Guess the Baltimore prosecutor is having a harder time proving these police officers ‘murdered’ Freddie Gray than she thought. Check this out.
Officer Caesar Goodson, who was driving the police van inside which Freddie Gray incurred his fatal neck injury last April, has been found not guilty of second-degree “depraved heart” murder by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams.
Goodson, 46, has also been found not guilty on charges of manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
Goodson waived his right to a trial by jury. His bench trial began June 9 and final arguments were heard Monday.
Gray, a 25-year-old black man from the Sandtown area of Baltimore, died of his injury on April 19, 2015. A week earlier, Baltimore City police officers put him in the back of Goodson’s van, handcuffed and shackled, but unrestrained by a seat belt.
His death set off more than a week of protests followed by looting, rioting and arson that prompted a citywide curfew.
After the verdict was read, protesters began chanting “Murderer!” over and over again outside the courthouse.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE COURTROOM?
Inside court, with high security present, “People were quiet … There were a few people shaking their heads, some people who were emotionless,” WJZ’s Mike Hellgren reports.
“The judge said that the evidence simply was not there, that there was no way that Officer Goodson would have known that Freddie Gray was injured until that final stop at the Western district, and that’s when a medic was called. He chided the state for using the term ‘rough ride,’ he said that it’s a highly-charged term, they failed to define it.”
Hellgren says “the prosecution’s theory of the case did not fit the facts that they had presented to the judge and he was clearly troubled by this.”
“I find it hard to believe that he would convict any of the officers in any of the four remaining trials to come,” Hellgren says.
WJZ’s Ron Matz reports that Officer Edward Nero, who was found not guilty of all his charges by the same judge last month, was in the front row and was one of the first people to embrace Officer Goodson after the verdict was read, along with Goodson’s family and other officers.
Matz said Judge Williams spent a lot of time focusing on the state’s “rough ride” theory. He called that the centerpiece of the state’s case and also called that an inflammatory term that’s not to be taken lightly.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sent a statement out shortly after the verdict came down.
She urged city residents to “continue to respect the judicial process and the ruling of the court.”
— Mayor Rawlings-Blake (@MayorSRB) June 23, 2016
Baltimore’s Democratic Mayoral candidate Catherine Pugh’s office made a similar plea.
“Protests are a vital part of democracy, but to destroy the homes and businesses many people have worked very hard to build is unacceptable. Although people may disagree with the verdict, it is important to respect each other and to respect our neighborhoods and our communities.”