Out of the six Baltimore police officers charged with playing a role in Freddie Gray’s death, only one was brought up on charges of actual murder. Caesar Goodson Jr., who was reportedly driving the van that Gray was fatally injured in the back of, was charged with depraved-heart murder, which is a second-degree felony with the possibility of 30 years served in prison if convicted. He also faces three counts of manslaughter and charges of second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Goodson’s trial will begin this Thursday as a bench trial and will take place in front of a judge instead of a jury. Several legal experts say that, based on the history of police officers and bench trials, this was probably a smart move on Goodson’s part. 

“And yet, in the relatively rare instances where police officers are defendants, they have consistently opted for judge trials — with very good results for the defendants,” said Douglas Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor.

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Goodson will be the third of the six officers to go to trial over Gray’s death following a mistrial and an acquittal of Officer Edward Nero.

“On the one hand, Officer Goodson is putting all of his eggs in one basket in having Judge Williams making the decision,” said Warren Alperstein, a Baltimore defense attorney who is not involved in the case. “On the other hand, Judge Williams certainly has demonstrated in Nero’s trial that he is able to hear the evidence, apply the law and ultimately make a decision that may not be popular.”

The trials were all expected to happen in quick succession last year, but legal speed-bumps pushed process until now. With Goodson’s trial possibly being the most important of them all, it could set an important precedent for those that follow.

Photo Credit: Jerry Jackson

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