Freddie Gray case: Police van driver goes on trial

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Officer Caesar R. Goodson, Jr., is one of six Baltimore, Maryland police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray was arrested by Baltimore police on April 12, 2015 and died on April 19. Goodson, the driver of the transport van in which prosecutors say Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury on Thursday June 9, 2016 will become the third of six officers to go on trial.

BALTIMORE — The driver of the transport van in which prosecutors say Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury on Thursday will become the third of six officers to go on trial.

Officer Caesar Goodson on Monday elected for a bench trial, meaning his fate will be decided by the same judge who acquitted a Baltimore police officer last month on charges related to Gray’s controversial death last year.

Judge Barry Williams on May 23 acquitted Officer Edward Nero, one of three bicycle officers involved in the initial police encounter with Gray.

CNN legal analyst Andrew Alperstein said a bench trial could help Goodson. Williams has demonstrated an ability to put aside the emotions that surrounded Gray’s death, he said.

Gray died after suffering a spinal injury during an arrest in April 2015.

Goodson faces the most serious charges: second-degree depraved-heart murder, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter by vehicles (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) and reckless endangerment.

The death of Gray, who was black, ignited a wave of protests as debate surged nationwide over whether police use excessive force, particularly against African-Americans.

Prosecutors have said that Gray complained of having trouble breathing and asked for medical help as he was driven in a police van. When he arrived at a police substation, he was unconscious. A week later, Gray died at a hospital from a spinal injury.

Riots erupted in Baltimore last year after Gray’s funeral.

In December, the judge declared a mistrial after a jury deadlocked in the case of William Porter, the first officer on trial in connection with the arrest and death of Gray. Porter is scheduled to face a new trial this year.

The verdict in the Nero case drew mostly outrage on social media but praise from police and the Gray family attorney.

Goodson was scheduled to stand trial earlier this year, but the case was delayed.

Three other officers have yet to stand trial — Officer Garrett Miller, Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White.

Rice’s trial will start July 5, Miller’s on July 27 and White’s on October 13.

Porter likely will face a retrial in September.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when Officer William Porter will be retried. It will be in September.