Caesar Goodson verdict delivers blow to Baltimore City Hall

Through all the coverage we’ve done here of the trial of Baltimore Police Officer Ceasar Goodson in the matter of Freddie Gray’s death, I’ve noted the consistently weak nature of the case against him and the slim chances that the prosecution had for a conviction on the most serious charges. I was not, however, expecting the complete failure they experienced when the judge came back with his ruling. Goodson was found not guilty on each and every charge this morning. (NBC News)

Caesar Goodson, one of the Baltimore police officers tried in the death of Freddie Gray, was found not guilty on all charges by Judge Barry Williams on Thursday.

Goodson’s indictment was the pinnacle of the state’s case with prosecutors convinced that, as the van driver, he was the most culpable. Goodson was charged with second degree “depraved heart” murder, three different counts of manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office.

NBC News is describing the result as the “chips being stacked” against the prosecutors, which is fairly typical for the media, but if that’s true it’s because State Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her team, with the full cooperation of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, brought this on herself.

Mosby made her attitude toward the Baltimore Police clear from the beginning, promising the rioting crowds in the early days of this incident that she would deliver “justice for Freddie Gray” rather than simply justice. What appeared to be, at most, a case of negligence in terms of properly securing a prisoner in a police van was transformed into something far more sinister as she overcharged the cops, going so far as to accuse Goodson of Depraved Heart Murder.

All of her plans began to fall apart in the early days of the trial, when the judge learned that the prosecution had suppressed testimony from another suspect who was in the van… testimony which contradicted the prosecution’s allegations. He later learned that the medical examiner originally thought the death might be accidental, but changed her story when it came time to list the cause of death. That fact had also not been presented until they reached the trail stage. The tactics of the prosecution no doubt undermined all of their claims and called into question even the more minor charges.

I doubt Goodson sees this as a “victory” since it still casts a cloud over his career, but if there were any losers in Baltimore today they were Mosby and Rawlings-Blake. Without any conviction of Goodson – who was seen as their last best hope and the “most culpable” of all the officers – the rest of the cases will have very little to stand upon. Mosby’s political career is probably toast at this point and the Mayor is already on the way out, having decided not to run for another term.