Lieutenant Brian Rice, the fourth Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, has chosen a bench trial after the acquittals of two of his co-accused according to Reuters. Rice is the highest ranking of the six officers that have been charged in the controversial death. He issued the order for the bicycle officers to pursue Gray when he fled in April 2015. Mr. Gray died a week after injuries sustained during his arrest almost severed his spinal cord.
Highest-ranking Baltimore police officer charged in Freddie Gray death chooses trial by judge. https://t.co/QOFw5ompJf
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 5, 2016
Rice was in court Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing where he chose to be tried by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams rather than a jury. Judge Williams has already acquitted two of the officers that were charged in Freddie Gray’s death, and a jury deadlocked in another case.
During the hearing, Judge Williams denied the defense’s motion to drop the charges and the trial will start on Thursday where Rice will face involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment charges.
With each acquittal in the case, the likelihood that any of the officers will be found guilty diminishes. The last case involving the driver of the van was thought to be the most promising, but that resulted in an acquittal as well. It is unclear if Lt. Rice’s higher rank will be the difference between an acquittal and a guilty verdict.
The prosecution suffered a setback at the hearing on Tuesday when the judge ruled that they had committed another discovery violation and that any evidence of Lt. Rice’s training since becoming a police officer could not be presented at trial.
— Baltimore News (@News__Baltimore) July 6, 2016
According to the Baltimore Sun, the discovery violation comes after the prosecution turned over 4,000 pages of documents relating to Lt. Brian Rice’s training just last week. This is a particularly bad blow for the prosecution since the training of officers has been a key part of their strategy in the trials. Freddie Gray died after prosecutors allege that he was improperly restrained in the back of the police van after his arrest.
Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow argued that the prosecution only received the documents last week despite having asked for it repeatedly from the city. Judge Williams wasn’t buying the excuse and stated, “The reality we have here: You, your office, whoever, didn’t do what you’re supposed to.”
The Baltimore City solicitor refuted the prosecution’s claims saying that the expanded request for information only came on June 18, 2016. The prosecution could not respond to the accusation due to a gag order on the case.
Despite public anger over Freddie Gray death, police convictions elude prosecutors – PBS NewsHour https://t.co/K0gCMss8s6
— Michael F Ozaki MD (@brontyman) July 6, 2016
The State’s Attorney’s Office, and in particular Marilyn Mosby, have faced criticism for proceeding with the case against the officers at all, and in particular for rushing to prosecute and not going through a grand jury. Convictions in police officer-related deaths are hard to come by and many have accused Mosby of taking on the cases without any concrete proof of what exactly happened to Freddie Gray and when he died.
We know that Gray’s injuries included a broken neck and an almost severed spine, but it isn’t quite clear how that happened. The prosecution alleges that Freddie Gray became hurt due to the officers giving him a “rough ride” and not properly buckling him into the back of the police van. But as PBS pointed out, that theory alone gives the officers a solid defense. Each officer can argue that they weren’t involved in the step that ultimately resulted in Gray’s injuries.
— Larry Elder (@larryelder) July 4, 2016
The Freddie Gray case could wind up ruining Marilyn Mosby’s career if she’s not successful in convicting any of the officers charged in his death. Law Officer reported that a disbarment complaint was filed against her by a Georgetown law professor for a number of issues, but most notably because she reportedly improperly withheld evidence from the defense and that she did not have probable cause to believe there was sufficient evidence to proceed with the case against the six officers.
Lt. Rice’s trial begins Thursday and the cases are happening very close together. Officer Garrett Miller’s trial will start right after on July 27 and Sgt. Alicia White’s trial will happen in October. The prosecution will also have to decide during that time about re-trying Officer William Porter, whose case ended with a hung jury.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]