Freddie Gray

Another Officer Acquitted in Freddie Gray Case

Judge clears Lt. Brian Rice of all charges

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Freddie Gray trials
Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Newscom

This morning a judge acquitted a Baltimore Police officer of all charges of misconduct in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, who died of injuries he sustained while cuffed, but not secured, in a police van last year.

Lt. Brian Rice asked for a judge to hear his case rather than a full jury trial. Judge Barry Williams cleared Rice of all charges, which included involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. The same judge cleared two other officers of all charges earlier in the year.

Thus far, prosecutors in Baltimore have failed to secure any convictions for misconduct in the Gray case. There are two more officers facing charges (and one who may be retried after a hung jury led to a mistrial previously). The Baltimore Sun notes that state prosecutor Marilyn Mosby is being pressured to drop the remaining cases, given the failures to land any convictions.

Though prosecutors may not be able to land convictions, the treatment that led to Gray's death are hardly new or unfamiliar. There's even a name for it—the "nickel ride"—where police deliberately place a suspect in restraints in a vehicle but don't secure him with seat belts, resulting in him getting bounced around and injured during a lengthy drive around the city.

That it's difficult to prove deliberate intent in such a case is likely exactly why nickel rides happen. The likely outcome here is more tweaking of police policies to try to manage police conduct when securing prisoners in vehicles. But as Ed Krayewski has noted, Baltimore's use of force policies leave much to the discretion of police officers, and it's very clear that the discretion of officers behaving "reasonably" played a major role in the officers' defense. There is a cottage industry in making pretty much any behavior by a police officer seem "reasonable" simply by arguing the officer was concerned for his own safety.

Police abuse and now targeted violence against police officers have heightened the most useless parts of this argument—who is more of a victim of this dynamic and who is really the racist and the current level of extremely vicious identity politics. The debate then gets pulled away from a discussion of how much urban policing is really about centralized planning that puts officers in the position of not just fighting crime with identifiable victims, but enforcing regulatory policies designed to raise tax revenue or eliminate behaviors city leaders (and those who influenced them) find distasteful. And in this particular case, the tone of the argument also pulls away from reforms that would end or at least diminish the role of public safety unions in keeping bad police officers form being removed from the force. It may be a reasonable—albeit disappointing—outcome that prosecutors are unable to prove that the recklessness that led to Gray's death rises to criminal intent. That doesn't mean that the city should be unable to get rid of officers who are shown to engage in behavior that endangers the public.

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  1. The Baltimore Sun notes that state prosecutor Marilyn Mosby is being pressured to drop the remaining cases, given the failures to land any convictions.

    Pressured by who? She’s got a career path that can’t be deviated from.

    Is it possible that without convictions, without specific individuals to focus the systemic problems down upon, that maybe Charm City and others will start to recognize the broader problem with policing? That making everything criminal forces police to negatively interact with more and more of the population? That mission creep and low accountability are surefire ingredients for what we’ve been seeing?

    1. Clearly it’s open mic Monday at the comedy club.

        1. With this one, I pretty much know.

  2. That it’s difficult to prove deliberate intent in such a case is likely exactly why nickel rides happen.

    Of course, that difficulty is irrelevant to many of the criminal charges that could be brought.

    I don’t think this is a case of “we just don’t have the evidence to convict”. I think this is a case of “we don’t want to convict these cops because they are cops.”

    Imagine, if you will, that a crew of gangbangers kidnapped a rival, put him in the trunk, and he died of a broken neck. Any chance at all that they would all, every one of them, walk free?

    I didn’t think so.

    1. The checks and balances of the law must work overtime when it comes to protecting the police. Like the farce that was the Darren Wilson grand jury.

    2. Abduction is a crime quite apart from reckless endangerment or whatever else obtains in that scenario. Until we start addressing whether wrongful detention is grounds for legal culpability, I don’t think we can realistically expect to convict cops of any wrongdoing. I mean, it’s just their jobs, right?

