As I wrote in Update 35.4, every media outlet studiously avoided reporting on the actual testimony of Stanford Franklin, former BPD Administrator. In fact, I could find anything more than passing mention of him only in The Washington Post, and their coverage consisted only of what a past court filing claimed he might say if he testified. I suggested that this was likely because under cross-examination, Franklin’s testimony was obliterated. I had no idea how right I was, as The Guardian–a British Newspaper–reports:
Prosecutors seeking murder charges over Freddie Gray’s death rested their case against Caesar Goodson on Wednesday with an expert witness who crumbled under cross-examination. His testimony was the latest of several blows in the trial that experts say is prosecutors’ best shot at getting a conviction for Gray’s death. [skip]
Witness Stanford O’Neill Franklin, a former police commander, was called to support the prosecution’s theory that Gray suffered what is known as a ‘rough ride’, a practice in which a driver jolts and takes sharp turns, jostling a prisoner who is handcuffed and shackled without a seatbelt.
But when asked by defense attorney Matthew Fraling whether he saw any evidence of Goodson’s erratic driving, he couldn’t say.
Asked if, in reviewing footage of the van’s stops, he saw evidence of unexpected starts, stops, or turns, Franklin answered: ‘I did not.’
‘It’s not your contention that Officer Goodson in any way engaged in a rough ride?’ Fraling asked.
‘I can’t say for sure,’ Franklin responded.
Ruh-roh, Shaggy! Surely on re-direct, the Prosecution was able to salvage something from this Hindenberg of testimony?
On redirect, assistant deputy state’s attorney Michael Schatzow did not ask any further questions about the rough ride before resting his case.
The Baltimore Sun’s reporter in the court room covered the testimony on–of all places–Twitchy, rather than in the pages of The Sun. Here’s a bit of understatement:
Amazingly, Franklin admitted on the stand that he was accused of giving a prisoner a rough ride as a young officer, but because the man wasn’t injured, he didn’t report it and there was no investigation, causing Judge Williams to ask:
Side Note: by all means, visit Andrew Branca’s coverage of this case at Legal Insurrection. We do tend to cover the same issues, but often from somewhat different perspectives. One can’t be too well informed.
As expected, the Defense moved for acquittal at the end of the Prosecution’s case, and Schatzow demonstrated the Prosecution’s desperation (via The Sun):
At every stop [of the van], in the light most favorable to the state, the defendant had an opportunity to seat belt [Gray], and did not seatbelt [him],’ Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said.
‘I respectfully submit, [stopping the van] five times is enough to demonstrate a depraved heart,’ Schatzow said.
Not quite. Instead, those stops demonstrate that Goodson, and other officers, were using due diligence in repeatedly checking on Gray just in case he wasn’t faking, but it wasn’t until the final stop at the jail that they could determine he was in actual medical distress. Remember too that one of the stops was due to Sgt. Rice, who was following up on complaints from people at the scene of Gray’s arrest. She too saw no medical distress, nor did she so much as touch Gray. Another stop was due to Goodson being rerouted to pick up arrestee Donte Allen. It is not at all unusual for an officer driving a transport van to stop multiple times for a variety of reasons.
Regular readers will recall that I’ve repeatedly noted that the behavior of the Prosecutors has already poisoned the relationship between the Prosecutor’s Office and the police, and likely will for a generation. As with so much else in this series of trials, I was underestimating the stupidity and malice of the Prosecution. It’s like a bad soap opera/cop drama (via the Baltimore Sun):
Tensions between police and prosecutors in Baltimore erupted in a downtown courtroom Thursday, with a top prosecutor accusing a lead detective of trying to sabotage the state’s case against six officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.
Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow also suggested that Det. Dawnyell Taylor, the lead detective in the police department’s investigation of Gray’s death, and other top police officials had tried to persuade assistant medical examiner Dr. Carol Allan to rule Gray’s death an accident rather than a homicide.
Taylor denied the claims, and in turn suggested Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe, with whom she had fallen out during the investigation, lacked integrity and was dismissive of evidence in the case.
Interestingly, we know that’s true, at least the “dismissive of evidence” part. Review Update 17: Reasonable Doubt, where I reported that Bledsoe tried to keep detectives from looking into Freddie Gray’s history of “crash for cash” schemes against the police.
Taylor testified that Allan had said during a meeting in the days after Gray’s death that it was a ‘freakish accident, and that no human hands can cause this.’
On cross examination, Schatzow immediately asked Taylor about her falling out with Bledsoe during the investigation. He also suggested Taylor didn’t like him because he had asked her to be removed from the investigation because he felt she was ‘sabotaging’ it.
All available evidence indicates her “sabotage” amounted to professionally pursuing every lead and impartially collecting all relevant evidence rather than slavishly supporting The Narrative. No wonder Schatzow was so exercised.
Taylor said she was never removed, and that she just agreed to stop having communications with the State’s Attorney’s Office. She also accused Bledsoe of acting like a child, who at one point ‘stormed out of the room in a tantrum’ during a meeting to exchange evidence.
Gee, that’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?
