Last week we learned about the bombshell which dropped in Baltimore during the trial of Ceasar Goodson, one of the officers being charged in the death of Freddie Gray. The state was found by the judge to have withheld testimony from a witness who was in the police van on the same trip which resulted in Gray’s eventual death. As I noted at the time, this calls the entire premise of the prosecution’s case into question if the judge accepts the witness’ testimony as being credible and Goodson is really the highest value “target” for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in the entire affair.
Now, as revealed in an interview at The Daily Caller, one Baltimore Attorney observing the case seems to feel that if Goodson is found not guilty, the entire sequence of trials is essentially headed for the scrap heap.
Officer Caesar Goodson drove the police vehicle transporting Gray before his death and is accused of giving Gray a “rough ride,” where a driver intentionally drives recklessly to cause an unbuckled passenger to slide around in the back. Prosecutors are trying to prove Goodson drove dangerously enough to to cause Gray’s fatal injuries and thus warrants a criminal conviction. One Baltimore attorney says the whole case hinges on Goodson’s trial.
“If they can’t prove that they can’t prove anything,” local Baltimore attorney Steve Silverman, who is not representing anyone in the case, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The whole point is they put him in the back of a paddy wagon and they roughed him up and that’s why he died. If you can’t even prove causation for the basic theory of the case for the driver of the vehicle and the injury then how can you prove all these ancillary officers did something wrong?”
“Goodson is the center of the universe when it comes to this case,” he added. “If they cant’ prove this case, I don’t know what they’re going to do. If they can’t convict Goodson then they can’t convict anybody.”
That sounds about right. We’ve already locked in on the idea that Goodson was the “most culpable” of all six officers, being the driver of the van who supposedly administered the “rough ride” and the one responsible for securing any prisoners correctly. This really is the big show for Marilyn Mosby. A conviction here could at least establish a framework which assumes that somebody did something wrong and some of the other officers might still be convicted on lesser charges. But if Officer Goodson is acquitted across the board, that assumption underlying the rest of the trials is pretty much erased.
In the event that this trial plays out that way, does it lend any more strength to the civil cases being brought against Mosby for targeting the cops? After all, another officer filed suit against her on that assumption just this month.
Lt. Brian Rice, one of six Baltimore officers charged in the Gray case, filed his lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Maryland on May 2, the same day two of the other officers — Sgt. Alicia White and Officer William Porter — filed a joint defamation lawsuit against Mosby in state Circuit Court. Documents in Rice’s case were first unsealed on Monday.
Like White and Porter, whose lawsuit was unsealed in state court late last month, Rice is also suing Baltimore sheriff’s office Maj. Sam Cogen, who signed off on the charging documents in the Gray case. Also like White and Porter, Rice claims in his lawsuit that Mosby and Cogen knew that he had committed no crime when they brought charges against him — including manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
Like the other officers, Rice is claiming that the charges against them were filed without probable cause, accusing Mosby of “demonstrated ill will, improper motivation and/or evil purpose” in her pursuit of the cases. But as we’ve discussed here in the past, even if every one of the officers is fully cleared in court, these civil cases will be a very rough row to hoe. Prosecutors have historically been given extremely wide latitude in deciding to bring cases to trial and that’s done to prevent intimidation of the state’s officers. If there’s any reasonable level of suspicion that a crime was committed she can probably get away with it, no matter the public perception that she was on the side of Freddie Gray’s family the entire time.
We’ll have an answer soon enough. This trial should be wrapping up in another week or two at most. And being a bench trial, the judge can come back with a decision in fairly short order rather than waiting around for a jury.