McDuffie Case

Identify and describe the torts in this case.
The torts committed in this case consist of murder, false imprisonment, robbery, and damage to property. On the part of the policemen, they have committed murder and violated the rights of McDuffie. On the part the groups of black during the riot, they can be made liable for multiple murders because of lives lost. In addition, the recorded amount of property lost in the riot was $80 million. On the part of McDuffie, his criminal liability only extends to violation of traffic rules. The policemen, on the other hand, are liable for murder of McDuffie and the murders that have been caused during the riot. This is because their acts were the cause of the riot.

2.    Present the argument of negligence against the police officers.

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The police officers who were involved in the apprehension of McDuffie committed murder and violated his rights. Based on the facts of the case, the crime committed by McDuffie was minor because it was merely related to traffic violation. According to the facts, he was chased by the police because he speeded. It was found out that his license expired and he had been issued ticket already (Meltzer). In his hoping to escape, he sped away but he surrendered after. However, enraged by their anger, the policemen beat McDuffie and struck his head with flashlight. Significantly, the policemen tried to cover- up their crime and so they placed the situation in a way that the event would appear as an accident. However, many had seen the real event. The policemen, indeed, had been negligent in handling the case of McDuffie. The policemen did not arrest McDuffie according to the protocol. They were overshadowed by their anger to the blacks. Through the facts, it is clear that the policemen murdered McDuffie, attempted to cover the crime they committed and violated his basic rights.

Present the argument in defense of the respondent in this case.
In hearing the case against the policemen, it is quite controversial that the jury acquitted the respondents. In the case of Officer Hanlon, who assisted in the concealing of the crime, his case was nullified because he was not informed of his right to remain in silent and right to counsel when investigators conducted polygraph examination on him. The mere violation of the basic right of the accused would be an enough defense to win a case. On the other hand, the other defendants in the case could raise provocation to excuse them form conviction. It can be remembered that when the police warned McDuffie, instead of willingly surrendering to the police, McDuffie ran away. McDuffie was already resisting arrest intentionally. Moreover, when chased, he made an intimidating comment. The provocation of the part of McDuffie, the intimidation, and the intentional escape has angered the police officers. McDuffie was the primary cause of his death as he did not willingly submitted himself to law. Hence, the respondent could claim provocation as a defense. Another necessary defense that the respondents could claim is the issue on jurisdiction. Notably, the event was witnessed by many residents, some of them belongs to the minority race. Impartiality of the jury’s decision is not assured because the event has been made known in the state.

Present the argument for the plaintiff in this case as it relates to the issue of liability.
With regard to liability of the police department to McDuffie, the surrounding facts are enough to establish the claim. First, the murder was proven to have been caused by the intentional and merciless beating of the police officers and not by accident. Second, the police officers intentionally concealed the crime. Lastly, the basic civil rights of McDuffie were violated. As to the murder case, there are no major or serious grounds for the police officers to employ force and grave physical injury in arresting McDuffie. McDuffie was not armed or assisted by companion during the arrest. In fact, he was surrounded by police officers. In other words, there was no reason for him to resist arrest because he is overpowered.

As to concealment of crime, the police officers intended to escape from their responsibility to McDuffie. They made the situation appear as if an accident happened. However, investigation and witnesses proved otherwise. With this intentional concealment of crime, they added insult to the injury they have caused.

Finally, as to violation of McDuffie’s basic rights, the police officers were not in proper performance of their duty to arrest. There is even no evidence to show that McDuffie was informed of his right to silent and to counsel when arrested. Instead, they injured him and caused his death. Furthermore, from the facts of the case and the personality of McDuffie, the beating was prompted by racial discrimination. McDuffie violated only minnow crime, but because he is an African- American, the police officers injured him as they were enraged by anger. From the abovementioned, the police department has liability to McDuffie and his family.

Present the argument defending the liability issue for the police department in this case.
Being the perpetrators of the death of McDuffie, the police officers can be held liable. However, their liability can be disputed on three grounds. First, the injury was provoked and McDuffie was in the commission of crime. Hence, the police officers were in the legal and valid exercise of their duty during the arrest. Second, the death of McDuffie was caused by hitting his head by one of the officers. However, through investigation loopholes, the case against Hanlon was dismissed. The evidence presented showed that the Cuban minority was the person behind the sticking of the flashlight. It was not the beating that caused the death of McDuffie. Thus, it follows that liability of the police officers extends only to physical injury. Significantly, the police department is not liable for the riot that was caused by the decision of the jury. The decision of the jury was beyond the control of the department. They merely presented the evidences and the prosecution failed to establish liability. Hence, the department should not shoulder the liability.


Meltzer, M. 12 August 2007. The Arthur McDuffie Riots of 1980. Miami Beach 411. Retrieved October 27, 2008, from


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