Trial Concludes for Van Driver Charged in the Death of Freddie Gray

Trial Concludes for Van Driver Charged in the Death of Freddie Gray

Officer Caesar Goodson, right, arrives at the courthouse in Baltimore, Maryland, June 20, 2016. Bryan Woolston/Reuters

The trial of Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, came to a close today.

Judge Barry Williams will render his verdict on Thursday morning. He will have to decide when, over the course of the ride, Gray sustained the fatal injury that led to his death, as well as whether that injury was a result of actions taken, or not taken, by Goodson.

Goodson, the third of six Baltimore City police officers to stand trial for their alleged role in the arrest and death of Gray, also faces three charges of manslaughter, one charge of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He has pleaded not guilty.

Gray was alive when he was loaded into the back of a police van in handcuffs and leg shackles in April 2015. He was not wearing a seat belt. Roughly one hour later, Gray was found unresponsive and suffering from a severe spinal injury. The medical examiner ruled that he received the injury while being transported. Goodson was at the wheel.

Gray died several days later, his death sparking days of violent protests, riots, and looting.

Prosecutors had to prove that Goodson acted with such wanton and reckless disregard for human life that it amounted to malice. Following seven days of testimony and nearly 30 witnesses, the prosecution laid out a scenario in which Gray received a spinal cord injury following a wide right turn. Prosecutors argued the injury then progressively worsened throughout the remaining four stops during the ride, ultimately leading to Gray’s death days later.

During closing remarks, the defense countered that Gray’s injury was “catastrophic” and “immediate,” and did not occur until right before the last stop at the police station.

Judge Williams, the same judge who presided in the previous cases of Officers William Porter and Edward Nero, will be the sole decider in the case. During closing remarks, he seemed confused by the state’s argument that the wide right turn was a “rough ride,” asking, “Can we not agree that taking a turn wide is less dangerous?”

He also asked prosecutors why Goodson stopped to check on Gray if it was his intent to give him a “rough ride.” Surveillance footage during the ride shows Goodson stopping the van, walking to the back, looking in, returning to the front, and getting back behind the wheel.

Porter’s trial ended with a hung jury in December and he will be retried in September. Nero, who opted for a bench trial, was acquitted last month.

Goodson faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the second-degree depraved-heart murder charge.

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