Freddie Gray

Baltimore Police Van Driver Found Not Guilty of Charges over Freddie Gray's Death

Prosecutors unable to prove intent to harm by officer.


Caesar Goodson
Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Newscom

Baltimore is now 0-3 in trying to hold any of its police officers criminally responsible for the death of Freddie Gray last year.

Today a judge acquitted Caesar Goodson—the officer who drove the van in which Gray was violently tossed around after arrest and suffered a broken neck—of all charges. Those charges included "depraved heart" murder, manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office.

Gray was not properly restrained in the van, but was shackled, making it impossible for him to protect himself from bumps and falls as the van drove around Baltimore. Prosecutors and critics of police behavior argued that this is deliberate, a tactic known as a "nickel ride" that allows officers to physically abuse people in their custody without actually laying a hand on them.

Six officers have been charged in Gray's death, but Goodson was arguably the most important prosecution as the driver of the van. So far, Officer Edward Nero was found not guilty of any role in Gray's death and Officer William Porter was freed as a result of a hung jury and is awaiting a possible retrial.

CBS and AP's reporting suggests that both policies that shield police from having to answer questions from investigators in a timely fashion, police protectionism, and very typical misconduct from prosecutors may have played a role in how the case turned out:

Prosecutors said Goodson was criminally negligent when he failed to buckle Gray into a seat belt or call for medical aid after Gray indicated that he wanted to go to a hospital. But Goodson wouldn't talk to investigators or take the stand at trial, leaving the state with slim evidence of intent to harm. …

At the start of Goodson's trial earlier this month, Williams scolded prosecutors for failing to turn evidence over to the defense about another prisoner in the transport van with Gray. …

[State's Attorney Marilyn] Mosby's allegations that six officers intended to fatally injure the resistant prisoner prompted five of them to sue her for defamation. Her chief deputy, accused of withholding evidence, told the judge that the lead police investigator had pressured the coroner to falsely declare Gray's death an accident.

"It is extraordinarily rare to hear a prosecutor accuse a reputable, prominent lead detective of sabotaging the state's case," said Warren Alperstein, a prominent attorney in the city. "Calling into question a detective who the commanders appointed to lead the case sends a clear message. It breeds distrust."

Fissures had formed even before Mosby vowed last year to deliver justice to an outraged citizenry. She said the charges resulted from a "comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation," even though police investigators said they had felt pressured to hand over their evidence prematurely.

Watch live footage of the aftermath of the verdict here.