Following an eight-day bench trial, Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams acquitted Police Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. of all charges related to the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a serious spinal injury while in police custody after his arrest in April 2015.
Charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, the most serious charge, and three counts of manslaughter, reckless endangerment and police misconduct, Goodson was at the wheel of the police vehicle that transported Gray to Baltimore’s West District police station.
At trial, prosecutors contended Goodson disregarded safety, did not properly secure a shackled Gray in a seat belt, leaving him to lurch uncontrollably in the cage of the police van Goodson drove. Prosecutors also allege Goodson wheeled the vehicle recklessly on the way to the police station.
In his decision, Judge Williams told the court the prosecution had failed to establish Goodson had engaged in such a “rough ride” and when describing the likelihood Goodson caused Gray’s injuries, stated:
“This injury manifested itself internally. That is one of the key issues here. If the doctors are not clear as to what would be happening at this point in time, how would the average person or officer without medical training know?”
A 16-year police veteran, Goodson’s exoneration allows him to join fellow officer Edward Nero, acquitted in May by Judge Williams. The trial of a third third police officer, William Porter, resulted in a hung jury and his re-trial is slated for September.
Trials for the three remaining police officers, Lt. Brian Rice, Garrett Miller and Alicia White are expected to begin in July and October.
Suspended since Gray’s arrest, and subject to an internal police review, Goodson’s acquittal allows him to have his pay restored.