Michael Jerome Stewart, New York
On September 15, 1983, Michael Jerome Stewart was arrested for graffiti in a Manhattan subway station. Thirty minutes later he arrived at Bellevue Hospital Center in a coma, his hands and legs bound. Police said he was violent and that physical force had to be used. This conflicted with his family's description of a "retiring and almost docile 135-pound young artist."
The same day Stewart was arrested, the Committee Against Racially Motivated Police Violence was holding a national news conference. Since he was a young, black man arrested by an all-white team of cops, they brought Stewart's plight to national attention. Stewart never regained consciousness to tell his story: he died 13 days later.
Six police eventually went to the high profile trial for the case. Although the official cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest, the physician who witnessed the autopsy on behalf of the family believes Smith was strangled. Later, a "lost" coroner's report was unable to confirm or deny this.
The defendants in the case were eventually acquitted by an all-white jury, citing lack of evidence.
The case troubled Jean Michel Basquiat, who created the drawing Defacement (The Death Of Michael Stewart)in his memory. The character of Radio Raheem in Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing is also meant to be an allusion to Stewart.