The Baltimore police van driver accused of giving a “rough ride” that killed Freddie Gray was acquitted of all charges today, the Baltimore Sun reports. Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., 46, had faced the most serious charges of any of the six officers indicted in Gray’s arrest and death last April, including a charge of second-degree “depraved heart” murder. Goodson was also acquitted of three counts of manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. His acquittal, which comes after Judge Barry Williams considered the charges for three days, throws the rest of the cases into jeopardy. The other officers charged face similar, but lesser accusations.
Prosecutors alleged Goodson had five chances to render aid to Gray after his neck was broken in the back of the van, which they said demonstrated a “depraved heart.” They also said Goodson was the direct cause of the injuries, driving the van in a reckless manner that threw him in the back of the van’s steel cage, shackled but unrestrained by a seat belt. As a certified field training officer, prosecutors said Goodson knew police department rules and broke them. Goodson’s defense attorneys said officers who checked on Gray didn’t know he was seriously injured, and that Goodson deferred to decisions of other officers not to put a seat belt on Gray. Williams said there was no evidence presented that Goodson was aware or should have been aware that Gray was hurt. He said the failure to harness Gray in a seat belt might be a mistake or bad judgment, but not criminal negligence.