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Breaking down the judge's ruling in the case against Ofc. Caesar Goodson

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Posted at 3:57 PM, Jun 23, 2016
and last updated 2018-12-31 21:53:34-05
Officer Caesar Goodson, acquitted Thursday in the death of Freddie Gray, faced the most serious charges of all six officers charged in Gray's death.
 
Goodson, a member of the Baltimore City Police Department since 1999, was the driver of the vehicle that carried Gray following his arrest last April. 

In his transcript released Thursday afternoon, Judge Barry Williams said the state didn't prove its case on any of the seven charges against him. 

Read the judge's full transcript here

Second-degree depraved heart murder

The charge: Second-degree "depraved heart" murder is a form of second-degree murder charge that carries a sentence of up 30 years in prison. A second-degree charge indicates an act that was intentional, but not premeditated, as in first-degree murder. To get a "depraved heart" conviction, state prosecutors had to prove that Goodson was consciously aware that his actions (or lack thereof) could lead to Gray's death, yet continued to act in a grossly negligent manner.

Williams: "Even assuming the failure to seat belt caused the death of Mr. Gray, and this Court has already determined there is insufficient evidence concerning that issue, the State is required to show that the defendant was aware of the risk this would, not could, cause and acted with extreme disregard for the life endangering consequences. Those facts have not been presented to this Court."

Complete Freddie Gray coverage

Involuntary manslaughter

The charge: Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing as a result of someone's negligence. 

Williams: "The theory from the State is that the defendant’s failure to seatbelt Mr. Gray led to his injuries. The State must show that the defendant, while aware of the risk, acted in a manner that created a high risk to, and showed a reckless disregard for, human life. The analysis this Court used in determining the defendant was not guilty of the involuntary manslaughter is the same because, for this count, the law requires the same level of criminal culpability minus the proof of death. The facts that were presented failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the failure to seatbelt met the required burden."

Second-degree assault

The charge: With a second-degree assault charge, prosecutors had to prove that Goodson's conduct caused a physical battery to occur. 

Williams: "The analysis this Court used in determining the defendant was not guilty of the involuntary manslaughter is the same because, for this count, the law requires the same level of criminal culpability minus the proof of death. The facts that were presented failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the failure to seatbelt met the required burden. Therefore, the verdict on assault is not guilty."

RELATED: Trial for second officer charged in Freddie Gray's death to remain in Baltimore

Manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence

The charge: Maryland state law says vehicular manslaughter brings a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for causing someone's death as a result of "driving, operating, or controlling a vehicle or vessel in a grossly negligent manner." Gross negligence would mean Goodson was aware that his conduct created a substantial risk to Gray's life, but disregarded the consequences.

Williams: "This Court finds that the State has failed to meet its burden that the defendant was aware, or should have been aware, that failing to seat belt Mr. Gray created a high risk to, and disregard for human life."

RELATED: Analyzing the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson

Manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence

The charge: The lesser charge of vehicular manslaughter by criminal negligence suggests Goodson should have been aware that his actions put Freddie Gray's life in danger, but failed to understand the risk of his behavior.

Williams: "The State needed to show the defendant was aware of the risks his driving created, this count requires only that he should have known of the risks. Again, without more, the State has failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant drove in a negligent manner and even if the failure to seat belt was negligent that he should have known of the risks that it may have entailed."

Misconduct in office

The charge: A misconduct charge is handed down when a public officer engages in corrupt behavior while on the job. Sentencing for this charge restricts excessive fines as well as cruel and unusual punishment.

Williams: "Here, the failure to seatbelt may have been a mistake or it may have been bad judgment, but without showing more than has been presented to the Court concerning the failure to seatbelt and the surrounding circumstances, the State has failed to meet its burden to show that the actions of the defendant rose above mere civil negligence." 

Reckless endangerment

The charge: To secure a conviction for the crime of reckless endangerment, the State had to prove that the defendant engaged in conduct that created a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another; that a reasonable person would not have engaged in that conduct and that the defendant acted recklessly. 

Williams: "This Court has already stated that the State has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew or should have known that Mr. Gray needed medical care between stops 2 and 5. Therefore, the conduct alleged of failing to provide appropriate medical care does not meet the standard of proof required for finding the defendant guilty of this charge."

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