Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero was acquitted of all charges Monday for his role in the arrest of Freddie Gray.
Nero was visibly emotional after Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams found him not guilty on all four misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office.
“Officer Nero had a very small role. It turned out at trial, Officer Miller said Nero did not handcuff Freddie Gray, they both chased him but they were allowed to do so under a Supreme Court case,” said Sheryl Wood, a defense attorney and former prosecutor.
Following the verdict, a number of people are now delving into the judge's opinion and whether the bench trial made a difference.
“The judge came out with a very full written opinion, you wouldn't get that from a jury. Remember from a jury you get a guilty or not guilty, so it is interesting to have the judge's full opinion,” Wood said.
Williams’ conclusion was that prosecutors were not able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Nero acted criminally.
For the full transcript of the verdict hearing, click here.
While a bench trial worked in Nero's favor, Wood said it might not be suitable for the other five officers, particularly for Officer Caesar Goodson, the next officer to stand trial.
“He's going to have a harder decision to make. It is not easy, and as a defense attorney, to convince a client to go with a bench trial and let one person decide your fate,” Wood said.
Unlike Nero, Goodson faces felony charges, including second-degree murder.
“He's really facing the most liability because it appears the police department believes that that detainee is in the custody of the wagon driver,” said Wood.
Goodson was the driver of the police van that was transporting Freddie Gray on April 12, 2015. Gray died after suffering neck injuries.
Bill Murphy, the attorney for the Gray family, on Monday said he was satisfied with the fully articulated opinion, but that it doesn't impact the outcomes for the other officers.
“The public should not read anything from Judge Williams' opinion that would affect in their minds the outcome of any of the other cases. Judge Williams was very careful to limit his reasoning to this case and to not mention what he thought about any other officer's conduct,” Murphy said.
Officer Nero is still being investigated by the Baltimore City Police Department. He will remain on administrative duty during the investigation, which isn't expected to conclude until after the other five officers have been tried.
Officer Goodson's trial starts on June 6th.
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