      1. Its not a perfect analogy, I know.

        1. It’s worth making the distinction, though. Why is there no penalty for arresting a man who committed no crime? I’m not talking about suspects being investigated for a crime but a man who, in Gray’s case, possessed a wholly legal implement but was arrested anyway either out of ignorance or malice.

          1. He was arrested because he ran away from them. He ran away because he feared for his safety. So now fearing the police is punishable by death.

            1. “You’re afraid of us? WE’LL SHOW YOU.”

          2. I’ll make a handy Geico commercial for you:

            “When you’re a criminal, you get arrested. It’s what you do.”

            The guy had a record, that’s reason enough for most people to believe Mr Gray deserved to be harassed. Once a criminal, always a criminal.

            1. Well, goody for him. He’s dead now. I’d rather cops kept to a much more rigorous understanding of criminality.

          3. I thought the knife was illegal under city code? My understanding is that the defense lawyers found a number of cases of Mosby’s office prosecuting guys for possessing similar knives.

            (Which isn’t to say that the law isn’t BS, but if that’s your concern, lobby to permit gravity and spring assisted knives, rather than putting some guy in jail for enforcing the law as he understands it).

            The ride is the part I don’t get – didn’t Goodson check on Gray several times, including sitting him on the bench at least once? It seems like he could have belted him in when he put Gray on the bench.

    3. You seem to think that mens rea and presumption of innocence applies to everyone. Nope. It only applies to cops and the political class.

      Everyone else is guilty until proven innocent, with or without intent.

      1. No.

        We are presumed innocent until proven broke.

    4. Hey, necks just break themselves sometimes. It happens.

      1. Can you imagine if they had thrown a couple guns in with him? He’d have come out with a broken neck and a bunch of gunshot wounds.

        1. Thank god there didn’t pick up any hookers before him. There’d a mini-baby-Freddy boom right about now.

  3. Is a bench trial significantly different from a jury trial? ie is there a difference set of expectations levied on the prosecutor? One of the benefits (or faults) of a jury trial is the recourse to a layperson’s understanding of law and justice. A judge wouldn’t need jury instructions. So a prosecutor accustomed to weaving novel legal theories has to face not just the defense counsel but another lawyer on the bench. Is it as big a departure from jury trials as it seems?

    1. Imma say, when trying to convict one of the king’s men, it is likely a distinct disadvantage to be tried entirely by the king’s men.

    2. This is a very interesting question. Anyone else who knows this well care to chime in with any facts, opinions or tasteless jokes?

      1. I had a lawyer tell me, “Most jurors are there because they are too stupid to get out of jury duty- the only time you should want a jury trial is if you are guilty.”

  4. The debate then gets pulled away from a discussion of how much urban policing is really about centralized planning that puts officers in the position of not just fighting crime with identifiable victims, but enforcing regulatory policies designed to raise tax revenue or eliminate behaviors city leaders (and those who influenced them) find distasteful.

    The wrecking balls and bulldozers of our social engineering projects.

  5. The debate then gets pulled away from a discussion of how much urban policing is really about centralized planning that puts officers in the position of not just fighting crime with identifiable victims, but enforcing regulatory policies designed to raise tax revenue or eliminate behaviors city leaders (and those who influenced them) find distasteful.

    The wrecking balls and bulldozers of our social engineering projects.

  6. The likely outcome here is more tweaking of police policies to try to manage police conduct when securing prisoners in vehicles.

    From the Daily Mail’s coverage of the story:

    Williams, who heard the case without a jury at Rice’s request, said prosecutors failed to show the lieutenant was aware of a departmental policy requiring seat belts for prisoners during transport.

    ‘The state did not prove the defendant was aware of the new policy,’ the judge said in court.

    So all the policies in the world won’t matter, since all the cops have to do is plead ignorance.

    1. We are all learning quickly that for our betters, ignorance of the law is an excuse.

      1. Ignorance of the policy is an excuse.

        The law doesn’t even come into the equation.

