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Goodson Trial: Sparks fly as charges stand

Prosecutors and a lead detective in the Freddie Gray case clashed Thursday as Circuit Judge Barry Williams denied a motion to acquit Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver accused of giving Gray a fatal rough ride last year.

It started when Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow asked Detective Dawnyell Taylor, who took over as lead detective in the case last May, if she recalled his request to remove her, acccusing her of sabotaging the state’s case.

Taylor said she remembered, then sharply and sternly told Schatzow, “You don’t have the authority to do that.”

Schatzow asked if she remembered being removed from the case.  Taylor told him that she was not removed and that she, with her superior, decided not to talk to prosecutors anymore.

The fireworks exploded from there.

Taylor accused Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe of throwing tantrums during meetings, not taking any of the notes Taylor had written and that she stalked out of a meeting leaving some of the evidence in a case file behind.

Schatzow asked Taylor if she spoke to defense attorneys.  She said yes and added she gave them the same information she offered prosecutors.

Taylor said she had a problem with Bledsoe’sintegrity.  Schatzow curtly countered if Bledsoe “complained about [Taylor’s] integrity?”  And that’s when Judge Barry Williams called for a bench conference.

Former city prosecutor Warren Alperstein said what happened during Taylor’s testimony was “extremely unusual” because it’s a high profile case where detectives and prosecutors understand they have to “do everything they can to make sure they cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’.”

“It is very rare in normal cases for the state’s attorney involved in the case to accuse a lead detective of sabotaging a case,” Alperstein said.  He added it’s not often there is a battle between the state’s attorney’s office and police.

Taylor also testified that Dr. Carol Allan, the assistant state medical examiner who wrote the death report on Gray, said on three occasions that Gray’s death was an accident.  That conflicts with Allan’s earlier testimony that she never considered Gray’s death an accident.

University of Baltimore Law Professor David Jarros said Allan’s credibility will be undermined by Taylor’s testimony if the judge believes it.

“The medical examiner’s testimony played an important role in establishing the timing for the prosecutor,” Jarros said.  “So, if she is less credible that’s a problem.”

Freddie Gray died April 19, 2015, of a broken neck suffered while being transported to the Western District police station a week earlier.

Goodson is charged with second degree depraved heart murder, criminal negligent vehicular manslaughter, gross negligent vehicular manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

Although Judge Williams denied a defense motion to acquit Goodson of all of the charges, he appeared to have been close to tossing out the murder charge; calling at “a closer call.”