Inmate awaiting execution for murder of Miami cop dies on Death Row

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Robert Patten, whose murder of rookie Miami police officer Nathaniel Broom in September 1981 landed him on Death Row, has died in prison of natural causes.

The 56-year-old had been at the Florida State Prison awaiting execution for the murder since 1989. Patten had been at the prison’s infirmary with an undisclosed ailment before he died Monday, according to a corrections spokeswoman.

“Although Patten will not be put to death for the murder of Officer Broom, he will now have to answer to a higher authority,” Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss, a department spokesman, said on Tuesday. “This closes a bitter chapter in our city’s history and we can all sleep better knowing this killer will never again walk out streets.”

Broom, 24, was an Army veteran who was raised in Overtown and had wanted to be a police officer since he was a child. After his death, the department named Broom officer of the year.

The death of an African-American officer at the hands of a white armed robber came at a sensitive time in Miami, which had just experienced race riots the year before following the acquittals of officers accused of fatally beating a black motorist.

Back in September 1981, Broom pulled over Patten – who boasted a long criminal history – for driving the wrong-way down a one-way street in Overtown. Patten took off running. Broom gave chase.

At trial, a witness testified that Patten hid in the alley, waited for Broom to approach and then shot him in the heart. The gunman stole another car at gunpoint to make his escape.

A fingerprint on the stolen car linked Patten to the crime. The gun used to kill the officer was discovered beneath a heating grate at the home of Patten’s grandmother.

A Miami-Dade jury found Patten guilty and he was sentenced to death. But in 1985, the Florida Supreme court overturned the sentence.

The reason: during the penalty phase of the trial, the jury – which recommends a sentence – was deadlocked at 6-6, which results in a life prison term.

The high court said a Miami-Dade judge erred in urging the jurors to keep deliberating. Jurors eventually voted 7-5 for death.

At a May 1989 re-sentencing, Patten’s defense lawyers insisted that he should be spared the death penalty because of a troubled childhood, which included an abusive mother, a suicide attempt and time in a foster home. The day he shot Broom, he was also high on drugs.

But jurors, in an 11-1 vote, recommend the death penalty. Then-Circuit Judge Fred Moreno imposed the death penalty.

In a twist, Broom’s mother – who was so tormented by his death that she gave up both her jobs – long spoke out against putting Patten to death. She said her son would not have wanted Patten executed.

“I don't believe in killing. Society's crazy for believing in killing,” Lucille Broom told The Miami Herald in 1990. “It don't bring no one back; it only makes things worse.”

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
A sign stands at 1448 NW 103rd St. in Miami to let passers-by know the government demolished the house even though the owner was on active military duty.

    Miami-Dade County

    Miami-Dade demolished active-duty soldier’s home

    A federal judge ruled last week that the county should have delayed building-code violation proceedings against the soldier when he asked for a stay while he was in Iraq.

  • Friends and Neighbors

    Friends and Neighbors: Campaign raises money to feed hungry school children

    Local food banks want to help children who often go hungry get what they need to thrive in school. Community support is needed.

  • Friends and Neighbors

    Florida Mayors join forces to say no to bullies

    Looking back at my growing up days, I can remember how school bullies tried to made life miserable for me and a lot of other youngsters. I remember being followed home one day by a bully who wanted to start a fight. When I kept ignoring her, she soon turned, with her followers and went home. Unlike some of today’s bullies, she didn’t try to hit me. She was just all mouth, spitting out insulting remarks.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category