        1. Did the officers intend that Gray would injure himself during his arrest? Did Hillary Clinton intend to break numerous federal statutes regarding the receipt, retention, and transmission of classified documents? No? Well, there’s your answer.

        2. Law in MD is that passengers in a vehicle must be using a restraint device when the vehicle is so equipped….

          I didn’t see anything in the section that excluded passenger areas of police vehicles specifically.

          1. Give the driver of the van his $83 ticket and this should all just go away.

          2. Well then tack on another posthumous charge against Gray for not buckling himself in!

            /cop derp

            1. Bill it to his family. Maybe they can claw back a few dollars from that settlement.

    2. SCOTUS did say that a police officers knowledge of the law has no bearing in his enforcing the law. The new law of the land is ignorance is bliss if you are law enforcement, everyone else, fuck off.

      1. Not only that, but law enforcement can take a pass on enforcing the law if they just don’t feel like it right then.

      2. Out in the real world, failure to comply with policy is pretty much de facto negligence.

        But not, apparently, if you’re a cop.

        What a wonderful set of precedents we’re setting here, where claiming ignorance of the law or policy is an absolute defense.

    3. Where I work every time there’s a change in policy or a new one instituted, everyone signs off on a form laying out the policy. Then later, it’s impossible to say you never learned it if you violate the policy. Police departments don’t do this sort of thing?

      1. Who is going to make them sign the paper, huh? They’re cops. Nobody makes them do anything. They do what they want.

        1. The paper rustled in the wind!

          BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

          1. Is there any significance to the number 90, Sugarfree?

            1. No, I just got all cut and pasty with it.

              1. I wasn’t sure if I had missed another H&R sub-meme or if you were going for extra BLAM flair.

                1. BLAM!

                  Oh, sorry, Charles.

                2. Black Lives Also Matter.

                  (failed first draft of a hashtag campaign)

            2. Is there any significance to the number 90,

              Three thirty-round mags?

  7. There is no evidence that police racism played any role in this tragic death at all. Contrary to what sensationalist media reports suggested, and what many commentators at places like MSNBC continue to suggest.

    These meritless prosecutions occurred because of a false, widespread belief that the police are engaged in a racist war against blacks. Even though there is in fact no bias against blacks in police shootings, as a recent study by a black Harvard economist found.

    As people who have actually studied police practices have noted, there is no evidence of any such police war against blacks, and even wrongful shootings and deaths usually have nothing to do with racism:

    See, for example, these articles:

    1. http://www.city-journal.org/ht…..14652.html
    2. http://www.wsj.com/articles/ti…..1468363042

    Obama has promoted the false meme that police are systematically targeting blacks, as these articles note.

    1. These “meritless prosecutions” occurred because they fucking threw a young man into a paddy wagon without a seat belt and went on a wild joyride through the streets of Baltimore, resulting in his death. Asshole.

      1. The specific charges brought by the prosecutor were so meritless that liberal law professor John Banzhaf has filed ethics charges against prosecutor Marilyn Mosby (Banzhaf is a pro-minority law professor who brought high-profile discrimination lawsuits on behalf of blacks and women in the past):

        http://hotair.com/archives/201…..t-charges/

        “The list of charges against Mosby are as follows:

        that she did not have probably cause to believe that there was sufficient admissible evidence to support a conviction of the officers;
        that she made public statements regarding the case which were false;
        that she improperly withheld evidence from the defense that was exculpatory;
        that she continued to prosecute cases after the judge assigned to hear the cases found insufficient evidence to support a conviction;
        that she engaged in conduct that was dishonest, fraudulent, deceitful and which misrepresented the facts in the case.”

