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Goodson Trial: Prosecutors roughed up by judge over theory

P. Kenneth Burns

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams was sharply critical Monday morning of prosecutors who argued that Officer Caesar Goodson gave Freddie Gray a rough ride in the back of his police van that lead to a fatal spine injury.

“Show me how it’s a rough ride,” Williams asked Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow during closing arguments.

Schatzow pointed to the testimony last week of Angelique Herbert, a paramedic who responded to a police call for help with Gray.

She said she asked officers “What the ‘eff’ did you do guys do?” when she first saw an injured Gray.

Schatzow ultimately said that simply driving with an unbuckled but shackled and handcuffed prisoner demonstrates intent to create risk of harm.

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 for his alleged role in Gray’s death last year.

Prosecutors charged in their opening statement Gray was injured because of a rough ride at the hands of Goodson.

But the state apparently abandoned that theory.  Instead, they argued Goodson did not adequately ensure the safety or well-being of Gray while in his custody.

Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe said in her closing argument that testimony from several witnesses during the trial pointed out Goodson had custody of Gray from the time he was placed in the van on April 12, 2015.

But Goodson’s lawyer, Matthew Fraling, said the state has based its case on a lot of assumptions.

He compared the state’s case to a game of three-card monte and called the rough ride the black ace.

Fraling said there was “absolutely no proof of a rough ride” and that the state “abjectly failed” to show Goodson had a depraved heart.

“The state is not here to play cards,” a visibly upset Schatzow snapped back at the start of his rebuttal argument. The state was in court “because of the homicide caused by the inaction of the defendant.”

Defense attorney Warren Brown, who watched the closing arguments, said he was not surprised that Williams peppered prosecutors with questions about the rough ride.

“[The judge] held their feet to the fire,” he said.  “Though they didn’t have to prove a rough ride, they’re the ones who said that there was a rough ride.”

He said Williams “wasn’t feeling it” and took the state’s evidence to indicate that Gray did not have a rough ride.

University of Baltimore Law School Professor David Jarros said the state has multiple theories in the case and the rough ride played an important role, but not an essential role to all of the charges.

“Part of their charge is based on the failure to get medical attention and the failure to buckle,” Jarros said, “They have had to pivot a little bit because the evidence came out in the case did not support the rough ride as clearly as they suggested in their opening.”

Jarros added the state’s case now falls ultimately on Goodson’s failure to not seek medical help for Gray.

Williams said he will render his verdict 10 a.m. Thursday.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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