The fourth day of the “Freddie Gray” trial of van driver Officer Caesar Goodson is most notable for the implosion of the state’s “rough ride” theory of the case for lack of evidence.

Prosecutors were compelled to throw this theory into the mix for the first time on the first day of Goodson’s trial after it appeared the foundation had been pulled out from under their preferred “failure to provide timely medical care” theory of the case.

Goodson is charged with depraved-heart murder,manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment in the death of Freddie Gray.

The state has presented three different theories of the case in their prosecution of Freddie Gray, which we’ve covered at length in prior posts, including:

Freddie Gray: Trial of Van Driver Caesar Goodson, Day #3

Freddie Gray: The Relevance of Donte Allen’s Changing Eyewitness Testimony

Theory #1: Murder by Failure to Seatbelt, and Theory #2: Murder by Failure to Provide Medical Care now seem to be out of reach for the prosecution, leaving them desperately clinging to their final theory for why Caesar Goodson should be sentenced to prison for 30 years, Theory #3: Murder by Rough Ride.

The difficulty with this third theory, as with the other two, is that prosecutors do not appear to actually possess any evidence they can introduce in support of their theory.

Officer Caesar Goodson

Officer Caesar Goodson

According to reporting by the Baltimore Sun, the prosecution has to this point submitted into evidence surveillance video showing Goodson driving the van over the center line of the road and making a rolling-stop right-hand turn at a stop sign.  Neither of these acts of driving would generate the abrupt changes in velocity (speed or direction) indicating a malicious “rough ride.”  At worst, Goodson might be cited for traffic violations, but hardly convicted of depraved-heart murder.

In addition, yesterday the State also called as a witness Detective Michael Boyd.  We’ve previously seen mention of Detective Boyd because he was one of two detectives to interview Donte Allen, a co-passenger for the final portion of Gray’s transport in the police van, the very afternoon following Gray’s injury.  I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Detective Boyd’s questioning by prosecutors yesterday was focused on his reconstruction of the route taken by the police van while it was transporting Gray.  This reconstruction was based on city surveillance footage and Boyd’s own recollection of the police investigation (presumably including his contemporaneous interview with Donte Allen).

Curiously, although Boyd was the State’s own witness, prosecutors never asked Boyd to describe the manner in which Goodson was driving the van.

Defense counsel, however, was not so reticent on cross-examination.  As reported by the Baltimore Sun:

Attorney Matthew Fraling asked Boyd whether he saw any evidence that Goodson made an abrupt stop, start or turn while Gray was in the van.

“No, sir,” Boyd said.

Touching back now to Det. Boyd’s (with colleague Det. Poremski) interview with co-passenger Donte Allen on April 12, immediately following the van ride, it is worth recalling the relevant portions of the transcript of that interview:

Det. Poremski: Okay. And your ride over, do you remember, when you were riding there, did you hit any big bumps, potholes? Did you — was it a smooth ride? Was it rough? Was it, you know, any kind of —

Mr. Allen: I was fine.

Det. Boyd: There wasn’t no tossing or turning, no like sudden stops or nothing like that?

Mr. Allen: No.

Det. Boyd: Didn’t speed up, slam on the brakes and slam you, nothing like that?

Mr. Allen: — over the railroad tracks real fast.

Det. Boyd: So it was just a smooth ride?

Mr. Allen: Smooth ride.

Det. Boyd: So nothing? At any point, you didn’t hit your head. You didn’t — a bump or anything like that?

Mr. Allen: Ain’t no reason to.

Det. Boyd: So it’s safe to say, in your opinion, if [Gray] was banging his head, he was doing it of his own accord?

Mr. Allen: Yes sir.

Det. Boyd: Wasn’t nobody force him? It wasn’t like the way the officer was driving or anything like that?

Mr. Allen: No sir.

One must reasonably presume that if prosecutors had more compelling evidence of the alleged “rough ride” they would at this point have no reason to have held it back from the court. It seems, then, that they’ve “shot their wad” on this last theory of the case.

On the basis of this kind of evidence, or rather lack thereof, the Baltimore State’s Attorneys are standing in a criminal court and seeking to have a Baltimore Police Officer with an apparently unblemished record sent to prison for a minimum of 30 years.


–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

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