        1. Sounds legit. And honestly only one worthless black guy died so it’s not really a big loss.

          1. Don’t feed the Tulpa!

          2. No excuse to ruin the lives of several upstanding civil servants.

      2. I don’t think there’s any evidence of a “wild joyride.” (Except for the death itself, but then you could just say the prosecutions occurred because they didn’t seatbelt Gray and he died.) IIRC, the prosecution’s evidence was a video that they alleged constituted a rolling stop – the judge says he couldn’t tell if it was a rolling stop or a complete stop, but either way, that wouldn’t harm a passenger.

    2. Fuck off, copsucker.

      1. There may be racial animus motivating cops, but given how fucked up their beats are and how cossetted they are by their unions, how could you ever tell?

        Libertarians absolutely should be coming down hard on Democratic pressure groups like #BLM, not to mention the progressive political regimes running these places, for their utter cowardice, ignorance, and incompetence in prosecuting these witch trials. Maybe there are hardcore racists filling the ranks of police, but as far as priorities go, weeding them out is more blue-sky daydream than serious reform-minded agenda. And explicitly encouraging civil disunion serves nobody’s purposes but the overeducated idiot children of middle- and upper-class parents who have never and will never bear the brunt of their activism.

      2. FSM went in a little too deep, when he carved the swastika in his forehead.

    3. These meritless prosecutions occurred because of a false, widespread belief that the police are engaged in a racist war against blacks.

      No, they occurred because the Mosby’s aspire to being power players in the tiny cesspool that is Baltimore politics.

    4. You REALLY have a hard-on for that black Harvard professor, don’t you?

      1. It’s the uppity ones that get him really angry.

        1. For me, I always feel a little gangsta when black people agree with me. That’s why I feel confident calling the ones who day bunch of dumb niggas.

          1. *Ones who don’t

  8. So what you’re telling us is that they likely knew they could get away with “accidentally” killing somebody in a galling display of reckless behavior…and they’re being proved right.

    1. Too many times in the past I’ve read that the reason why law enforcement personnel weren’t punished for maiming and/or killing their fellow citizens was due to the fact that they were following policy/conducting themselves in accordance with their training.

      As you point out, bassjoe, it it now seems that in addition to this safeguard, law enforcement personnel will not be held accountable even when they are not following policy or when they are acting in a manner which is contrary to their training.

      “Why was the first officer in the case not charged?”

      “He was following policy.”

      “Why was the second officer in the case not charged when it is obvious that he was not following the policy?”

      “He didn’t know the policy.”

      As Billy Bones pointed out above, SCOTUS did say that a police officer’s knowledge of the law has no bearing in his enforcing the law.

  9. Though prosecutors may not be able to land convictions, the treatment that led to Gray’s death are hardly new or unfamiliar. There’s even a name for it?the “nickel ride”?where police deliberately place a suspect in restraints in a vehicle but don’t secure him with seat belts, resulting in him getting bounced around and injured during a lengthy drive around the city.

    For someone who likes to nitpick others this is pretty pathetic. When it first happened you called it a “rough ride”. then as now its occurrence was asserted as fact. Then the case showed there was zero evidence of the rough ride. So what happens? You rename it and plow ahead with the same accusations.

    I’m embarrassed to be a libertarian today.

    1. His neck just broke itself.

      I am also embarrassed you call yourself a libertarian.

      1. He was obviously just throwing himself around the vehicle trying to seriously injure himself, hoping to put these officers’ lives through the wringer for a couple years. Because cops are always held accountable when detainees are injured.

        1. That’s probably why he had a knife, so he could get arrested and set these brave officers up.

      2. His neck just broke itself.

        Sort of like how Eric Garner’s heart just stopped on its own, or the way the face of that toddler in Georgia just spontaneously combusted.

    2. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

      This was still a hatchet job prosecution. Which is fitting, given a bad arrest.

      1. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

        So the accused has to prove himself innocent. Since that’s quite the opposite of what we actually believe do you want to qualify it some way? For example does it apply only to cops?

