Prosecutors in Baltimore have taken yet another devastating blow in the Freddie Gray case, as Circuit Judge Barry Williams acquitted Lt. Brian Rice of all charges in connection with Gray’s death.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Williams cleared Rice, 42, of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office in a downtown Baltimore courtroom Monday morning. Prosecutors dismissed an additional misconduct charge against the officer last Thursday when his trial began; Williams subsequently dropped a second-degree assault charge halfway through the arraignment.
Just two weeks ago, Rice opted for a bench trial — meaning that if convicted, his fate would be decided by Judge Williams instead of a jury. But that conviction didn’t happen. In fact, this is the fourth time state prosecutors have failed to secure a conviction against any of the officers charged in Gray’s death. The case against Officer William Porter ended in a mistrial last year while Officers Edward Nero and Caesar Goodson were cleared of all charges.
The acquittal of Lt. Rice will likely result in renewed efforts to get State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to drop the charges against the remaining officers. Mosby quickly announced charges against the six officers involved in Gray’s death after the Baltimore man suffered fatal injuries during a ride in the back of a police van, Atlanta Black Star reports. Sgt. Alicia White and Officer Garrett Miller are still awaiting trial.
According to ABC News, Rice was identified as the officer who initiated the pursuit of Gray in April 2015 and was accused of recklessly endangering his life by failing to secure him with a seatbelt as he was transported in the rear of a police van.
During their opening statements, prosecutors held that Rice was liable for Gray’s death, as he was in a supervisory position, Atlanta Black Star reports.
“He was in charge,” Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said. “Because of the decisions that Lt. Rice made, Freddie Gray is dead.”
“This defendant is not an inexperienced officer,” Schatzow also said of Rice. “He knew and ignored it.”
Per CNN, defense attorneys for the Baltimore cop argued Gray’s death was a tragic accident and that the officer “used his reasonable judgment and discretion” to decide not to strap the Baltimore man in with a seat belt.
“Evidence will show that Mr. Gray’s death was a tragic, freak accident that no one could have foreseen,” said Defense Attorney Chaz R. Ball.
All officers involved in the Gray case have pleaded not guilty, the Baltimore Sun reports. Officer Miller is up next for trial, with his arraignment scheduled for July 27. Sgt. White is set to go on trial Oct. 13 while Officer Porter will be retried on Sept. 6, according to the publication.