The first two days of the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. followed the pattern already established in the trials of officers William Porter and Edward Nero. The primary difference is that the prosecution has, for the first time, argued that Freddie Gray was killed by a “rough ride,” provided by Goodson. And the proof of this rough ride? Prosecutor Michael Schatzow has a video–surveillance video, actually–purporting to show Goodson–according to The Baltimore Sun–“running a stop sign and crossing the center line.”
Because no cameras are allowed in the courtroom, and there is a gag order covering all evidence, we must rely on media accounts, which, as always, tend to favor the prosecution. However, in order to use that supposed video to establish a “rough ride” sufficient to have caused Gray’s injuries, the visual evidence must be severe indeed, however, the media accounts say no such thing. “Running a stop sign” can be anything from failing to come to a complete stop, to speeding through at high speed. “Crossing the center line,” can be anything from grazing the line with a single wheel, to swerving fully into an oncoming lane. For those acts to be remotely deadly, Goodson must have been driving so recklessly it could not have gone unnoticed, and there is no known evidence of that, nor was any apparently revealed during the first two days of prosecution testimony. The media didn’t explain or add any detail.
As I noted in Update 35.1.2: The Incredible Exploding Prosecution, Schatzow has until Monday to produce any and everything he has to this point withheld from the defense. There is no doubt more, though I doubt the prosecution will produce it if they think they can get away with keeping it hidden.
Schatzow continues to mischaracterize the evidence:
Goodson later stopped the van, walked to the back and looked in on Gray.
‘He knows Mr. Gray has been injured’ at that point, Schatzow alleged.
He noted that Goodson did not call in to dispatchers that he was making the stop, though his next move was to ask for another officer to come help him check on Gray.
Goodson checked on Gray because he had been faking injury and he was taking his responsibility to safeguard Gray seriously. Any competent officer would do the same because one can be convinced someone is faking, but as litigious as our society is, it’s always smart to keep checking, and document it. He called for backup, as any competent officer would, because one is always wary with prisoners, particularly those that are faking injury. This will be convincing when it’s time for Judge Williams to deliberate:
Graham [defense attorney] sought to place blame for Gray’s injuries on Gray himself. When officers put Gray stomach-first on the floor of the van, they had placed him in what they deemed was a safe position ‘if Mr. Gray had just stayed there,’ Graham said.
True and provable.
Graham said Gray had faked being hurt and caused a scene during his arrest, and officers were wary of getting too close to him inside the cramped quarters of the van.
True and provable.
Several officers were involved in loading Gray into the van, but Goodson was not among them. Graham said at various points Goodson deferred to the directions of supervisors, such as when he went to pick up another prisoner instead of taking Gray to a hospital.
True and provable.
He said there’s no evidence Goodson was aware of any medical problems requiring prompt attention.
True and provable, and the Prosecution cannot prove otherwise.
The Sun has been careful to accent Dr. Carol Allen’s testimony claiming Gray’s death was murder, however, it is known she originally ruled it an accident and was pressured by prosecutors to change her mind. The Sun mentions this possibility, but says nothing about how it played out in testimony. The local CBS station went somewhat farther:
Prosecutors have presented 12 witnesses so far. The one on the stand the longest has been assistant medical examiner Dr. Carol Allen. She still believes that Freddie Gray’s death was no accident.
The assistant medical examiner who ruled Freddie Gray’s death a homicide says there was no political pressure from the State’s Attorney’s Office, but admits she could not have made that key finding without witness statements Marilyn Mosby’s office selected and sent to her.
‘The medical examiner is really guessing about where this happened and how this happened,’ said Warren Brown, lawyer and courtroom observer.
As I’ve previously written, Dr. Vincent Di Maio’s testimony making clear when the injury occurred (between the 5th and final stops), and that it was an accident, will hold far greater weight than Allen’s guesses. Supported by Dr. Ammerman’s testimony that Gray’s injury would have made it impossible for him to move if he had suffered it when Allen claims, will only reinforce what Williams heard in the Porter case, as I noted in Update 26.4: The Defense Rests. This trial will feature virtually all the same witnesses and the same evidence. Judge Williams has heard it all before.