        I’ll fill you in since Scott clearly won’t, there isn’t an “absence of evidence”. The truck is on CCTV in many places while Gray was in the van and none of the footage shows a “rough” or “nickel” ride. Another person in the van also claimed there was nothing untoward. While this was known and discounted at the time because he was in police control he’s reiterated his position many times despite the knowledge any contribution toward conviction would make him a hero.

        Maybe it’s time we acted as responsible as we demand others act.

        1. Marshal,

          Do you have a link to the other occupant’s account(s)? I am interested in learning his explanation/description of how Mr. Gray’s neck was broken during transit.

          1. He didn’t know since there was some sort of partition or wall between them.

            http://www.wbaltv.com/news/sec…..t/32669692

            Allen said he did not know a man was already in the van. Gray was on the right side and Allen was loaded on the left side with a divider separating them.

            Allen described what he heard: “When I got in the van, I didn’t hear nothing. It was a smooth ride. We went straight to the police station. All I heard was a little banging for about four seconds. I just heard little banging, just little banging.”

            Asked whether he told police whether he heard Gray banging his head against the van, Allen said, “I told homicide that. I don’t work for the police. I did not tell the police nothing.”

            1. I appreciate the link.

              Mr. Allen was placed into the van after Mr. Gray suffered the injuries:Sources have told the 11 News I-Team that by the time Allen was loaded into the van, Gray was unresponsive. Citiwatch camera video shows officers looking into the Gray’s side of the van with the doors fully open.

              I don’t recall reading this account: According to the autopsy on Gray… His fatal neck and spinal injury was a kin to the type suffered in a car accident; it needed that amount of force and energy.

              Whatever happened to Mr. Gray cannot be explained by a normal or “smooth” drive to the police station.

            2. I think a tryer of fact could find the testimony of someone under the control of the cops, about whether the cops did anything bad, a little suspect, myself.

              Here’s the thing, though:

              (1) The idea that someone would break their own neck by banging their head against a wall is, to me, highly unlikely.

              (2) Its undisputed that Gray was not belted in, a violation of policy and per se negligence. So, there is no question that (a) the cops were negligent and (b) someone died in a way that is foreseeable and credibly connected to their negligence.

              Out in the real world, negligence that leads to a foreseeable death is pretty much a lay-down conviction. If you’re a subject of the State, that is, and not one of its armed agents.

              The question shouldn’t be “is there a double standard”. Because there is. The question should be “is the double standard justifiable”.

              1. (2) Its undisputed that Gray was not belted in, a violation of policy and per se negligence. So, there is no question that (a) the cops were negligent and (b) someone died in a way that is foreseeable and credibly connected to their negligence.

                1. The question is not whether there was negligence but whether he was intentionally given a “rough” or “nickel” ride. I object to Scott’s warming over discredited accusations with a new name in order to keep the outrage alive. Again this is the same sort of thing we shit on other people for: making an unsupportable accusation but then retreating to something more defensible when challenged (motte & bailey).

                2. I don’t think it’s been proven there was “negligence”. As a matter of law not following policy does not prove negligence. Further it seems to me if this was deemed negligence the judicial findings would have been different. There’s a ton of pressure here to find these guys guilty.

                In the first case the prosecutor’s closing arguments included no reference to a rough ride (which was a major theme of their opening argument) and they had produced no evidence during the trial. The judge asked them if they still believed their theory of the case. That’s how jarring it was legally. It seems to me the prosecutor speaking politically not understanding she was expected to produce evidence and I’m disappointed to see Reason parroting her incompetence.

        2. The prosecutor has to make his case against the accused. In every case so far they have failed to do that, hence “not guilty.” But “not guilty” is not the same thing as innocent, and it does not disprove the practice of rough rides generally. And, frankly, I’m not willing to give cops the benefit of the doubt that they’re ethical human beings with moral qualms about how they deal with people under their authority. But I do expect an ethical prosecutor lines up a watertight case before bringing charges.

