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Rice Trial: Williams to render verdict Monday

P. Kenneth Burns

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams is expected to announce his verdict in the trial of Lt. Brian Rice Monday morning.

Rice is the highest ranking officer charged in last year’s death of Freddie Gray.  He is charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

Gray died from a spinal injury suffered in the back of a police van.

Rice could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the top count; the manslaughter charge.

But defense attorney and legal analyst Warren Brown predict Rice will not be convicted of that or the other charges.

“The crux of it is going to be that the judge is going to say that he is not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Lt. Rice acted unreasonably at stop two in not belting Freddie Gray in,” Brown said.

Prosecutors allege that Rice’s failure to put Freddie Gray in a seat belt in the back of the van, or to order other officers to do so, led directly to Gray’s deadly injuries.

Rice’s lawyers say their client acted reasonably.  And considering a gathering hostile crowd, made the best decision under the circumstances.

Brown, who has observed all of the trials in the Freddie Gray case, says Judge Williams will likely repeat parts of his verdict in the most recent trial in the case; that the state did not present enough evidence to prove its claim that Rice knew not putting Gray in a seatbelt would lead to a fatal spinal injury.

“You heard it in the Goodson verdict; the judge kept saying the state didn’t present the evidence,” Brown adds.

David Jaros, a University of Baltimore law school professor, said the verdict will come down to whether prosecutors established every element that a crime occurred including whether Rice “had a duty; that he was aware of his duty; that he was aware of the risks he was placing Freddie Gray in and he chose to ignore those risks.”

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