Brisbane rock band Powderfinger have removed a song from their upcoming album after being threatened with legal action by the lawyer of a cop who is on trial for beating aboriginal Palm Island man Mulrunji to death.
According to Glenn Cranny, who is defending Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley against manslaughter and assault charges song may have influenced the case. Verse two of the song "Black Tears" included the line "An island watch-house bed, a black man's lying dead".
It is unlikely that the song is more graphic or detailed than the report released by acting Queensland state coroner Christine Clements' report in September, which has been widely quoted in the media. (The report is available online.)
The coroner found that after taking Mulrunji into custody Hurley "hit Mulrunji whilst he was on the floor a number of times in a direct response to himself having been hit in the jaw and then falling to the floor".
The coronor's report states: "After this occurred, I find there was no further resistance or indeed any speech or response from Mulrunji. I conclude that these actions of Senior Sergeant Hurley caused the fatal injuries." Mulrunji's injuries included four broken ribs and a liver "cleaved in two".
A statement by Powderfinger front man Bernard Fanning said the Mulrunji case had inspired the verse in "Black Tears". "In December, when the Queensland [DPP] handed down her finding on the death in custody … I completed the second part of the song", he said. The DPP had recomended that no charges be laid against Hurley, who is due to face court in Townsville this June, not long after Powderfinger's album is released.