On the seventh day of a trial that was scheduled to take no less than 10, the Defense rested. The bizarre, juvenile antics of the Prosecution team of Michael Schatzow and Janice Bledsoe foretold the rapid end as their case, day by day, in a steady avalanche of disaster and incompetence, collapsed. By the final hours, the Defense obviously concluded that the Prosecution had argued the Defense case so well, only a portion of the planned Defense witnesses were necessary.
As I noted in Update 35.4.2, The Baltimore Sun noted that Det. Corey Alston testified first in the Defense case, but reported nothing at all about what Alston said. As usual, there was a very good reason: Alston helped to decimate The Narrative. WBAL reports:
Earlier, Baltimore City Police Det. Cory Alston testified for the defense.
He was another detective who met with Allan, along with Taylor, and said Allan gave a similar description of the manner of Gray’s death.
Alston said he did not take notes of the meeting.
To clarify, Alston supported Det. Dawnyell Taylor’s testimony that Medical Examiner Carol Allan, despite her testimony to the contrary, did tell detectives and other police officers that Freddie Gray’s death was an accident. While there were many surprises in testimony in this case, surprises sprung by the Prosecutors on themselves, this is one that has the greatest probability of utterly destroying any hope of a conviction, not only because an accident best fits the evidence, but because it utterly wipes away Allan’s credibility, now and in the future, to say nothing about the prosecution’s most important witness committing perjury.
Yet another witness was a disaster for the Prosecution:
The next defense witness was Baltimore City Police transport van driver Mark Butler, who has driven the same van Goodson was driving on the day he transported Gray.
Butler said he rode with Goodson in as transport van, ‘hundreds of times.’
However, Butler was barred from describing how well Goodson drove the van, because of objections from prosecutors.
Butler testified he was aware of the policy requiring prisoners in vans to be placed in seat belts, but he said he was never trained on the policy.
He described the seat belt as a standard lap belt, with a button that prisoners could use to release the belt.
As I pointed out in Update 35.4.2, there would be no training for van seat belts because such a task is in the category of having to train someone how to flush a toilet or use a light switch. His testimony also supports the testimony of yet another deadly–to the Prosecution–Prosecution witness, Stanford Franklin, who under cross-examination admitted that prisoners can open seat belts and seat belting a prisoner doesn’t secure them. As has been the case with many witnesses, the Prosecution didn’t want anything to do with questioning Butler.
The next witness was a retired police detective, John Ryan, qualified as an expert in training police officers:
Ryan says seat belt policy gives officers discretion.
Ryan said Officer Goodson’s and Officer William Porter’s actions not seat belting Gray because he resisted as he was loaded into van.
Ryan says even though Gray was described as ‘docile’ at fourth stop, it was reasonable for officers not to seat belt Gray.
Ryan says detainees go ‘from docile to hostile to docile’ to try to trick officers, and try to attack officers.
Ryan’s testimony was an accurate reflection of the reality police face every day in dealing with criminals. His confirmation that seat belt policies do not take away an officer’s discretion was just the most recent example of that fact entered into evidence.
The next witness was the dim felon, Donta Allen. The Sun’s accounts of his testimony were, as usual, very sparse, incomplete, and protective of the Prosecution. Also as usual, WBAL did much better:
On the stand, Allen at first said he did not recall being placed in the van with Gray. Showed a record of the arrest, Allen still claimed not to remember.
‘I don’t remember anything,’ Allen said. ‘How can this document help me remember?’
He answered defense attorneys’ questions several times in similar fashion [there was a recess].
Donta Allen returned to the stand as video of his initial interview with police was played in court.
In that video, he is shown telling police he heard banging from the other side of a partition in the van, but did not say from which part of the van that banging was coming. Asked by defense attorney Matt Fraling on the stand, Allen said he did not recall that conversation.
On cross-examination from prosecutor Janice Bledsoe, Allen was more forthcoming. He said he remembered hearing officers on the other side of the partition calling Freddie Gray’s name. He said he remembered speaking to a white officer and clarified that the banging on the wall of the van sounded like Gray banging his head, but that he could not tell for sure.
Again we see the difficulty of analyzing testimony without being able to hear the voices and see the demeanor and delivery of witnesses. However, even with these handicaps, it seems clear that Allen was yet another disaster for the Prosecution, and a great help for the Defense. Putting him on the stand was a calculated risk. I suspect the Defense decided that in light of the deceptions and lies from the Prosecutors and Dr. Allan, Donta Allen’s perjury would paint them all with the same brush and be helpful to Goodson. Obviously, Allen wasn’t smart enough to know how much he was helping the Defense.
Officer Edward Nero also briefly testified, as in another WBAL report:
The questioning of Nero was limited. He testified that he was given orders to go to Mount and Baker streets, which was stop two, to assist with Gray’s arrest. Nero said that he, his partner Officer Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice placed leg shackles on Gray, who also was in flexicuffs.
Nero claims Gray created a hostile environment after being shackled during the van’s second stop. Nero said Gray’s protests drew a boisterous crowd.
