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Commission refers hanging case to Justice Department

Friday, August 29, 2003

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said Thursday it is asking the Justice Department to investigate the hanging death of a black man because of persistent rumors he was lynched by law enforcement officials.

The commission criticized police for automatically treating the death of Feraris "Ray" Golden as a suicide, and raised questions about whether Golden could have climbed a tree on a rainy night and with a blood-alcohol level more than four times the legal limit.

It also noted rumors that Golden was killed for dating the daughter of a white police officer, and that there were bumps on his head.

Calls to Justice's public affairs office in Washington went unanswered late Thursday.

Golden, 32, was found hanging from a tree in his grandmother's yard the morning of May 28 in the farming community about 45 miles from West Palm Beach.

Rumors of a lynching immediately spread, including one that Golden was found with his hands tied behind his back.

Rumors persist even though a judge last month ruled the death a suicide. Autopsy photos showed a single bruise around Golden's neck, and video from a police car arriving at the scene showed Golden's arms dangling at his sides.

Testimony showed Golden to be a troubled, unemployed father of four behind in his child-support payments who frequently joked about killing himself. Relatives also acknowledged the bedsheet used as a noose came from Golden's home.

But Jin wrote that Golden's family remains dissatisfied with previous investigations. Calls to the family went unanswered Thursday.

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