The Baltimore police officer facing the most serious charge stemming from the death of a 25-year-old Black man whose neck was broken in the back of a transport wagon waived his right to a jury trial on Monday, instead opting to place his fate in the hands of a judge.
Officer Caesar Goodson, 46, faces second-degree “depraved-heart” murder, manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment charges stemming from Freddie Gray’s death on April 19, 2015. Gray died a week after he suffered a critical spinal injury in the back of Goodson’s transport wagon.
He is one of six officers charged in Gray’s arrest and death, but the only one who didn’t make a statement to investigators. Goodson opted to have his case heard by a judge rather than a jury at a motions hearing presided over by Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams. Opening statements are scheduled to begin Thursday morning.
Prosecutors say Goodson is the most culpable in Gray’s death and that he was grossly negligent when he failed to buckle Gray, who was in handcuffs and leg shackles, into a seat belt, and call an ambulance when he indicated he needed medical aid.
“The Freddie Gray case has gotten a lot of attention and there was a great deal of public outrage in Baltimore as well as across the country, so there is good reason for the defense to fear that a Baltimore jury would be very willing to convict a police officer as being responsible for Freddie Gray’s death,” according to Guyora Binder, a law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo who is familiar with the case. He added that a judge will be less likely than a jury to assume the defendant is guilty simply because of the result: Gray’s death.
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