Fate of van driver in Freddie Gray case now in judge’s hands: Verdict expected Thursday morning
BALTIMORE — The fate of Caesar Goodson, the Baltimore police officer and van driver charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, now rests in a judge’s hands.
A verdict is expected to be read by Judge Barry Williams Thursday morning, two weeks after the trial began.
Gray, 25, suffered a devastating spinal injury and died in April 2015, about a week after he was arrested on a weapons charge and placed in a prisoner van driven by Goodson. Gray’s death ignited street protests in Baltimore and became part of the national debate on police violence against African-American men.
Goodson faces the most serious charges of the six officers arrested in the case, including second-degree depraved heart murder. He elected for a bench trial earlier this month, forgoing a trial by jury.
Goodson also is charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office, involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter by vehicles (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) and reckless endangerment.
During closing arguments Monday, prosecutors continued to argue that Goodson failed on two accounts: neglecting to provide Gray with proper medical assistance after Gray indicated that he wanted to go to the hospital and failing to put a seat belt Gray in the back of the van.
“His actions constitute, and his omissions constitute, depraved heart murder,” said Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe.
Prosecutors have also alleged that Gray was injured in a “rough ride,” described as punitive measure police used against unruly subjects.
They say Goodson drove so radically that he blew through a stop sign and veered into another lane of traffic because of the speed he was traveling, which they said would have tossed Gray around in the van. Bledsoe said prosecutors think Gray’s fatal spinal injury was sustained at that point in the drive.
When Judge Williams pressed state attorneys further for evidence of a rough ride, Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said the lack of seat-belting illustrates Goodson intended to hurt Gray.
Defense attorneys for Goodson argued that there is no evidence of a rough ride and that Gray’s injuries were caused in part by his own agitation and thrashing around in the van.
They said Gray was combative and uncooperative and that Goodson used his judgment to not seat belt Gray because he felt it was not safe to do so.
“We certainly don’t want to speak poorly about the deceased, but Mr. Gray created the high-degree of risk,” defense attorney Matthew Fraling said.
While Gray indicated that he wanted to go to a hospital, he never exhibited any requisite symptoms, such as bleeding, bruising or broken limbs that would have necessitated immediate medical attention, Fraling said. He said officers are trained to use their discretion with regards to whether medical treatment should be administered.
Testimony lasted seven days, with the state and defense calling 21 and nine witnesses, respectively. Goodson chose not to testify in his own defense.
Judge Williams is the same judge who recently acquitted Goodson’s fellow Baltimore police officer Edward Nero, who also had opted for a bench trial.
Nero was one of six officers charged in connection with Gray’s death and the second to go on trial. The trial of William Porter, another officer charged, ended in a mistrial in December. Porter is scheduled to be retried in September.