Another round of riots in the streets of Baltimore in 5, 4, 3, ….
The news just came across the Associated Press wire that Caesar Goodson, the Baltimore cop who drove the police van in which Freddie Gray sustained life-ending injuries, was acquitted of all charges including “depraved-heart” murder.
Six officers were charged in Gray’s death, but only Officer Caesar Goodson was accused of murder. Gray was fatally injured after officers bound his hands and feet and Goodson left him unprotected by a seat belt that prosecutors say would have kept him from slamming into the van’s metal walls.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams delivered his verdict after hearing five days of testimony in the non-jury trial. He also found Goodson not guilty of manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment.
Protests and rioting after Gray’s death on April 19, 2015 set the city on fire, forcing Maryland to bring in the National Guard. The unrest forced the city’s mayor to abandon her re-election campaign, and the Department of Justice opened an investigation into allegations of widespread police abuse.
Prosecutors said Goodson was criminally negligent when he failed to buckle Gray into a seat belt or call for medical aid after Gray indicated that he wanted to go to a hospital. But Goodson wouldn’t talk to investigators or take the stand at trial, leaving the state with slim evidence of intent to harm.
The AP article emphasizes that the judge’s ruling delivers a blow to the theory of the case framed by State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who from the outset worked at painting the death as a “them-versus-us” narrative in which them is the police and us is the black community. That interpretation never quite rang true, primarily because three of the officers in on Gray’s arrest are black.
Mosby is now facing her own day in court as a defendant. Two of the officers charged in the death of Gray case, Alicia White and William Porter, have filed suit against her for defamation and invasion of privacy.