. McDuffie's death. A fifth was accused of being an accessory after the fact. Three other officers, in exchange for immunity from prosecution, agreed to testify for the prosecution.
At the trial in Tampa, Fla., defense attorneys argued that the policemen had to use force to subdue Mr. McDuffie. One defendant admitted hitting Mr. McDuffie, saying the suspect was trying to take his revolver.
The prosecution tried to prove that the officers beat Mr. McDuffie and then tried to cover up the beating by claiming his injuries were sustained in a traffic accident. The state's case was based largely on the testimony of the officers who were granted immunity.