I’ve been following the reports coming out of the Baltimore courthouse where Caesar Goodson is on trial–facing a murder charge, three counts of manslaughter, and other charges–for the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015. Goodson was the driver of the van which was transporting Gray after his arrest, and in which he suffered a fatal spinal injury.
The state asserted in its opening statement last week that Goodson gave Gray a “rough ride” during the trip that included a number of stops. A “rough ride” would be intentionally swerving, making sudden stops and starts, etc. in order to jostle Gray who was shackled in the back. That, together with a failure to restrain Gray with a seatbelt, is the theory of the depraved heart murder charge.
Yesterday, Detective Michael Boyd, one of the 19 witnesses to testify for the state in the first four days, completed his testimony. Boyd reconstructed the ride using city surveillance video from cameras on the street. It’s interesting to note that Boyd said he saw no evidence of a rough ride on the video. Apparently there are portions of the ride that the video did not capture but Boyd’s testimony did little, in my opinion, to advance the state’s theory of a rough ride.
There has always been a dipute between the state and defense about exactly when Gray was injured in the back of the van. Was it between the second and fourth stops, as the state maintains, or after the fourth stop, as the defense maintains? The timing of the injury is important because the state says Gray should have been given medical attention at the fourth stop–when Goodson and Porter checked on Gray. That failure to render aid is also the basis for criminal charges. But the defense says the officers couldn’t detect anything wrong with Gray at the fourth stop, and that Gray was able to assist in being hoisted up to the seat.
Another dispute is between expert medical witnesses. The state’s expert says Gray’s injury was gradual–meaning he was injured by the fourth stop but not yet paralyzed. The defense’s expert says the injury was not gradual and would have caused paralysis immediately–meaning it was caused after the fourth stop.
With a dispute about the critical facts–especially the timing of the injury-and little evidence of a rough ride, the state is likely to lose at least on the murder charge. I’ve maintained all along that what happened to Freddie Gray was a tragedy, it should not have happened, he should have been restrained. But not all wrongs are criminal. This is a case that was properly dealt with by a multimillion dollar civil settlement to Gray’s family. Administrative police hearings are also an appropriate venue to explore any possible wrongdoing by the police.
What do you think?