Although the first trial linked to the death of Freddie Gray resulted in a deadlocked jury and a frustrated city of Baltimore, the second officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray will face trial next week, as jury selection begins despite anticipation of a retrial of the first court procedure. Pretrial motions in the case of Officer Caesar R. Goodson, Jr., were heard on Wednesday.
Goodson was the driver of police van that transported Gray after his arrest last April. He is charged with the most serious crime in this case, which includes second degree depraved heart murder (the equivalent of second degree murder), manslaughter, and assault.
The 45-year-old officer, whose grandfather was a member of the force, joined the Baltimore City Police Department in 1999.
Like the case of Officer William Porter, the selection of jurors will be crucial. Judge Barry Williams has resisted motions to move the case out of Baltimore. The defense team has once again tried to prevent witnesses and potential testimony that may be damning to the defendant. Most of these motions have been rejected, but several are still pending.
The defense wants to include Gray's previous arrest records as part of the case. Goodson's attorneys have asked the judge to unseal testimony from a sergeant who interviewed Gray after an arrest in March 2015. During this interrogation Gray complains of a previous back injury.
In a surprise ruling on Wednesday, Judge Barry Williams ordered that Porter be compelled to testify against Goodson. His own case was declared a mistrial by Williams. He was offered limited immunity via "use and derivative use" and his attorneys have argued he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he is asked to testify in Goodson's case. The attorneys have also argued the immunity would not protect him in a federal case. Porter's retrial is scheduled for June. His attorneys will immediately seek an injunction to block the judge's order.
Unlike all of the other officers charged in connection with Gray's death, Goodson invoked his right not to testify under the Police Officer's Bill of Rights. In the state of Maryland, officers have up to ten days before they have to appear before an internal police investigation panel. The other five officers in this case waived their rights during interrogation. The only materials available to the prosecution are written reports prepared in the case.
The prosecution will spend a lot of time talking about the six van stops where police interacted with Gray. They will focus on cellphone video of two of the stops. The state wants the jury to consider why Goodson called for assistance, and why didn't he take the prisoner to see a medic. Establishing the chain of custody of the prisoner is paramount. The state needs to establish who is responsible for his wellbeing.
The defense, meanwhile, will argue Officer Goodson was nothing more than a driver. As to whether Gray should have been belted in the van they will argue it was the responsibility of the arresting officers. The defense will also try to show Gray had a proclivity for feigning injuries.
Each side learns a lot from Officer William Porter's case, which ended in a mistrial. For the prosecution, establishment of the timeline and the injuries sustained by Gray must be definitive. Establishing contradictory statements made by police will lend credence to indifference by officers who knew something was wrong, but the police did nothing to assist the prisoner.
The prosecution now knows the defense will put on experts to refute their evidence. It remains to be seen whether or not the state can either discredit their theories or show they lack actual knowledge of what happened in the back of the police van?
The state is hoping testimony from Officer Porter implicating Officer Goodson can be used in this trial. Even though there is a video deposition done by the police internal review board, it can't be used unless Porter takes the stand to be cross-examined. Can the State make a case without this evidence?
For the Defense it will come down to a simple idea, "reasonable doubt." Goodson's attorneys were present during the first trial and saw how Porter's defense team was able to poke holes in their evidence and theories. In order to get a conviction, the jury must be unanimous in its verdict. All the defense needs is for one juror to agree with the idea that the actions taken by Goodson were consistent with those of a "reasonable officer in the line of duty."