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August 5, 2003
A high-profile hanging death in a sleepy, impoverished Palm Beach County community now has captured the attention of an iconic civil rights family.
Saying "black folk don't hang themselves," Martin Luther King III on Sunday told a gathering of the group his father co-founded in the racially divided 1950s that he will travel to Belle Glade to explore personally the circumstances around Feraris "Ray" Golden's death and determine who is responsible, according to The Associated Press.
Golden, 32, was found hanging from a schefflera tree outside his grandmother's home on May 28.
After a rare public inquest, the county's first in 18 years, a judge ruled that depression, not murderers, killed Golden, who was jobless, despondent and behind in his child-support payments.
As evidence, the suicide finding points to a lack of trauma on Golden's body, a videotape showing his hands hanging at his sides before he was cut from the tree, and the bed sheet, recognized by Golden's aunt as belonging to his grandmother, knotted around his neck.
But some in Golden's family have adamantly insisted that he would never have killed himself. And many in the sugar cane town of 15,000, half of whom are black, say no black man would kill himself in way that is so grotesquely reminiscent of America's racist history.
Stories of an alleged relationship between Golden and a white woman weren't investigated, and rumors persist that Golden's hands were tied behind his back.
"We're going down there," King, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, told Golden's grieving mother and others attending the group's 45th annual convention in Memphis on Sunday, according to the AP.
"Our prayers and support are with you and your family, and we're going to work for truth and justice."
Despite the findings of the inquest, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has launched a preliminary investigation into the hanging after finding inconsistencies in the inquest testimony and the police investigation.
On Monday, the commission's chairwoman announced that the agency will review the southern branch's findings to determine whether to conduct a further investigation or take other action.
Nicole Sterghos Brochu can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6603.
Copyright © 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel