State prosecutors take on a difficult challenge as Caesar Goodson, the officer driving the van in which Freddie Gray was fatally injured, goes to trial on Monday, The Associated Press reports.
Goodson, 46, is charged with second-degree “depraved-heart” murder, manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment charges, and faces the most serious charges in the Gray case. Fellow officers involved in the trial have testified that Goodson is to blame for not ensuring Gray’s safety in the back of the police van.
Motions will begin Monday, and jury selection will occur soon after, according to The Baltimore Sun.
If convicted, Goodson could serve up to 30 years in prison. But if a jury does not find him guilty, it will be the third straight trial in which prosecutors haven’t received a favorable decision: Officer William Porter‘s trial ended in a hung jury and Officer Edward Nero finished with an acquittal last month.
“It would be devastating for the state to lose Goodson’s trial because there’s no question that the ultimate responsibility lies with the van driver,” said Warren Alperstein in an interview with the AP. Alperstein is a Baltimore attorney who has closely followed the case.
Gray died on April 19, 2015, a week after he was arrested by six officers and placed in a van in West Baltimore. Goodson made six stops, and on the last stop, three officers got out and placed Gray on his belly inside of the car. He was never buckled into his seat, a law required by the Baltimore Police Department.
The AP writes:
Officer William Porter, whose trial ended in a hung jury in December, testified during his trial that he told Goodson at one of the stops to take Gray to the hospital, but Goodson didn’t. Instead, Goodson made another stop to pick up a second prisoner.
Goodson recently filed a motion seeking to block prosecutors from entering into evidence statements Porter made to an investigator. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Monday and jury selection is expected to start Tuesday.
Goodson is the only officer who chose not to make a statement to investigators.
“This is unlike the other trials, where at least the state had a preview as to what the defense might be or what the defendant might say on the witness stand,” said Steve Levin, a Baltimore attorney who is familiar but unaffiliated with the case.
“All the stops, it could work in Goodson’s favor because it demonstrates that he was concerned about his prisoner,” Levin said. “At the same time, it could work in the state’s favor because prosecutors could argue that Officer Goodson saw Mr. Gray several times and he saw that he was injured and needed medical aid, and that he was so concerned that he kept checking on Gray.”
Another key difference between Goodson’s trial and Officer Edward Nero, who was acquitted last month, is who will decide. Nero opted for a bench trial, while Goodson could place his fate in hands of a jury. Court officials have indicated that jury selection will begin Tuesday, however Goodson could still opt for a judge trial.
SOURCE: The Associated Press, The Baltimore Sun | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter
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