Civil Liberties

Freddie Gray Autopsy: 'High-Energy' Ride Killed Him

Involuntary manslaughter?


The just-released autopsy report on the death of Freddie Gray—the 25-year-old Baltimore man who died of a spinal injury while in custody in a police van—branded the incident a homicide, according to The Baltimore Sun:

Freddie Gray suffered a single "high-energy injury" — like those seen in shallow-water diving incidents — most likely caused when the police van in which he was riding suddenly decelerated, according to a copy of the autopsy report obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

The state medical examiner's office concluded that Gray's death fit the medical and legal definition of an accident, but ruled it to be a homicide because officers failed to follow safety procedures "through acts of omission."

Though Gray was loaded into the van on his belly, the medical examiner surmised that he may have gotten to his feet and was thrown into the wall during an abrupt change in direction. He was not belted in, but his wrists and ankles were shackled, making him "at risk for an unsupported fall during acceleration or deceleration of the van."

The autopsy report would seem to lend credence to the involuntary manslaughter charges against some of the officers. As Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote in May:

Another charge [Officer Caesar] Goodson faces, involuntary manslaughter, is easier to prove, since it includes deaths caused by negligence, an unlawful act (other than a felony), or failure to perform a legal duty. Based on Mosby's allegations, that charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, also seems appropriate for Lt. Brian Rice, Officer William Porter, and Sgt. Alicia White, who are accused of repeatedly failing to belt Gray in and repeatedly failing to help him when it became clear he needed medical attention. Their alleged inaction may very well have amounted to negligence or failure to perform a legal duty.

Read more from Reason on the death of Freddie Gray here.