Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams declared a mistrial Wednesday, December 16, 2015 in the case of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter after jurors said they had failed to reach an agreement on any of the charges against him in the death of Freddie Gray.
Last month, Judge Williams rejected the state’s case Monday, May 23, against Officer Edward Nero, acquitting him on all counts for his role in the arrest of Freddie Gray.
The verdict, which followed a five-day bench trial, is the first in the closely watched case. Nero, 30, had faced misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office. The 25-year-old Gray died last year of injuries sustained while riding in the back of a police transport van.
The third officer on trial, Officer Goodson, 46, who drove the van in which Freddie Gray was fatally injured, was found not guilty by the same judge on Thursday on all charges, including the most serious count of second-degree depraved-heart murder.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams also found Goodson not guilty of manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment after five days of testimony in the non-jury trial.
Williams said the state failed to show that Goodson knew he’d harm Gray by leaving him unbuckled, or that he was aware of the injury.
“The state failed to prove the defendant knew or should have known that Mr. Gray needed medical care,” the judge said.
“Unlike in a shooting or a stabbing, or a car accident, this injury manifests itself internally,” Williams said, citing conflicting testimony from medical experts. “If the doctors weren’t clear, how would a person without medical training know?”
The judge also said the state failed to prove Goodson gave Gray a “rough ride.”
“The state had a duty to show the defendant corruptly failed in his duty, not just that he made a mistake,” the judge said.
Six officers were charged in Gray’s death, but only Officer Caesar Goodson was accused of “depraved heart” murder.
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.
The acquittal of Goodson, is perhaps the most significant blow to State Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s efforts to hold police accountable for Gray’s death.
Chuck Canterbury, president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, which is representing the officers, blasted Mosby for conducting her own personal “witch hunt.”
Wearing a dark suit and blue shirt, Goodson stood motionless as the verdict was read. The officer’s daughter wept as the judge enumerated the reasons for the acquittal, count by count, over 40 minutes. Then Goodson embraced members of his family and legal team.
Goodson’s acquittal may impact the remaining cases. Lt. Brian Rice’s trial is set to begin in July, followed later in the month by Officer Garrett Miller, both of assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office; Rice also faces a manslaughter charge. Ofc. William Porter‘s retrial in September and Sgt. Alicia White’s trial in October.
Officer Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice are scheduled to stand trial in July on charges
All the officers but Goodson have filed defamation lawsuits against Mosby and Maj. Sam Cogen of the sheriff’s office, who signed the charging documents. The officers claim the criminal charges amounted to false and damaging information.