Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. Was Acquitted For Freddie Gray’s Death, And No One Has Been Held Responsible Yet

On Thursday, Baltimore police officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted on charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. He was the third of six officers to stand trial, and so far, no one has been convicted for Freddie Gray’s death. Goodson was driving the van Gray was transported in, where it’s believed he sustained the neck injury that led to his death in April 2015, and therefore faced the most serious charges, but Circuit Judge Barry Williams found him not guilty on all counts.

Gray’s death spurred protests and riots throughout Baltimore last year, helping ignite a nationwide conversation about police brutality toward people of color, but the criminal justice system hasn’t held a single officer responsible for the 25-year-old’s death. Because Goodson chose a bench trial over a trial by jury, Judge Williams got to decide his fate and found Goodson innocent of any wrong doing, despite the prosecution’s argument that the officer (who’s also black) gave Gray a “rough ride” in the van and intentionally put him in harm.

Edward Nero was also acquitted by Judge Williams last month, and William Porter’s trial ended in a mistrial due to a hung jury in December. Three other officers still face trials for Gray’s death, but if the same judge presides over them, they’re likely to walk.

“The court finds there is insufficient evidence that the defendant gave or intended to give Mr. Gray a rough ride,” Judge Williams’ ruling said. He also explained that no evidence proved Goodson intended for any crimes to take place when Gray was arrested and taken to the police precinct. Gray was arrested after fleeing from officers in a West Baltimore neighborhood and was put in the back of a police van with shackles and handcuffs on, but no seatbelt. He was found unresponsive with a bad spinal cord injury when the van finally arrived at the station and died the following week.

Goodson’s acquittal is a major blow to the Black Lives Matter movement that called for the officers to be held responsible for Gray’s death. Because Goodson faced a more serious charge of second-degree depraved heart murder (the technical term in Maryland) while the other officers were charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment, his conviction would have set a stronger legal precedent that black lives do matter and law enforcement has to treat them accordingly.

For those who worked tirelessly to garner attention around the issue and celebrated when the six officers were actually charged with criminal offenses, it’s disappointing to watch as nothing comes of it.