          1. But “not guilty” is not the same thing as innocent, and it does not disprove the practice of rough rides generally.

            These statements aren’t relevant. The question is not whether rough rides ever happen but whether it occurred in this specific case. And while your observation about not guilty != innocent that’s not the issue in this case. The issue here is that there is literally zero evidence of a rough ride. None at all. It started and remains 100% speculation contradicted by every known piece of evidence.

            1. Although Judge Williams obviously didn’t find the autopsy report sufficient in and of itself to sentence Lt. Rice, it seems to me that the nature of the injuries could have been considered strong evidence in this case, Marshal.

              You and I will have to disagree here.

            2. The issue here is that there is literally zero evidence of a rough ride.

              Ok, I’ll accept your premise.

              We still have a prisoner being wrongly detained who dies OF A BROKEN NECK while in custody.

              In your view, what, if any, culpability attaches to the police whose custody he was in at the time?

            3. So the accused has to prove himself innocent. Since that’s quite the opposite of what we actually believe do you want to qualify it some way? For example does it apply only to cops?

              You tried to pair the two, not I. My only assertion, one which is unequivocal, is that simply because it wasn’t proven in this case doesn’t mean it never happens. You suggested that I’m calling the officers guilty despite being proven not guilty, something I categorically denied. They didn’t have a case against them. That’s the end of it in this case. But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to believe it never happens.

    3. I am, too. When a narrative collapses in court, Reason shouldn’t keep peddling it.

      1. Shackford is yet another Obama momma making a living as a professional fake libertarian.

        I bet he probably still believes “Hands up, don’t shoot” really happened, even though the Holder Justice Department itself admitted that it didn’t.

        1. I don’t think he’s fake. I think he and many others aren’t subjecting this to their normal analysis because if true it suits the narrative.

          But this is exactly what we criticize everyone else for. Same for those bringing in other examples as if some other cop’s guilt transfers to these guys. Individuality above all! (except when convenient).

  10. Its not a perfect analogy, I know.

    W#hat about a situation in which I apprehend somebody trying to steal my car? I then ty-rap his hands and feet, toss him in the back of my pickup truck and hurry down my dirt road to the sheriff’s office..

    “Gosh, he’s not moving. How was I supposed to know he might break his neck when I ran through that washed out part of the road at 40mph and then slammed on the brakes at the railroad crossing? I’m an amateur sleuth, not an orthopedic surgeon.”

    1. If you went and got your sleuthing license, you’d be just fine.

      Amateur sleuthing is punishable by up to 15 years.

      Makes you out to be a police union scab.

  11. Why is there no penalty for arresting a man who committed no crime?

    *guffaws, slaps knee*

  12. Let’s not forget that the original charge of carrying an illegal knife was based on a law so badly written that no two experts can agree on what it means. That nicely obscured whether or not the original detention was legal or not.
    Note that exactly what he was carrying at the time of his arrest has never been revealed (as far as I know).

    1. That’s no excuse because of the rule of lenity.

  13. Again – I would say that when someone pleads Not Guilty, a jury should *automatically* be empaneled.

    Who cares if the defendant would prefer a trial by judge, a trial by ordeal, or a trial by compurgation? He shouldn’t get to pick and choose.

    He has the right to a trial by jury, but I’d argue that this goes beyond the defendant’s rights. Juries are the most direct way the regular Jane or Joe participates in the government (except maybe for town meetings in New England).

    It’s bad enough that plea bargains generally cut the citizens out of the loop. But to cut them out because the defendant wants another kind of trial is unacceptable.

    Jurors don’t have to worry about soliciting campaign contributions or votes from the colleagues of the people they convict or acquit.

    DISCLAIMER: I don’t know if the verdict is correct, that’s the point, I’m not going to presume a nonjury conviction or acquittal is correct, I’d like to know what a jury thinks.

  14. It’s blindingly obvious to me that Baltimore prosecutors never had any intention of convicting a single one of these officers. I’m surprised the BLM people haven’t picked up on that fact yet, but they will.

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