Baltimore officer Edward Nero was just found not guilty of all charges in the death of Freddie Gray. Judge Barry G. Williams acquitted Nero of misdemeanor charges of assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office; those charges could have landed him in jail for 15 years, according to The Baltimore Sun. Gray died from injuries suffered while in police custody as he was placed handcuffed, shackled, and unsecured in the back of a police transport van.
Freddie Gray died from a broken neck on April 19, 2015, a week after the 25-year-old’s neck was broken in what was described as a “rough” 44-minute ride to the precinct. Many argue that Gray should never have been in the back of the van to begin with, saying that he was unlawfully detained and falsely arrested.
Nero’s initial reaction to the verdict was emotionless and the courtroom was silent as the verdict was read, but as the news sank in, the vindicated 30-year-old became very emotional as he hugged his attorney Marc Zayon, who said that Nero and his family were “elated” it was over.
“The State’s Attorney for Baltimore City rushed to charge him, as well as the other five officers, completely disregarding the facts of the case and the applicable law.”
Prosecutor Janice Bledsoe unsuccessfully argued that Nero unlawfully detained Freddie Gray and acted callously when he didn’t secure him. Nero’s attorneys contend that Nero was not the arresting officer and that the driver of the transport vehicle was responsible for making sure Gray was secure.
Nero is one of six officers charged in the questionable death of Freddie Gray. Officer William Porter was tried last year and that trial ended in a mistrial. The remaining officers are Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Garrett E. Miller, Brian W. Rice, and Alicia D. White, and because there have been no guilty verdicts in Nero or Porter’s trials, it is going to be difficult to find the remaining officers accountable, according to legal analysts.
This reality isn’t a situation that is going to sit well with those who believe that there should be some level of justice that is not monetary for Freddy Gray and his family, and the city is buckling down for another round of protests. Gray’s death set into motion a round of looting, arson, and protests that lasted for more than a week. It was so volatile and destructive that a city-wide curfew was implemented, but Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is prepared for another round of demonstrations.
“We once again ask the citizens to be patient and to allow the entire process to come to a conclusion. In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond. We will protect our neighborhoods, our businesses and the people of our city.”
The Baltimore Sun posted a video of local politicians, civic leaders, and residents reacting to the not guilty verdict, and Twitter immediately went into overdrive with both sides of the issue sounding off on whether or not justice was served. The verdict has some feeling as though no one will ever be held responsible for the callous and insensitive death of Freddie Gray.
— Alison Spalding (@AlisonSpalding2) May 23, 2016
We are constantly reminded that a black life holds no value in this nation… #FreddieGray
— Scott Ernst (@RealScottErnst) May 23, 2016
— Sam White (@samwhiteout) May 23, 2016
That is all, i don’t have time for ignorance. It’s not a black or white thing. It’s about justice for a death. #FreddieGray
— Elle Janell (@beauty_88) May 23, 2016
Still, others couldn’t be happier that Nero won’t face any legal ramifications.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also had this to say in regard to the verdict and Officer Nero’s future.
“Today Judge Barry G. Williams found Officer Edward Nero not guilty of all criminal charges. This is our American system of justice and police officers must be afforded the same justice system as every other citizen in this city, state, and country. Now that the criminal case has come to an end, Officer Nero will face an administrative review by the Police Department.
The internal investigation into Officer Nero’s conduct won’t begin until after the other officers involved in the case have been tried, which will take place throughout the summer. Until then, he will remain on duty in an administrative capacity.
The family remains diplomatic and said through their attorney Billy Murphy Jr. that the family respects the verdict and feels that Judge Barry Williams should be commended on how he handled the case.
“I’m very proud of Judge Williams standing head and shoulders above most people. Under similar circumstances, he may have bent to the pressure, tremendous pressure, to do in this case.”
The frustration over the hesitance to hold anyone accountable for the treatment and death of Freddie Gray’s death is enhanced when viewing a disturbing YouTube video showing him in clear distress and barely able to walk. The situation once again puts the Gray family in the spotlight, an unwelcome intrusion that some feel helped contribute to his mother Gloria Darden’s attempted suicide in October.
[Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP Images]