News & Politics

Judge ACQUITS Highest-Ranking Officer of All Charges in Freddie Gray Death

Baltimore Police Lt. Brian Rice arrives at Courthouse East on Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in Baltimore for a pretrial hearing related to the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. Rice's lawyers said Tuesday that he has chosen to be tried instead by a judge, the same one who acquitted two fellow officers in Freddie Gray's death. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun via AP)

The highest-ranking officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray was found not guilty of all charges Monday morning by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams.

This decision marks the fourth time prosecutors have failed to secure a conviction on the charges brought against the officers by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby:

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Williams cleared Rice, 42, of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office in a downtown Baltimore courtroom on Monday morning. The judge had dismissed a second-degree assault charge at the trial’s midpoint, and prosecutors dropped a second misconduct charge at the start.

Rice selected a bench trial rather than a jury trial, putting his legal fate in Williams’ hands. He was the fourth of six officers charged in the case to go to trial.

Williams said prosecutors had failed to meet their burden of proving the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, instead asking the court to rely on “presumptions or assumptions” — something it cannot do. He said the court “cannot be swayed by sympathy, prejudice or public opinion.”

Based on the law, he said, the prosecution failed to prove the elements of the crimes.

The prosecution did not show Rice acted in a “grossly negligent manner,” required of manslaughter, he said. It did not show that Rice acted in an unreasonable way or ignored the substantial risk in placing Gray in a police van without a seat belt, required for reckless endangerment, he said. And, it did not show Rice acted “corruptly,” which is required for misconduct in office, he said.

Two more officers face trials in the days ahead, and Officer William Porter will face a retrial.

However, this latest acquittal has legal experts questioning whether prosecutors should move forward with the remaining three trials:

“The state is not simply 0-for-4,” said defense attorney Warren Brown, who is not involved in the cases but has observed the proceedings. “They’re 0-for-24 when you add up all the charges that the judge or jury considered through the court of four trials.”

“The judge has said over and over and over again [that the evidence] falls short of convincing him beyond a reasonable doubt” that the officers are criminally culpable, Brown said.