On Thursday, Baltimore Judge Barry G. Williams ruled that officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who drove the police van carrying Freddie Gray when he apparently sustained a fatal injury to his spinal cord, was not guilty of second degree murder.
The death of 25-year-old Gray, whose legs and hands were bound when he was placed in the back of the police van and who was not secured by a seatbelt, gained national attention and sparked protests in Baltimore.
Gray was arrested on April 12, 2015 for murky reasons. Police chased Gray after they made eye contact and he, apparently unprompted, ran. When they caught him they allegedly found what they say was an illegal switchblade, and what the State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said was a legally held folding knife. Gray remained in the backseat while the van made four stops over 45 minutes, during which Gray asked for medical attention and was denied. During the ride, he fell into a coma, and eventually died a week later.
Goodson was one of six officers to have been charged by the Mosby in connection to Gray's death. He was charged with the most egregious crime, second-degree “depraved heart” murder.
Thursday's trial was the third that the officers have faced. All three have now ended without convictions.
In December, a mistrial was declared in the case of Officer William G. Porter, who faced manslaughter and assault charges. He will be tried again in September. Last month, Officer Edward M. Nero was acquitted by a judge of the four charges against him.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams delivered his verdict after hearing five days of testimony in the non-jury trial… 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.
Protesters waiting for the verdict surrounded the courthouse ahead of the ruling.
After the trial, they spoke out in anger over the acquittal:
"This city has nothing but utter contempt for the lives of poor people," one protester told Fusion. Another added, "[the officers] killed this young man. They murdered him."
A third decried the justice system:
Protesters also marched and chanted:
On Twitter, people shared frustration with the verdict:
#FreddieGray did not kill himself.
That not a single officer is being held responsible for any malfeasance is absolutely preposterous.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) June 23, 2016
The verdict in Goodson's case may be indicative of the decisions in the coming trials. The Baltimore Sun explained:
If [State Attorney] Mosby's team fails to secure a conviction against Goodson, it's unlikely she will be successful against any of the other officers, several observers said. "This is their Waterloo. This is their Gettysburg," said attorney Warren A. Brown, a critic of Mosby's who predicts she will face several challengers for reelection in two years. "They've got to win this. She is virtually persona non grata in the white community and her support is waning in the black community and will continue to wane if she continues to lose these cases."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.