Prosecutors charged Thursday that Freddie Gray was injured because he got a “rough ride” on the way to the Western District police station at the hands of Officer Caesar Goodson.
Gray died from that injury – a broken neck – a week after his arrest in April 2015. Goodson is on trial in Gray’s death.
Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow told Circuit Judge Barry Williams in his opening statement that the 17-year veteran officer “is no rookie officer” and that he even trained other officers on how to transport prisoners. In other words, he knew what he was doing.
“Well, we certainly see things differently,” responded Goodson attorney Andrew Graham at the start of his statement.
Graham said Goodson’s “a nice guy;” a hard worker who supported other officers by driving the van. Prisoners “have fallen asleep” because of Goodson’s driving style, he said.
Goodson, one of six officers charged in Gray’s death, faces the most serious charges; second degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, assault, gross negligent manslaughter by vehicle, criminal negligent manslaughter by vehicle and misconduct in office. Graham called the charges unfair.
Legal analyst and former city prosecutor Warren Alperstein said the state presumably will have evidence to support the theory.
“Is it going to be surveillance video? Is it going to be by standard witness testimony that saw the ride en route to the Western District or is it going to be a combination of things?” he asked.
Alperstein added the state is presenting multiple theories of culpability against Goodson; the failure to seat belt Gray even though he was a field training officer and knew what would happen to Gray during the alleged rough ride.
University of Maryland law professor Doug Colbert said he’s not surprised that prosecutors were pursing the “rough ride” theory.
“I also expect that the prosecution would bring in more testimony to suggest that Officer Goodson was well aware of the dangers that face people in the back of the van,” he said.
Among the first witnesses the prosecution called to the stand was Officer Brian Burke who told Judge Williams he handed Goodson a copy of General Order K14 in October 2014 – six months before Gray’s death.
Order K14 is the policy that says prisoners are to be put in a seat belt while being transported as long as it is safe for the officer to do so. That policy was revised in Order 1114; removing officers’ discretion.