The prosecutors who sought murder charges for the death of Freddie Gray concluded their case against Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. with an expert witness who fell apart under cross-examination.
The Prosecution’s Case
Goodson, 46, faces the charge of second-degree depraved heart murder, three counts of manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office for the death of Freddie Gray. Gray, a 25-year old black man, died of a spinal injury that was determined to have happened while being transported in a police van on April 12, 2015. Goodson was the driver of the van.
The prosecution argues that Gray suffered from a “rough ride,” where a driver takes sharp turns and jolts to jostle a prisoner who is handcuffed without a seatbelt. They allege that Goodson failed to secure Gray with a seat belt and intentionally drove him around in a reckless manner. The prosecution also argues that Gray was hurt early in the van’s journey and that the officers failed to get him the necessary medical help.
Expert Testimony Falls Apart
The state called 21 witnesses to support its case. Its final witness was Stanford O’Neill Franklin, a former police commander who once oversaw police training for the Baltimore Police Department. Franklin was called to support the prosecution’s theory that Gray had suffered a rough ride. He testified that, “[i]t’s extremely important that the ride be as smooth as possible to prevent the person in the back from being propelled around the inside “… and that if prisoners were unsecured and shackled, they would have no way to prevent themselves from becoming projectiles.
However, Franklin’s testimony fell apart during cross-examination. Under questioning by defense attorney Matthew Frailing, Franklin was unable to point to any evidence that Goodson drove erratically. When Frailing asked the direct question, “It’s not your contention that Officer Goodson in any way engaged in a rough ride?” Franklin responded, “I can’t say for sure.” Franklin also testified that a seat belt would not have necessarily ensured that Gray was secured in the van.
Franklin’s testimony was the finale of a series of witnesses that failed to effectively support the state’s case. Another state witness, Detective Michael Boyd, testified under cross-examination that the videos did not show the van taking an abrupt path. Additionally, Donta Allen, who was also in the van with Gray, told investigators that he experienced a “smooth ride.”
Trial Moves Forward Despite Weak Case
Following the state’s five-day presentation of its case, defense filed a motion for acquittal, arguing there is not enough for the case to move forward. The presiding judge, Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams, denied that motion, but expressed concern about the merits of the murder charge.
Two defense attorneys who are not involved in the case, but have observed the proceedings, have said that the state has put on a “weak case.”
Goodson is the third officer to go to trial in this matter. Officer Porter stood trial in December, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. He is scheduled to be retried in September. Officer Nero was acquitted on all counts.
Photo Credit: Minneapolis rally and march to support the people of Baltimore, by Fibonacci Blue is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.