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Detroit officers go on trial in beating case

Two police officers accused of beating a motorist to death continued to chant "Open your hand!" and strike the dazed, bleeding man with flashlights even after he dropped a scrap of paper, a prosecutor said Friday.

Malice Green died 15 minutes later.

"It was simply the exercise of raw power over one human being by others," Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Doug Baker told jurors during opening statements in the officers' trial. "That's what it's . . . all about."

Baker said the beating began when Green, who was sitting in the passenger side of his car going through the glove compartment for his car registration, refused an order to open his clenched hand.

But defense lawyer Michael Batchelor said the case against his client, former Officer Walter Budzyn, is riddled with contradictions and lack of proof.

Budzyn, 52, and his former partner, Larry Nevers, 47, are charged with second-degree murder in the Nov. 5 death of Green.

An autopsy showed Green died of at least 14 blows to the head. Witnesses say he was beaten with metal flashlights.

A third man, former Officer Robert Lessnau, 32, is charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm.

The three are on trial together but separate juries were seated for Nevers and Budzyn, and Lessnau's fate will be decided by Detroit Recorder's Court Judge George W. Crockett III.

Batchelor said the officers confronted Green because his car matched the description of one allegedly involved in armed robberies in the inner-city neighborhood.

When Green's hand finally did open, a rock of crack cocaine _ not a piece of paper _ tumbled out, Batchelor said.

A witness will say that Green kicked and struggled with Budzyn, he said. Moreover, Budzyn's flashlight had no blood, and the only blood on Budzyn's body was his own from a previous injury.

Budzyn, Nevers and Lessnau are white. Green, 35, was black. No testimony during a preliminary hearing indicated race was a factor in the beating.

The three officers, plus their supervisor, who is black, were fired shortly after the beating.

"It's hard to hear all them lies by that black attorney," Green's mother, Patricia Green, said of Batchelor during a court break.

The black supervising officer, Sgt. Freddie Douglas, faces a misdemeanor charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm. No trial date has been set.