The defense has rested in the “Freddie Gray” trial of van driver Officer Caesar Goodson.  Goodson is charged with murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment , and he is the third officer to be tried in the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.  The jury trial of Officer William Porter ended in a hung jury, and Porter is scheduled to be re-tried.  The bench trial of Officer Edward Nero ended in an acquittal.  As was the case with Nero, Goodson also elected to have a bench trial.

This morning Officer Nero testified as a defense witness in Goodson’s trial.  According to reporting by the Baltimore Sun Nero testified that at the second stop of the van Gray was combative with officers, and that Nero heard what he described as “loud banging” coming from the van where Gray was placed by himself.  The Sun reports that prosecutors had few questions for Nero on cross-examination (perhaps they are still recovering from their self-inflicted cross-examination implosion yesterday).

This testimony obviously supports the defense contention that Gray’s injuries were caused by his own conduct and Newton’s First Law of Motion, rather than by any act or omission of the officers involved in Gray’s arrest and transport.  It also supports the officers’ contention that it remains within their discretion whether to seat belt an arrestee if they are non-compliant and violent, and that therefore any failure to seat belt Gray was reasonable and not criminal.

The defense also sought to put into evidence the closing statement of Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow from the prior trial of Officer Edward Nero, presumably because Schatzow’s claims in that closing were inconsistent with his claims in this trial. Judge Williams denied the defense motion, but for all practical purposes the decision is irrelevant. Williams was both the trial judge and the finder of fact in Nero’s trial as he is in this trial, and he is well aware of what Schatzow previously claimed in closing. The defense’s motion is likely simply made to refresh Williams’ recollection of that closing, and that’s accomplished regardless of whether the motion is granted.

In light of the prosecution’s debacle yesterday Judge Williams may also have denied the defense motion on Eighth Amendment grounds.

In the prior trial of Edward Nero, Judge Williams delayed announcing his verdict (then, of not guilty on all charges) until the following Monday after closing arguments.  Even if closing statements are made this afternoon, I would not expect a verdict before Monday.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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