The political persecution of six police officers charged in connection with the accidental death of a Baltimore petty crook, Freddy Gray, suffered a huge setback this morning when the sole officer charged with any form of murder, the paddy wagon driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, was acquitted of all charges after a bench trial before a Baltimore City judge.
The Baltimore Police van driver accused of giving a “rough ride” that killed Freddie Gray was acquitted of all charges Thursday by Circuit Judge Barry Williams.
Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., 46, had faced the most serious charges of any of the six officers indicted in Gray’s arrest and death last April, including second-degree depraved heart murder. Goodson was also acquitted of three counts of manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
If an man’s liberty had not been at stake the trial would have been farcical. The State’s expert witness on the concept of giving prisoners a “rough ride” admitted his knowledge was anecdotal and that there was no documentation to show that such a practice existed. When the defense tried to use the prosecution’s closing arguments in a previous Freddy Gray trial, one that resulted in a hung jury, the prosecution objected. The judge, in his questions of the prosecution, forced the prosecutor to admit that even if Freddy Gray had not been injured, under the prosecution’s theory of the case the van driver was till guilty of a felony. And it was revealed that the department did not have a policy of restraining prisoners in a van with a seatbelt until the week before Freddy Gray died and there was no evidence that Goodson had ever been informed of the policy.
Now the city is facing a huge burden in re-trying one officer and in the four new trials when the main culprit has been found not guilty.