Circuit Judge Barry Williams handed down a not guilty verdict on all charges Thursday for Officer Caesar Goodson, one of the Baltimore cops charged in the death of Freddie Gray.
Goodson is the second of six officers to receive a verdict. So far, all have been acquitted. Goodson was charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder, assault, manslaughter, reckless endangerment, misconduct in office and two counts of vehicular manslaughter. Goodson faced the most serious charges in the case. He opted for a bench trial, which means he waived his right to a jury trial and left his fate in Williams’ hands.
The verdict strikes a major blow to the prosecution since many legal experts saw this trial as their best chance at a conviction. The prosecution’s case centered around Goodson, who they alleged gave Gray a “rough ride,” a term used to describe when an officer driving a vehicle makes sudden jerks, turns and stops to cause a passenger to slide around in the back. The state alleged Goodson’s rough ride caused Gray’s fatal spinal injury.
The prosecution suffered a big setback when their expert witness balked on cross examination earlier in the case. While grilled by the defense, former Baltimore City police commander Stanford Franklin couldn’t say for sure that the driver gave Gray a rough ride.
Goodson’s attorney pressed Franklin and directly asked him, “Is it not your contention that officer Goodson engaged in a rough ride?”
Franklin answered with, “I can’t say,” a damning moment for a prosecution that had largely rested on the rough ride theory. The prosecution began its case resting on the rough ride theory, but as it went on they appeared to move away from that term as the witnesses and evidence did not go in their favor.
“When the prosecution decided that that was going to be the horse they were going to ride, and that case started breaking down, and started falling apart,” Maryland attorney and George Washington University Law Lecturer Wayne Cohen told The Daily Caller News Foundation prior to the ruling. He added that the evidence the prosecution presented didn’t add up.
The expert witness’ falter on the rough ride theory signaled defeat in the case.
“If they can’t prove that, they can’t prove anything,” local Baltimore attorney Steve Silverman, who is not representing anyone in the case, told TheDCNF before the ruling. “The whole point is they put him in the back of a paddy wagon and they roughed him up and that’s why he died. If you can’t even prove causation for the basic theory of the case for the driver of the vehicle and the injury then how can you prove all these ancillary officers did something wrong?”
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