Cop acquitted, officials urge patience, respect
A judge found a Baltimore Police van driver not guilty of all charges in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose broken neck in police custody set off Baltimore's worst riots in decades.
Six officers were charged in Gray's death, but only officer Caesar Goodson was accused of murder. Gray was fatally injured after officers bound his hands and feet and Goodson left him unprotected by a seat belt that prosecutors say would have kept him from slamming into the van's metal walls.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams delivered his verdict yesterday after hearing five days of testimony in the non-jury trial. He found Goodson not guilty of "depraved-heart" murder, man-slaughter, assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment.
Protests and rioting after Gray's death on April 19, 2015 set the city on fire, forcing Maryland to bring in the National Guard. The unrest forced the city's mayor to abandon her re-election campaign, and the Department of Justice opened an investigation into allegations of widespread police abuse.
Officials and residents are reacting to the acquittal on all charges in the death of Freddie Gray.
State Senator Catherine Pugh, the Democratic nominee in Baltimore's mayor race, issued a statement yesterday after the judge gave his verdict. The statement urges residents to be patient. It says: "Protests are a vital part of democracy, but to destroy the homes and businesses many people have worked very hard to build is unacceptable. ... It is important to respect each other and to respect our neighbourhoods."
Gray's death last year set off protests and violence.
Republican Governor Larry Hogan's office also issued a statement. It says he respects the legal process and verdict. It notes that "over the past year, the people of Baltimore city have made tremendous progress in rebuilding their communities and businesses."
Outside the courthouse, a small group of protesters chanted before the verdict: "We can't stop. We won't stop, till killer cops are in cell blocks."
Judge Barry Williams has weighed six counts against Officer Caesar Goodson in the death of Freddie Gray.
Murder carries the toughest penalty - 30 years in prison. A conviction would require the judge to decide that Goodson did, "with malice aforethought, kill and murder" the arrestee in the back of his van.