Schatzow asked Taylor who else from the police department was with her when Allan allegedly said Gray’s death was a “freakish accident.”
She identified a long list of top commanders, including current Commissioner Kevin Davis.
Triple Ruh-Roh, Shaggy! This is one of the classic rookie mistakes: never ask a question of a witness in court unless you know the answer they’re going to give. Schatzow just sabotaged his own case–again. The man is either incompetent, hopelessly arrogant, a fool, and, or, including… Expect several of these top commanders to be supporting Taylor’s testimony–under oath–within the next few days.
Schatzow asked her if all of the commanders in the room had suggested to Allan that Gray’s death was an accident. Taylor said they had not, and that Allan had offered the assessment on her own.
Kaboom! The truth just blew up in Schatzow’s face–again–and it was his own fault.
That was precisely the news the command staff was looking for, wasn’t it?’ Schatzow said, suggesting a less than impartial investigation by police.
Like virtually everything else Schatzow has done in these trials, his attempt to claim the defense withheld evidence blew up in his face:
There was then an extended discussion regarding Taylor’s testimony that she had taken notes at the meeting with Allan, and the state’s contention that she had given those notes directly to the defense without providing them to the state.
Taylor said she offered her notes multiple times to Bledsoe, but that Bledsoe either ignored them or pushed them away when offered.
The fiery exchange between Schatzow and Taylor was repeatedly broken up by conferences between prosecutors and defense attorneys at Williams’ bench.
During one of those conferences, Bledsoe leaned back from the judge’s bench and she and Taylor stared at each other for several seconds on end. After another conference, Schatzow and Bledsoe stood to the side of the bench conversing as Bledsoe gestured wildly at Taylor.
This trial has degenerated to farce–I mean it’s even more farcical than before. I can just hear Bledsoe at the bench: “she’s a poopy face, your Honor! A poopy face! She’s being mean to me! She’s staring at me! Make her stop staring at me, your Honor!”
Taylor was the second defense witness to be called after the prosecution rested its case on Wednesday. The first was Det. Corey Alston, another investigator on the task force that investigated Gray’s death.
After Taylor, the defense called Officer Mark Butler, who like Goodson is a longtime van driver for the department. He said he was never trained on seat-belting passengers.
The Sun did not say a word about Alston’s testimony, as usual because it likely eviscerated some aspect of the Prosecution’s case. The brief mention of Butler’s testimony is revealing. In past articles, I’ve suggested that van-driving chores are often passed around, but in the BPD, it appears it is a long-term assignment. If so, the utter lack of evidence of any prior “rough rides,” or any kind of complaint about Goodson is telling indeed. It is not surprising that van driving officers are never trained in the use of seat belts. I’m sure BPD officers aren’t trained in the use of light switches, pencil erasers or toilet flushing mechanisms either; it’s just not necessary.
As I’ve previously mentioned, prosecutors do not investigate crimes. They use the Police for that task, because it could theoretically make them witnesses, and because they’re not qualified. In addition, I’ve never seen a prosecutor’s office with such a small caseload that it would be anything less than insane to try to take over police duties as well as prosecuting crimes. Yet in the Gray case, that’s exactly what they did.
Police investigators questioned the legitimacy of prosecutors’ investigation because detectives said they never ran into witnesses who said they had also been questioned by investigators working for the State’s Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors accused police of being the source of leaks during the investigation.
This single fact would indicate the corruption of the Prosecution “investigation.” Any competent investigation of any incident will always involve the same witnesses and evidence. Failure to do that indicates incompetence, at best, or a very selective, political investigation.
Prosecutors say they were also reviewing police findings as part of their investigation, and were periodically briefed by police during joint meetings in April 2015. But police said prosecutors rarely asked the police many questions during these meetings.
When Mosby announced on May 1, 2015, that she was charging the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest, detectives — surprised by the suddenness of the action — openly questioned what evidence she had to support charges, including the second-degree murder charge against Goodson.
The charges were announced before the police task force had completed its investigation, so police commanders kept the task force together over the next few days, believing prosecutors might ask them to continue or give them orders now that they had custody of the case. The task force received little instruction, and police dismissed most of the 30 officers involved in the investigation except for a handful of detectives.
When Det. Syreeta Teel, the primary police detective on the Gray case, took a medical leave, police commanders made Taylor, an experienced homicide detective, lead investigator.
As prosecutors prepared for trial in the late summer, Taylor said she and Bledsoe butted heads. Taylor felt Bledsoe was not looking at the evidence objectively, and Taylor challenged prosecutors’ assessment of how Gray was killed. One argument was over the knife found in Gray’s pocket. Police believed the knife was illegal according to city code while prosecutors argued it was legal under state law.
Taylor also said prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to get her removed as primary detective by writing to the city police commissioner.
This is why it is so dangerous and foolish for prosecutors to exceed their proper role in the judicial system. If the police and prosecution can’t agree on the facts and evidence, how any anything be proved, in any sense, let alone beyond a reasonable doubt?
More on this later this evening as the various media outlets publish the summaries of the day’s fireworks.