‘Rough ride’: practice that led to Freddie Gray’s death at the center of latest trial – Baynard Woods in Baltimore Thursday 9 June 2016 06.30 EDT

The trial of police officer facing the most stringent charge centers on a practice that’s likely to expose someone to serious physical injury – or in this case death

Caesar Goodson, center, leaves the courthouse.

Freddie Gray was shackled and loaded into a police van on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind his back on the day he was arrested last April. He was not strapped with a seatbelt, in violation of police department policy. Some allege that driver Caesar Goodson intentionally took sharp turns, allowing Gray’s body to be thrown around without the ability to hold himself steady.

It’s what Baltimoreans call a “rough ride”. The practice that came to light with Gray’s death last year will be at the center of the trial of Goodson, who faces the most severe criminal charges of all six officers – second-degree depraved heart murder.

“I anticipate the prosecution introducing testimony and witnesses to explain the practice, the common practice, of van drivers giving prisoners being transported the ‘rough ride’ or the ride that’s likely to expose them to serious physical injury or in this case death,” said University of Maryland law professor Douglas Colbert.

Over the past several decades Baltimore has paid out millions of dollars, settling suits alleging injuries from “rough rides”. But Goodson’s trial starting Thursday will put the practice to a new test of criminal liability.

To convict Goodson of second-degree depraved heart murder, the state will have to show not only that Goodson caused Gray’s death while transporting him to the police station, where Gray was found unconscious in the back of the van, but it will also have to show Goodson’s state of mind – that he was “conscious of the risk” and “acted with extreme disregard of the life-endangering consequences”.

The van stopped six times and Goodson was the only person, besides Gray, who was at each of the stops. Dr Carol Allan, the medical examiner, likened Gray’s injury to one caused by a dive into a shallow swimming pool. Gray died a week later of a spinal injury the medical examiner says he sustained in the van.

The case may also be state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby’s best shot at a conviction after two trials that haven’t yielded one.


The trials of 6 Baltimore police officers over Freddie Gray’s death, explained- Updated by German Lopez on December 16, 2015, 3:50 p.m. ET

William Porter, right, is the first Baltimore police officer to go to trial over Freddie Gray's death -- Rob Carr/Getty Images

William Porter, right, is the first Baltimore police officer to go to trial over Freddie Gray’s death — Rob Carr/Getty Images

The jury presiding over the first trial related to the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray returned from deliberations — with no agreement on a decision on Wednesday. Judge Barry Williams declared the trial for suspended Baltimore police officer William Porter a mistrial. So there will likely be yet another trial, which would force another jury to deliberate over the case.

This is only the first of at least six trials in which police officers face criminal charges over Gray’s death, which many claimed was caused by police negligence and brutality. But how the community will react to the mistrial, given the high tensions in the city after protests and riots earlier this year over Gray’s death, remains to be seen.

Porter was the first of six Baltimore police officers on trial. He faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment, all of which could carry a prison sentence of at least 25 years. As with the other five officers, Porter is currently suspended without pay.

Gray suffered a fatal spinal cord injury April 12 as he thrashed around the back of a police van without a seat belt, restrained by handcuffs, and despite repeated pleas for medical aid. Prosecutors accused Porter, who responded to a call by the police van’s driver, of negligently contributing to Gray’s death by failing to buckle Gray’s seat belt — as suggested by Baltimore Police’s guidelines — and ignoring Gray’s pleas for help. But Porter’s defense team argued that he advised the driver, Caesar Goodson Jr., and another supervisor, Alicia White, to take Gray to the hospital — although he thought Gray might be faking the injuries. Both Goodson and White are among the six charged with Gray’s death.

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Freddie Gray’s Baltimore Neighborhood Watches Trial Warily – By JOHN ELIGON DEC. 13, 2015

A mural of Freddie Gray, who died from an injury suffered in police custody in April, in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore. Matt Roth for The New York Times 

BALTIMORE — The tattered city blocks are bouncing to their usual beat. Men are milling between street corners and bodega doorways, buses are chugging along and young men are popping wheelies on dirt bikes.

But something new has sprung up here in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in the months since Freddie Gray’s fatal encounter with the police in April led to fiery unrest: large, colorful, hand-painted murals that cover several buildings and speak to this city’s rich black history. Billie Holiday and Ta-Nehisi Coates on one. President Obama on another. And, yes, Mr. Gray, gazing earnestly and flanked by protesters, on yet another.

It is a reminder that Mr. Gray remains baked into the collective consciousness here. He was certainly on the minds of Ricky McCarter and Thomas Easter as they lounged on a townhouse stoop around the corner from the mural on a recent morning, pondering the latest phase in the saga of Mr. Gray: the trial, nearing a close, of William G. Porter, the first of six officers charged in the death to have his case heard. He faces manslaughter and other charges on allegations that he ignored Mr. Gray’s pleas for medical attention after his arrest.

A block of boarded-up rowhouses on North Fulton Avenue in Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. Matt Roth for The New York Times 

The response to the trial has been fairly muted, without mass demonstrations or round-the-clock news coverage. A tense calm lingers over the city. But residents are watching warily, skeptical about what the result will be, deeply aware of the drumbeat of police killings nationally, most with no officers punished.

“I really don’t want to be disappointed,” Mr. McCarter, 27, said as he leaned back on the top step beneath peeling red paint, explaining why he has not followed the trial closely. “I feel like I know how the trial going to go.”

