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Goodson Trial: Nero called as defense rests

P. Kenneth Burns
(file photo) Officer Edward Nero (right) returned Friday to Courthouse East to testify on behalf of Officer Caesar Goodson.

Lawyers for Officer Caesar Goodson, on trial in the death of Freddie Gray, called Officer Edward Nero to the stand Friday.

It was the first time Nero, who was recently acquitted in the same case, returned to Courthouse East after Circuit Judge Barry Williams found him not guilty of second degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office in May.

Nero, who did not take the stand during his trial, said he saw Gray being uncooperative and “passive aggressive” when officers tried to place him in the van at the second stop; Mount and Baker streets.  And that he heard banging coming from the van and saw the van shake.

Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow asked Nero what he meant by being uncooperative.

He said Gray was making himself “like dead weight.”

Nero was the last witness called by the defense.

Defense attorney Warren Brown, who has been watching the trial, said he was not surprised that Goodson’s lawyers called Nero.

“What Nero provides is evidence that Freddie Gray, at stop two, was banging around inside the van even before it took off,” he said. 

“What has been established is that Freddie Gray was banging around on his own volition which also is somewhat consistent with what Danta Allen says he was doing between five and six,” Brown added.

Allen was arrested the same day as Gray, April 12, 2015, and was confined in another compartment of the van.

He testified Thursday that he heard what sounded like someone banging his head in the van’s other compartment.  But added he couldn’t see what was going on because of the van’s partition.

However, Allen’s credibility has been undermined by conflicting statements he gave to officers and television reporters.

Brown said Allen’s initial statement to officers while Gray was being taken to Maryland Shock Trauma is the one given “the greatest degree of credibility.”

“I know he testified that he was high and the like but there was a lot of specificity in his first statement for someone that was high on heroin and Xanax and whatever else he said,” Brown added.

Goodson is facing the most serious charges in Freddie Gray’s death; second degree depraved heart murder, criminal negligent vehicular manslaughter, gross negligent vehicular manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

Prosecutors accuse Goodson of giving Gray a “rough ride” in the van. The defense argues that Goodson had no intention of harming Gray and that his driving style has “put prisoners to sleep.”

Former city prosecutor Warren Alperstein, who has also been observing the trial, said the defense continued to poke holes in the “rough ride” theory.

“I think the defense is going to have a very good persuasive closing argument,” Alperstein said.  “I’m not sure the state at this point has met its burden on any of the other charges.”

Closing arguments are scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday.  The verdict will be decided by Judge Williams.