Minutes ago Judge Barry Williams, sitting in a bench trial, acquitted van driver Officer Caesar Goodson of all charges in the death of Freddie Gray, according to Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton.
Goodson had been charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, manslaughter, two counts of vehicular manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. He faced up to 30 years in prison.
This leaves State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby with a record of 0 and 3 in the “Freddie Gray” prosecutions, following the hung jury of Officer William Porter and the acquittal Officer Edward Nero in a bench trial.
The state has argued a revolving array of three different theories of the case for criminal liability of the officers: (1) “Murder by failure to seatbelt”; (2) “Murder by failure to provide timely medical care”; and (3) “Murder by rough ride.”
In order to obtain a conviction on any of the criminal charges the prosecution must, of course, prove each and every element of that charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Over the course of the last three “Freddie Gray” trials, however, it has become increasingly apparent that the prosecution not only lacks sufficient evidence to meet that high burden, it may lack any direct evidence for any of its theories of the case.
In addition, prosecutors have been repeatedly found to have concealed exculpatory evidence from the defense, that the state’s medical examiner originally believed Gray’s death to have been an accident after testifying that she had always believed the death to be a homicide, and just yesterday it was revealed by the Baltimore Sheriffs Office that the “parallel” investigation purported conducted by that office on behalf of prosecutors never actually took place.
Many have speculated that State’s Attorney Mosby brought the now clearly poorly-founded charges against the six Baltimore officers solely for purposes of political advantage, and that her repeatedly failures to obtain convictions in combination with the now apparent misconduct of prosecutors has in fact seriously undermined her political future. The Baltimore Sun today quotes Attorney Warren A. Brown, a Mosby critic, as stating:
This is [the prosecutor’s] Waterloo. This is their Gettysburg. 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.
It remains unclear if prosecutors will continue with the planned trials for three charged officers who have not yet been tried and for the re-trial of Officer William Porter. Given that it now appears that prosecutors based their charges on an investigation that they themselves conducted, it is now possible that the prosecutors themselves could be called as witnesses to testify in open trial–a circumstance I’ve personally never seen occur in a criminal trial.
The eight-day trial began on June 9 with prosecutors in their opening statement abruptly changing their theory of the case from “Murder by denial of prompt medical care” to “Murder by rough ride.” It ended on June 20 with the prosecutors all but abandoning the “rough ride” theory of the case that was the heart of their opening statement. This kind of chaos within the prosecution’s arguments has been typical of their performance in these “Freddie Gray” trials.
My best guess at the start of this “Freddie Gray” circus was that Gray died as a result of his own poor judgment and Newton’s First Law of Motion, by raising himself off the floor of the van on which the officers had placed him, and falling onto his head when the van made a normal change in speed or direction during the last stage of its travels to the police station. Increasingly, the events appears to support that theory of the case, entirely consistent with the innocence of the offices charged, than it does any of the theories put forth by the prosecution.
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