Protesters held their breath Thursday as they gathered outside Baltimore’s Mitchell Court House to await the verdict of Caesar Goodson Jr., one of six Baltimore cops charged in the tragic death of Freddie Gray. To their surprise (and outrage), the officer was acquitted on all charges.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Circuit Judge Barry Williams found Goodson not guilty on all charges following an eight-day bench trial. Goodson faced the most serious charges for his role in Gray’s death, including second-degree assault, involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter by vehicles (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence), reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
Williams’ shocking verdict came after he determined state prosecutors had “failed to meet its burden to show that the actions of the defendant rose above mere civil negligence,” CNN.com reports.
Goodson was accused of giving Gray a “rough ride” as he transported the 25-year-old to jail in a police van. The severe injuries Gray sustained during the ride resulted in his death a week later.
This is the second time an officer has been acquitted for his involvement in the Baltimore man’s death. Although the verdict was a shocking blow to the state prosecution, all eyes were on State Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Per the Baltimore Sun, Mosby rose to prominence in May 2015 after she vowed to bring charges against the six officers involved in Gray’s death. So far, none of them have been convicted.
Now, the Baltimore Police Union is calling for the state attorney to drop all charges against the remaining officers. Because her prosecutors have failed to draw convictions against the first three officers, it’s likely they’ll have trouble convicting the remaining three as well, legal experts said. So what does this mean for Mosby’s career?
“This is their Waterloo. This is their Gettysburg,” attorney Warren A. Brown said. “She [Mosby] is virtually persona non grata in the white community, and her support is waning in the black community and will continue to wane if she continues to lose these cases.”
According to the Baltimore Sun, Brown is a critic of Mosby’s who predicts that she’ll face several challengers for re-election in the next two years. WEAA radio host Charles D. Ellison also acknowledged that Goodson’s acquittal could have a major impact on Mosby’s career, but thinks “she’s savvy enough to survive” it.
“This is the case that everyone has been watching,” Ellison said. “There are going to be some who see Mosby as being ineffective. It’s not just a verdict on Goodson. It’s a verdict on her performance. But that’s something she can pull through. She’s a very talented lawyer and talented politician.”
Despite her consecutive courtroom losses, opinion polls show that Mosby has remained popular among voters in Baltimore, the publication reports. Residents have come to her defense as well, applauding her handling of the Gray case.
Fifty-five-year-old William Gibson of Sandtown-Winchester thinks Mosby “did the right thing” by filing criminal charges against the six officers. According to the Baltimore Sun, Gibson even compared the Gray case to that of Rodney King.
Goodson’s acquittal has put a damper on Mosby’s conviction record; but it further proves that the U.S. justice system is broken. Thursday’s not guilty verdict casts a shadow of doubt on the trials of the remaining officers, The New York Times reports. So who will ultimately be held responsible for Gray’s death? Lack of accountability has some activists frustrated because they say it’s apparent the Baltimore man didn’t kill himself.
Community activist C.D. Witherspoon told CNN affiliate WBFF that the state’s failure to convict any of the officers “represented a failure of the judicial system.”
“We knew and they knew that this case was critical to the remaining cases,” he stated.