Judge clears another officer in Freddie Gray case
Police | Verdict raises doubt prosecutors will get a criminal conviction in the case
by Evan Wilt
Posted 7/18/16, 01:24 pm
A Baltimore judge acquitted Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking officer tied to the death of Freddie Gray, of all charges today.
This is the fourth time prosecutors have failed to secure a conviction against any of the six officers connected to the Gray case. Prosecutors accused Rice of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office for failing to seatbelt Gray in a police van, where he fatally broke his neck. Today Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams threw out each charge, citing a lack of evidence.
Rice initiated the pursuit of Gray on April 12, 2015, and was the supervising officer during his arrest for possessing an allegedly illegal switchblade. While in the police van, Gray broke his neck and fell into a coma. Police took Gray to a trauma center, but he died a week later from his injuries.
A medical examiner determined Gray sustained his injuries while in police custody. Prosecutors argued Rice, a well-trained and highly qualified officer, neglected his duty to safely secure Gray during the arrest, causing his death. But Williams said an error in judgment is not enough to show corruption and at best prosecutors proved Rice made a mistake.
Earlier this year, Williams also acquitted officers Edward Nero and Caesar Goodson Jr. of all charges related to the case. Goodson was the only officer charged with murder—all others faced charges for lesser offenses.
In December, officer William Porter’s case ended in a mistrial after a deadlocked jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on any of the four charges against him. Porter will go back to trial Sept. 6.
The two remaining officers, Garrett Miller and Sgt. Alicia White, will go before a judge on July 27 and Oct. 13, respectively.
Gray’s death sparked riots and protests throughout downtown Baltimore, the worst the city had seen in decades.
Two days after Gray’s death, police officials suspended all six officers without pay. Criminal charges followed shortly after, amid ongoing public pressure and city protests.
Rice’s verdict comes at a pivotal time as the recent police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have reinvigorated the anti-police brutality movement. After the Sterling and Castile shootings, a gunman angry about police violence attacked officers working a peaceful protest in Dallas, shooting 12 and killing five. And yesterday morning, a gunman targeted police in an ambush attack in Baton Rouge, La., shooting six and killing three.
Over the weekend in Baltimore, police arrested 65 protesters marching against police brutality after they blocked part of Interstate 83. The protesters chanted “hands up, don’t shoot” and one wore a shirt that read “I am Freddie Gray” while another carried a “Black Lives Matter” sign.
Ten of the 65 arrested were minors. Police said they were illegally walking on a highway and failed to obey police instruction.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement today Rice still faces consequences for his actions. Although he escaped a criminal penalty, Rice will face an internal police department administrative review.
“This has been a very difficult time for our city, and I thank the community for their patience during this time and ask their continued respect for the judicial process as we move forward,” Rawlings-Blake said.
Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.