BALTIMORE (AP) — The defense rested Friday in the trial of a Baltimore police officer charged with murder in the death of a black prisoner whose neck was broken in a transport van — a case in which prosecutors charged six officers but have yet to win a conviction.
As testimony concluded on the trial’s seventh day, Officer Caesar Goodson declined to testify in his own defense. Goodson, who drove the van, is one of six officers charged in Freddie Gray‘s arrest, facing the most serious charge of second-degree “depraved heart” murder. He was the only officer who didn’t make a statement to investigators. Goodson is black.
Judge Barry Williams, who is presiding over the bench trial, set closing arguments for Monday morning.
The defense called Officer Edward Nero to testify Friday. He was one of the six officers charged, and Williams acquitted him last month of all charges during the second trial in the case. Officer William Porter’s trial ended in a mistrial in December when the jury deadlocked, and prosecutors plan to retry him in September.
Nero testified that Gray was not cooperating with arresting officers on April 12, 2015.
“He was being very passive aggressive with them,” Nero said, adding that Gray did not want to go into the police van.
Nero also testified that once Gray was in the van, he started to bang, yell and shake the vehicle. Gray’s demeanor when arrested has been cited as a reason why officers may have decided not to seat belt him into the van, and instead placed him on the floor in handcuffs and shackles.
Prosecutors contend Goodson gave Gray a “rough ride,” causing the injuries he died from a week later. Prosecutors also are alleging negligence for officers not using a seat belt on Gray.
Michael Schatzow, the city’s chief deputy state’s attorney, asked Nero during cross examination if Gray went limp like dead weight when he was being put in the van. Nero responded, “yes.”
On Thursday, tensions between police and prosecutors surfaced when a prosecutor said he tried to have the lead detective removed from the case last year because he believed she was “sabotaging the investigation” by holding back information.
Goodson, 46, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the murder charge. He also is charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment charges.
Gray’s death sparked days of civil unrest in Baltimore last year.
BALTIMORE (AP) — A trial will move ahead on all charges against a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of a black prisoner whose neck was broken in a police transport van, but the judge said Thursday he has questions about the most serious charge at the center of the state’s case.
Judge Barry Williams said the charge of second-degree “depraved heart” murder was “a closer call” than the others. Yet after Officer Caesar Goodson’s attorneys moved to dismiss all charges, he declined.
Goodson’s attorneys made the request after prosecutors rested their case Wednesday.
Defense attorney Andrew Graham contended Thursday that prosecutors had failed to prove Goodson, the van driver, gave 25-year-old Freddie Gray a “rough ride” as Gray was handcuffed and shackled on the floor. Graham noted that one of the state’s key witnesses, an expert on police policy, couldn’t say for sure whether he saw evidence of a rough ride — police lingo for putting a prisoner in a police wagon without a seatbelt and driving so erratically that he or she is thrown around.
The state “hasn’t introduced any proof at all,” Graham told the judge.
But prosecutors cited Goodson’s failure to get Gray medical attention and to seatbelt him in the van, despite multiple opportunities at several stops.
“It’s at least five times, your honor,” Michael Schatzow, chief deputy state’s attorney said, referring to the number of times Gray could have been seat-belted.
Goodson, 46, also faces manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless engenderment charges.
His attorneys will now move forward with his defense on the sixth day of the trial.
On Wednesday, Williams ruled prosecutors violated discovery rules when they failed to give the defense a detective’s notes that indicate an assistant medical examiner at one point considered Gray’s death might have been an accident. That could contradict earlier testimony from Dr. Carol Allen, who determined Gray’s death was a homicide and not an accident.
The discovery violation comes after Williams asked prosecutors to review their files for evidence they hadn’t disclosed to the defense. The judge had found prosecutors violated discovery rules about information concerning a witness in an earlier case.
“It’s never a good thing when a judge finds the state has committed a discovery violation,” said Warren Alperstein, a Baltimore attorney who is uninvolved in the case but has observed nearly all the legal proceedings. “It’s certainly not good when there are repeated discovery violations, and what’s so significant is that these are discovery violations that are so egregious because there’s an absolute affirmative obligation for the prosecution to turn over any evidence that is favorable to a defendant.”
Prosecutors are still looking for their first conviction, after their first case against another officer ended in a hung jury and their second resulted in the judge’s acquittal of another.
Gray’s death in April 2015 touched off the worst riots in Baltimore in decades.
(Photo Source: AP)