Caesar Goodson’s Acquittal In Freddie Gray’s Death Makes Remaining Trials An Exercise In Futility

The third Baltimore, Maryland, police officer to stand trial for the death of Freddie Gray was found not guilty of all charges. Just before 11 a.m. (EST), Judge Barry Williams decided that Goodson was not responsible for Gray’s death, predictably mirroring his decision to let another officer charged in the case, Edward Nero, walk as he presided over both bench trials. Caesar Goodson was the van driver accused of taking Gray on a “rough ride” and faced the most serious charges associated with the case — second-degree depraved-heart murder, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, and involuntary manslaughter. The depraved-heart murder charge carried a possible 30-year sentence by itself, and he faced up to 70 years in prison.

It has been a slow road to justice for Freddie Gray’s family and their supporters, some who gathered at the courthouse early waiting for the verdict. Gray died while in police custody after he was arrested for carrying a presumed-illegal switchblade, which was ultimately found to be legal. His death on April 19, 2015, sparked days of riots and protests that shut the city down over accusations of police brutality on the heels of other incidents of unarmed or constrained minorities dying at the hands of police officers.

Caesar Goodson is the third officer out of six charged in Gray’s death to be cleared of any wrongdoing. Officer William Porter and Officer Edward Nero were previously tried, and this latest development brings doubt that the remaining officers — Officer Garrett E. Miller, Lt. Brian W. Rice, and Sgt. Alicia D. White — will be punished.

In handing down Goodson’s verdict, Judge Williams said that none of the seven charges rose to the level of criminal actions, a statement that was almost as disappointing as the actions of Officer Edward Nero, who jumped up and shouted “Yes!” after all of the charges came back as “not guilty,” while the rest of the courtroom stayed silent and shocked.

Judge Williams said that the evidence did not support the claim that Goodson took Gray for a “rough ride” as punishment for being combative, and Goodson’s defense team convinced him that the van driver was unaware that Gray was injured and needed help. Even the decision to not secure him in the van was considered “neglectful,” but did not rise to the level of criminal as far as the judge was concerned. The reaction was quick and swift.

#FreddieGray did not kill himself.

That not a single officer is being held responsible for any malfeasance is absolutely preposterous.

— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) June 23, 2016

Prosecutors accused Caesar Goodson of taking Gray on a “rough ride” as punishment for being combative and said that at one time he blew through a stop sign and veered out of his lane, tossing the unsecured and handcuffed Gray around in the back of the van.

The defense says that there is no evidence that a such a ride took place and that Gray’s injuries were caused by his own actions, accusing the deceased of being combative and uncooperative. Goodson’s decision not to put a seatbelt on Gray was due to the officer not feeling safe. Gray was thrashing around in the back of the van and was the cause of his own injuries, said defense attorney Matthew Fraling during the bench trial, according to CNN.

“We certainly don’t want to speak poorly about the deceased, but Mr. Gray created the high-degree of risk.”

The defense did acknowledge that Gray did ask to go to the hospital, but didn’t present any signs that indicated immediate medical attention was needed. A YouTube video of Gray complaining of pain and having difficulty walking shows otherwise.

The mentality of those supporting the officers were involved with the arrest and injuries of Freddie Gray is infuriating and confusing for many because not only was the excuse to arrest him in the first place proven to be unwarranted, but he was also accused of participating in “Crash for Cash” schemes and that he severely injured himself at the Baltimore City Detention Center, neither claim has been proven.

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Baltimore officials are gearing up for the possibility of riots and protests and have enlisted the aid of the Maryland National Guard to avoid the mass destruction that took place in the city after Freddie Gray died. More than 200 people were arrested in connection to mass arsons, violence, and looting.

The next trial will begin July 5, for Lt. Brian Rice but many wonder whether anyone will ever pay for Freddie Gray’s death. Officer William Porter’s trial was declared a mistrial and he will face his second trial September 8, which seems like an exercise in futility. If Caesar Goodson, the officer with the most serious charges has been found completely innocent — despite a medical examiner stating Gray’s death took place while in transport and ruling it a homicide — what is the point of continuing with the remaining four?

[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]