Baltimore police officer cleared of all charges in Freddie Gray death

Caesar Goodson Jr found not guilty of second-degree murder and six lesser charges

Baltimore Police officer Caesar Goodson leaves the courthouse at the end of day four of the murder trial of black detainee Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 14th, 2016. Photograph: Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Baltimore Police officer Caesar Goodson leaves the courthouse at the end of day four of the murder trial of black detainee Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 14th, 2016. Photograph: Bryan Woolston/Reuters

 

The Baltimore police officer who drove the van in which Freddie Gray sustained a fatal spinal injury was found not guilty on Thursday of second-degree murder and six lesser charges, leaving prosecutors still without a conviction after three high-profile trials in a case that has shaken Baltimore city.

“The court finds there is insufficient evidence that the defendant gave or intended to give Mr Gray a rough ride,“ said Judge Barry Williams, reading his ruling softly but clearly in a cavernous downtown courtroom. “There has been no evidence presented at this trial that the defendant intended for any crime to happen.”

The officer, Caesar Goodson Junior, sat very quietly watching the judge as the verdict was read. Afterward, he hugged his family and some of the other officers charged in the case.

The death of Mr Gray, a 25-year-old black man, in April 2015 spurred days of violent protests.

The state’s attorney, Marilyn J Mosby, told residents that she would “deliver justice“ on their behalf.

Ms Mosby then took the unusual step of charging six officers in Mr Gray’s fatal arrest and death, reserving the steepest charge, second-degree “depraved heart” murder for Mr Goodson.

Two other trials have ended without convictions. The first trial, of officer William Porter, who faced manslaughter and assault charges, ended with a hung jury in December.

Last month, officer Edward Nero was acquitted of four charges, including assault and reckless endangerment, for his role in Mr Gray’s initial arrest. Like Nero, Mr Goodson elected to have the judge, rather than a jury, decide his fate.

Mr Gray was arrested after fleeing, apparently unprompted, from officers in West Baltimore, and loaded into a police wagon that made six stops before it arrived at the Western District police station, where Mr Gray was found unresponsive and not breathing with a devastating spinal cord injury.

Prosecutors claimed that Mr Goodson, who is also black, had given Mr Gray a “rough ride“ in the van after he was arrested, intentionally putting him at risk for an injury by taking a wide turn while Mr Gray was not secured with a seat belt.

They also accused Mr Goodson of breaching his duty to protect a prisoner by failing to get medical care for Mr Gray, even though he told Mr Porter that he needed it.

But lawyers for Mr Goodson (46) said that their client had acted in accordance with his training, and that Gray’s death was an unintentional accident that happened because he stood up in the van during the ride.

New York Times