“Around the nation, we watching a lot of officers get off on other cases,” said Mr. McCarter, who works as a security guard and was a regular at the spring protests. “So we kind of expect them to get off.”

Mr. Easter, Mr. McCarter’s 63-year-old uncle, brought up Chicago, where Officer Jason Van Dyke was recently charged with murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

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Baltimore Residents Wary As Freddie Gray Trials Slated To Begin – Jennifer Ludden Updated November 29, 20157:47 AM ET

A mural for Freddie Gray is seen at the intersection of North Mount and Presbury streets where he was arrested in April.

A mural for Freddie Gray is seen at the intersection of North Mount and Presbury streets where he was arrested in April. Jun Tsuboike/NPR

It’s been seven months since protests over the death of an unarmed black man after his arrest erupted into looting and arson, leading Baltimore’s mayor to declare a curfew and call in the National Guard. Now, that unrest remains a potent backdrop as the trial begins for the first of six police officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death.

“I just want peace while the trial is going on,” says Missa Grant, standing at a bus stop across a busy intersection from the former CVS that became a televised symbol of the violence. The store was looted, set fire to, and eventually torn down. The walls of a new red brick structure are now halfway up.

A building is now under construction at the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues where a CVS Pharmacy was destroyed in the riots.i

A building is now under construction at the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues where a CVS Pharmacy was destroyed in the riots.

Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Grant says if the evidence shows the officers are not guilty, so be it. But with such a long and growing list of unarmed black men killed by police all over the country, she doesn’t think everyone will see it that way

“I believe there’s going to be another riot, I really do,” she says. “It’s not what I’m looking for. But I really believe that they’re going to react out if somebody doesn’t have to stand up for what happened to Freddie Gray.”

The officers face six separate, consecutive trials, on charges ranging from second degree depraved heart murder to misconduct in office. Officer William Porter is the first up, charged with manslaughter, assault, and reckless endangerment. He was called in as backup after Gray’s arrest, and was present at several stops of the policy paddy wagon in which the 25-year-old man was transported, handcuffed and in leg irons.

According to charging documents, Porter was present when Gray said he couldn’t breathe. The Baltimore Sun has reported that Porter told police investigators he informed the van’s driver that Gray was in medical distress, though also wondered if he was faking it. Prosecutors say they are trying Porter first because he is a “material witness” against at least two other officers.

“Porter is going to be the key to everything,” says A. Dwight Pettit, a Baltimore defense attorney not involved in the case. “What he negotiates or doesn’t negotiate, whether he’s acquitted or whether he’s convicted, he is going to be the determiner of how the other five proceed.”

Pettit is the first to allege systemic racism among Baltimore police. He’s won a long string of civil cases over excessive force. The city’s paid out millions to settle such claims in recent years. Yet Pettit says the this case is no “slam dunk,” despite that video of Gray’s arrest that played over and over on cable TV.

“That video is very inconclusive in many areas,” he says, as is the “cause of death. It’s going to be a major war between pathologists as to how he died. Ample opportunity to paint reasonable doubt.”

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Teen or Terrorist? – By Seth Stevenson APRIL 6 2015 8:24 PM

In closing statements, the prosecution paints Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a radicalized jihadi.

A courtroom sketch of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston, March 5, 2015. Illustration by Jane Flavell Collins via Reuters

BOSTON—A music video was perhaps the last thing one expected from today’s closing statements in United States v. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But as prosecuting attorney Aloke Chakravarty concluded the government’s argument, he cued up a montage on the courtroom’s screens. The courtroom’s speakers played a nasheed—an Islamic chant frequently associated with jihad—that Tsarnaev was apparently fond of listening to on his iPod.

We were shown a photo of Tsarnaev sitting below a black flag with Arabic writing (one the prosecution had painted as a jihadi emblem). “This is how the defendant saw his crimes,” said Chakravarty. The pulsing nasheed incantation continued to fill the room as images of the marathon bombing site flashed. It was as though we were watching an ISIS recruitment video.

“But this is the cold reality of what his crimes left behind,” Chakravarty interrupted. The music stopped. The images continued. Bloodied people, mangled limbs, anguished faces. Silence in the courtroom. The reason the Tsarnaev brothers detonated those bombs, said Chakravarty, “was to tell America that we will not be terrorized anymore. We will terrorize you.”

Chakravarty’s statement was careful throughout to paint Tsarnaev as a terrorist. As a man acting in the service of a radical ideology. “You can tell by the defendant’s expression,” said Chakravarty as he displayed video of Tsarnaev strolling down Boylston Street with a pressure-cooker bomb on his back, “by the casual way he walks, that he is entirely untroubled by what he is about to do. Because for a year he has been listening to terrorist songs, and reading terrorist literature, and he thinks that what he’s about to do is right. … That day they felt they were soldiers. They were the mujahedeen.”

This was a lot of talk about motive, given that the vast majority of the 30-count indictment against Tsarnaev has nothing to do with the why of his crimes. What matters is only that Tsarnaev enacted them. The government has marshaled swathes of evidence to prove that he did, and the jury will be very hard-pressed to decide that he didn’t. (Particularly since Tsarnaev’s own defense team acknowledged “It was him” on the opening day of the trial and then put up only four witnesses against the prosecution’s 92.)