This, from a later Baltimore Sun report, is significant:
Askew asked Allan if there was any evidence that Gray had an acute or chronic ‘reactive airway disease,’ such as asthma. Allan said there was not, but later testified that evidence of ‘exercise induced asthma’ would not show up in an autopsy report. Gray ran from police before being arrested, and the officers involved in his arrest have said that they searched him in part because he had asked for his inhaler.
This is all about Gray’s asking for an inhaler, despite no evidence he ever had or used one. Such things are prescription only; if Gray ever had such a prescription, it would be easy to find. It has never been produced by the Prosecution, and the fake inhaler request makes it clear Gray was faking from the start. Notice, however, how Dr. Allan tried to rescue Gray from his own faking by saying he might have had “exercise induced asthma” from trying to run from the police. This is nonsense that does not speak well of Allan’s credibility, which the Defense will surely point out in its closing.
Schatzow claimed that Goodson was “aware” of the new seat belt policy six months before others, and as a field training officer, was certified to train others on the use of seat belts. Again, the prosecution cannot prove when, or if, Goodson read a short section of an e-mail buried in a much longer e-mail, and the idea that Goodson would have told recruits to always use a seatbelt regardless of reality is nonsense. Here’s the substance of the prosecution’s newly concocted theory:
Goodson ultimately had responsibility for Freddie Gray. (It’s) based on his own actions and own inactions,’ Schatzow said. ‘Goodson had the knowledge, training and duty to save Gray’s life, but recklessly ignored it and demonstrated depravity in his gross negligence.
So Goodson didn’t use a seatbelt–neither did any of the other officers, including supervisors–and gave Gray a rough ride, and didn’t immediately get him medical help, which amounts to depravity because it was reckless and gross negligence, or something. Notice that there are no provable direct actions on Goodson’s part. Even the media couldn’t help but include a bit of reality:
The state is drawing a line in the sand by saying this catastrophic injury occurred before the fourth stop at Dolphin and Druid Hill, but that’s belied by their own evidence that indicates that Freddie Gray was talking, was aiding Officer Porter in getting himself off the floor of the van,’ said Warren Brown, an attorney and courtroom observer.
The defense gave a very strong opening, including a suggestion that Freddie Gray may have injured himself,’ said University of Maryland Carey School of Law Professor Doug Colbert.
Also testifying was BPD Captain Martin Bartness, who testified about seat belt policy in the Porter trial. The Sun only included his prosecution testimony, not the certainty that under cross- examination, just as he did in the Porter trial, he had to admit that seat belt use is discretionary. Several other witnesses tried to portray the seat belt policy as holy writ, and again, The Sun did not report on their necessary qualification of that kind of absolutism under cross- examination.
This is interesting:
The state’s seventh witness, Rick Opitz, a city of Baltimore employee of 16 years, writes specifications for vehicles. He explained the bid process for vehicles, including BPD vans, and that seat belts and cameras were requested.
On cross-examination, Opitz testified that van configurations changed over the years, but he was not sure when partitions were put in.
Opitz testified that vans don’t automatically come with seat belts and that they are requested from a vendor who is paid to put them in.
In other words, police transport vans don’t come with seat belts. Individual agencies must order them if they want to have them. This is, no doubt, because most agencies do not want them or order them. Again, The Sun did not report the cross-examination, which likely means it obliterated the prosecution’s case.
Anyone wanted a preview of this trial should review these updates:
While there will be additional witnesses, these three Porter case updates outline much of the evidence that has been, and will be presented in the Goodson case.
The Goodson case represents what may be the height of prosecutorial desperation. Competent prosecutors do not concoct new and “novel” theories of murder cases out of thin air when they discover they don’t have sufficient evidence. Cases without sufficient evidence are normally never filed, but most of the time, such decisions are made without political influence.
One thing is certain: if they can’t convict Goodson, they would be smart to fold their tents and go home. They have, however, shown no evidence of professional intelligence thus far. I’m particularly anxious to see the trial of Sgt. White, who never touched Gray, and merely observed him for a few minutes to see if he was faking. How that becomes a crime is beyond me, but then again, I’m not a Baltimore Prosecutor.
As I add more updates, remember that the media is providing the best the prosecution can produce, and more or less ignoring the Defense’s demolition of that “evidence.” More to come this coming week.