The trial for Officers Caesar R Goodson Jr begins on Thursday in Baltimore. Goodson faces the most charges in the death of Freddie Gray ranging in seriousness from misconduct in office and assault to depraved heart murder which holds a maximum sentence of 30 years in jail. It is no surprise his legal team has chosen to bring this case in front of only a judge instead of a jury considering the outcomes for the previous two officers tried in the case.
In May Officer Edward Nero was acquitted of all charges and late last year Officer William Porter's case ended in a mistrial after a hung jury failed to make a decision. What these cases tell us are two very clear facts.
First, the acquittal of Officer Nero, the bicycle cop who only assisted in the arrest of Gray, tells us that the evidence clearly shows Gray did not die as a result of injuries sustained in the actual arrest.
Second, the hung jury in the case of Officer Porter shows that the evidence was NOT clear enough regarding what occurred in the actual transport of Gray that lead to his death.
So whether it was Porter's failure to adequately buckle Gray in the transport van as called for in the protocol or Goodson's failure to stop and get care when Gray is reported to have said "I can't breathe" in the back of the van it is unclear who is at fault.
Goodson's counsel is well aware of the uphill battle they would have faced in front of a Baltimore jury. An announcement was made late yesterday of their election to roll the dice of his fate in front of Judge Barry Williams who they may view as sympathetic as he also handled the bench trial of acquitted officer Nero; and ruled earlier this week that to exclude evidence that Gray stated he could not breathe. In my opinion bench trials are more predictable than jury trials where deliberations often weigh more on strong personalities and emotions rather than the evidence and law at hand. Solid decision on the part of Goodson's counsel.
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