Nero also testified that Gray’s demeanor was passively resisting and that he was making himself limp, ‘like dead weight.’ Nero said that after he helped place Gray in the van, Gray was banging, yelling and screaming and he saw Gray ‘violently shake the wagon.
The questioning of Nero was limited because of the immunity agreement forced on him by the Prosecution. His testimony supported other testimony that demonstrated that Gray was not passive and completely cooperative.
This witness was ignored by virtually every other media outlet:
The defense also called Detective Patti Bauer, a 23-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, to the stand. Bauer, a police instructor and crash team investigator, testified on teaching in-service collision and traffic classes from lesson plans she had prepared.
The defense said that Bauer taught Goodson in 2013 on fleet and seat belt safety. She testified there was nothing in the police general orders at that time about seat belting prisoners.
However, during the state’s cross-examination, Bauer’s testimony conflicted with what prosecutor Janice Bledsoe said Bauer told her during a meeting last week. Bauer testified that she couldn’t recall specifically teaching Goodson on Sept. 18, 2013, even though evidence was presented to the court showing Goodson signed into class that day.
The state then moved to strike Bauer’s testimony. After asking Bauer questions himself, Williams struck Bauer’s testimony.
This demonstrates the prosecution’s desperation. Anyone could easily fail to recall who was present in a meeting or class held three years earlier. Struck or not, Bauer’s testimony is a bell that cannot be unrung.
Every trial in the Freddie Gray case thus far has been frustrating, in that the very idea of charging people with crimes without sufficient evidence to convict them beyond a reasonable doubt strikes at the credibility of the criminal justice system. It erodes the trust we absolutely must have in that system to maintain the thin blue line between civilization and anarchy. This trial has been nearly unbelievable. Officer Goodson is ridiculously charge-stacked, facing murder charges, and the Prosecution’s most essential witnesses have been revealed as perjurers, or have blown up in their faces. The Defense has only needed a bit of cross-examination to turn them against the Prosecution. And on top of that, the Prosecutors have revealed themselves to be far more unprofessional, even unhinged, than any lawyer I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen more than a few unprofessional, unhinged lawyers.
Prosecutors, unless they are prosecuting them for serious crimes, and have the evidence to convict them, do not question the credibility of police officers. Not only does it destroy that officer’s effectiveness from that point forward, it is likely–just as it did in this case–to be thrown back in their face, which caused Janice Bledsoe to behave like a 12 year old girl in a rage over a boyfriend–in court! It is like a very bad movie script.
Let’s quickly examine the three prosecution theories of the case:
(1) The Seat Belt Massacre. There has been no evidence whatever that Off. Goodson ever saw the brief portion of an enormous e-mail (some 80 pages) regarding a new seat belt policy sent out only a few days before Gray was injured, but even if he had, witness after witness, even Prosecution witnesses, testified that officers retain discretion with such policies. Multiple witnesses have testified that officers seldom, if ever, use seat belts, and even the Prosecution’s expert witness testified that seat belts can be unfastened by prisoners and they do not make anyone secure. How can this be spun into unreasonable disregard and malice?
(2) Failure to Render Medical Care. The only hope the Prosecution had was if Judge Williams believed Dr. Allan’s testimony that Gray was injured between the 2nd and 4th stop, and the bizarre supporting testimony suggesting that a man with an essentially severed spinal cord could still move, talk and breathe for quite some time. And then Det. Taylor came along, followed by Det. Alston, who established Allan’s perjury. Other witnesses have proved that Gray was moving and talking until the 6th and final stop. Goodson and others looked in on Gray no less than four times, just to be certain he wasn’t faking. Not once did one of them believe Gray was in real medical distress until the final stop, when it was obvious to any observer. And Donta Allen, as poor a human being as he is, clearly told the truth in his initial statement to the police, and in at least one following statement. Gray was repeatedly and loudly banging his head against the wall of the van, and rocking it between the fifth and final stops. The defense medical testimony, and virtually every other witness, proves that Gray injured himself between the 5th and 6th stops, which unquestionably proves that Goodson could not have believed Gray needed medical help until the final stop. No one could. The minute he believed Gray was hurt, Goodson summoned help. How can this be spun into a depraved heart?
(3) The Rough Ride. This is yet another “novel legal theory” that the Prosecution pulled out of its–ahem–legal annex, at the last minute because the prosecutors knew their other theories were nonsense. Their own witnesses could not testify that Goodson gave Gray a rough ride. There is not a shred of evidence to support the theory. The Prosecution is reduced to arguing that because Freddie Gray is dead, he must have been given a rough ride, which killed him. Not only is that nothing more than innuendo, the fact that there are other ways that Gray could have died, including the most likely way–he accidently killed himself–makes the prosecution’s theory nothing more than a pathetic joke–on the prosecutors. There is no proof–none–and at the end of the trial, even Schatzow, a seemingly shameless man, seemed sheepish even mentioning it.
Closing arguments will be held on Monday, June 20. I won’t try to predict when Judge Williams will render his verdict, but I doubt it will be later than Wednesday. In order to convict Goodson on any count, Williams will not only have to ignore the utter inability of the Prosecution to prove any element of any of the offenses, he also have to ignore the overwhelming evidence of Goodson’s innocence.
But this is Baltimore…