Caesar Goodson, Jr., the officer who was given the most serious charges related to Freddie Gray’s death, was acquitted on all charges by a Baltimore judge this past Thursday after an eight-day bench trial, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Goodson elected to have a bench trial to face his charges with Gray’s death in police custody. When this was announced, many pointed out that police officers have a higher likelihood of winning bench trials and Goodson’s another example of how that’s true.
“The failure to seat-belt may have been a mistake or it may have been bad judgment, but without showing more than has been presented to the court concerning the failure to seat-belt and the surrounding circumstances, the state has failed to meet its burden to show that the actions of the defendant rose above mere civil negligence,” Judge Barry Williams said.
While they’ll all be viewed separately, Goodson’s acquittal may set a precedent for the other four officers set to still go to trial over their involvement, following another’s acquittal and including a retrial set for September.
“As the trier of fact, the court can’t simply let things speak for themselves,” said Williams, who found Goodson not guilty of a second-degree depraved heart murder and three counts of manslaughter.
There were clear mixed feelings following the verdict. Goodson was immediately embraced by his family and is eligible to receive more than $72,000 of his annual salary in backpay. Meanwhile, Gray’s family is still looking for justice, regardless of their $6.4 million settlement from the city, and protestors were obviously frustrated with the news.
“We have to go back to the drawing board here in Baltimore and Maryland with rules and regulations and laws that affect the police behavior,” said Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore NAACP. “Because it’s clear that they can do action that we feel is not correct, but in the courtroom … is not a criminal act.”
“It is time to put this sad chapter behind us and move forward in a positive manner,” FOP President Gene Ryan said. “We must all come together to make Baltimore a safe place to work and raise a family.”
Photo Credit: Jerry Jackson