Officer Found Not Guilty of Second-Degree Murder in Freddie Gray Trial

Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. had faced seven charges.

ByABC News
June 23, 2016, 10:49 AM

— -- Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the third of six Baltimore police officers to stand trial for their alleged role in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, was found not guilty of second-degree murder today by Judge Barry Williams.

Goodson, who drove the police van carrying Gray, 25, faced up to 30 years in prison if he was convicted of the most serious charge, second-degree depraved-heart murder. He chose to leave his fate up to a judge instead of a jury.

Goodson and the packed courtroom sat silent throughout the judge's reading of the verdict. Deputies had warned those in attendance against overt protests. Officer Edward Nero, who was found not guilty by the same judge last month, sat in the front row. Outside, seven brown-shirted sheriff's deputies guarded the front door of the courthouse as protesters chanted and held signs.

The verdict comes three days after arguments wrapped up in the case. Williams was tasked with deciding when during the ride Gray sustained the injury that led to his death and whether that injury was a result of actions taken or not taken by Goodson.

Goodson was also found not guilty of manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He pleaded not guilty on all counts.

A protester displays a sign outside a courthouse after Officer Caesar Goodson was acquitted of all charges in his trial in Baltimore, June 23, 2016.
Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a statement on the judge's decision today, asking residents to remain patient in the process and to respect the ruling.

"Now that the criminal case has come to an end, Officer Goodson will face an administrative review by the Police Department. We once again ask the citizens to be patient and to allow the entire process to come to a conclusion," she said. "I am proud that we as a community have come together to move our city forward over the past year. I know that the citizens of Baltimore will continue to respect the judicial process and the ruling of the court."

    Prosecutors had to prove that Goodson acted with such wanton and reckless disregard for human life that it amounted to malice. During closing remarks Monday, Williams seemed confused by the state’s argument that a wide right turn taken by Goodson was part of a "rough ride," asking, "Can we not agree that taking a turn wide is less dangerous?"

    A "rough ride" is police lingo for teaching someone a lesson by putting him or her in a police wagon without a seat belt and driving so jarringly that the person is thrown around, according to The Associated Press.

    Protesters stand outside the courthouse during the trial of officer Caesar Goodson, one of six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, Maryland, June 23, 2016.
    Michael Reynolds/EPA

    Williams also questioned prosecutors why Goodson stopped to check on Gray if it was the officer's intent to give a rough ride. Obtained surveillance footage from the time of the ride shows Goodson stopping the van after the wide right turn in question, walking to the back of the vehicle, looking in, returning to the front and getting back behind the wheel before calling dispatch for backup.

    A representative for the Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby, said, "We will not be issuing any statement and will continue to respect the gag order implemented by the judge."

    Goodson's attorney Andrew Jay Graham declined to comment on today's decision.

    Baltimore City State's Attorney Mosby Marilyn Mosby, center, exits the courthouse after a verdict was issued in the trial of officer Caesar Goodson in Baltimore, Maryland, June 23, 2016.
    Michael Reynolds/EPA

    Gray died after suffering a severe neck and spinal cord injury. During the trial, the defense argued that the neck and spinal cord injury occurred simultaneously in a “catastrophic” moment before his arrival at the police station. The prosecution argued that the neck injury resulted from the alleged rough ride and progressively worsened through the remaining stops and that the officers neglected to get Gray medical care — leading to his death.

    Williams also presided in the previous cases of Officers William Porter and Edward Nero. Porter’s trial ended with a hung jury in December, and he will be retried in September. Nero, who also opted for a bench trial by Williams, was acquitted last month.

    ABC News' Jim Avila and Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report.

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