Michael Griffith (manslaughter victim)
||The topic of this article may not meet Wikipedia's notability guideline for biographies. (March 2010)|
Michael Griffith (1963–1986) was a 23-year old man who was born in Trinidad and who lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, who was killed after being hit by a car in Howard Beach, Queens, New York, on December 20, 1986. Griffith was chased onto a highway by a mob of white youths who had beaten him and his friends. Griffith's death was the second in a string of three infamous racially motivated killings of blacks by white mobs in New York City in the 1980s. The other victims were Willie Turks in 1982 and Yusuf Hawkins in 1989.
Friday, December 19, 1986 
Late on the night of Friday, December 19, 1986, four black men, Michael Griffith, 23; Cedric Sandiford, 36; Curtis Sylvester, 20; and Timothy Grimes, were riding in a car when it broke down in a desolate patch of land on Cross Bay Boulevard near Broad Channel. Three of the men walked about three miles north to seek help in the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens, an insular, mostly white community. Sylvester remained behind to watch the car. They had an argument with some white teens who were on their way to a party, and after the argument, left.
Saturday, December 20, 1986 
By 12:30 a.m. on the morning of the 20th, the men reached the New Park Pizzeria on Cross Bay Boulevard. After having a quick meal, the men left the pizzeria at 12:40 a.m. where they were confronted by a group of about ten white men who were with the group they had earlier confronted. Racial slurs were exchanged. A fight ensued, and Sandiford and Griffith were seriously beaten. Griffith, while trying to evade his tormentors, ran in front of a moving car, driven by the son of a police officer, and was killed. His body was found on Shore Parkway at 1:03 a.m.
The killing of Griffith provoked strong outrage and immediate condemnation by then Mayor of New York Ed Koch. On 22 December three arrests were made of local teenagers; the accused were Jon Lester, Scott Kern and Jason Ladone. The driver of the car that struck Griffith, 24-year old Dominick Blum, was not charged with any crime and was cleared by a grand jury in May, 1987.
To protest the killing of Griffith 1,200 demonstrators marched through the streets of Howard Beach on December 27, 1986. In the week leading up to this march, Al Sharpton made threats to residents, but on the day of protest, he had people march peacefully. A heavy NYPD presence kept angry locals, who were screaming at the highly emotional crowd of marchers, in check.
Other leaders in the black community condemned the protests for being racist in themselves. Michael Meyers, then adjunct professor of political science at Mercy College, published an Op-ed in the New York Times blasting the hateful thinking behind the proposed marches and boycotts urged by black leaders like Sharpton. Meyers went on to found the integrationist group New York Civil Rights Coalition. 
Legal proceedings 
The Griffith family, as well as Cedric Sandiford, retained the services of Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, two controversial attorneys who would earn infamy for their role in the Tawana Brawley affair the following year. Maddox raised the ire of the NYPD and Commissioner Benjamin Ward by accusing them of trying to cover up facts in the case and aid the defendants.
Governor Cuomo intercedes 
After prosecutorial witnesses repeatedly refused to cooperate with Queens D.A. John J. Santucci, Governor of New York Mario Cuomo appointed Charles Hynes special prosecutor to handle the Griffith case on January 13, 1987. The move came after heavy pressure from black leaders on Cuomo to get Santucci, who was seen as too partial to the defendants to prosecute the case effectively, off the case.
New indictments 
Twelve defendants were indicted by a grand jury on February 9, 1987, including the original three charged in the case. Their original indictments had been dismissed after the witnesses refused to cooperate in the case.
After a lengthy trial and 12 days of jury deliberations, the three main defendants were convicted on December 21, 1987 of manslaughter, a little over a year after the death of Griffith. Kern, Lester and Ladone were convicted of second-degree manslaughter and Michael Pirone, 18, was acquitted. Ultimately nine people would be convicted on a variety of charges related to the death of Griffith.
On January 22, 1988, Jon Lester was sentenced to ten to thirty years imprisonment. On February 5, Scott Kern was sentenced to six to eighteen years imprisonment, and on February 11, 1988, Jason Ladone received a sentence of five to fifteen years imprisonment.
Cedric Sandiford, one of the principal victims and witnesses in the Griffith case, died of AIDS-related complications in 1991, and in December 1999, the street where Griffith had lived was renamed "Michael Griffith Street." 
Jason Ladone, then 29, was released from prison after serving 10 years in April 2000, and later became a city employee. He was arrested again in June 2006, on drug charges. In May 2001, Jon Lester was released and deported to his native England, while Scott Kern was released from prison last of the three main perpetrators, in 2002.
In 2005 the Griffith case was brought back to the public's attention after another racial attack in Howard Beach. A black man, Glenn Moore, was beaten severely with a metal baseball bat by Nicholas Minucci, who was convicted in 2006. The case was revisited yet again by the media, after the death of Michael Sandy, 29, who was beaten and hit by a car after being chased onto the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, in October 2006.
- McFadden, Robert D. "Black Man Dies After Beating In Queens" New York Times, December 21, 1986, p. A1.
- Barron, James. "Ward Renews Attack on Lawyer in Beating Case" New York Times 9 January 1987, p.B5.
- Smothers, Ronald "Hynes Is Selected To Be Prosecutor In Queens Attack." New York Times 14 January 1987, p. A1.
- Press Release Archives #453-99- MAYOR GIULIANI SIGNS BILL THAT NAMES STREET AFTER MICHAEL GRIFFITH
- CBS local[dead link]
- CBS local[dead link]