Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams acquitted Baltimore police officer Caesar Goodson of all charges for his role in the in-custody death of Freddie Gray, stating that the prosecution offered theories that were not backed by evidence and that “the court cannot simply let things speak for themselves.” Prosecutors charged Officer Goodson with second-degree depraved-heart murder, three manslaughter counts, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. They argued that Goodson’s failure to secure Mr. Gray in a seat belt and to provide medical treatment caused his death. Judge Williams disagreed.
“The acquittal of Officer Goodson and Judge Williams’ comment that Goodson ‘may have made a mistake or used bad judgment’ but that alone is not sufficient to merit criminal charges, is yet another example of how difficult it is to prosecute police officers who are involved in the death of civilians,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). Ifill continued, “The guilty verdict does not prevent the Baltimore Police Department from disciplining Goodson and other officers involved for failing to seatbelt and provide immediate medical attention to Mr. Gray.”
In May 2015, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the Justice Department would investigate the Baltimore Police Department’s (BPD) use-of-force, stops, searches, and arrests policies and practices to determine if there are systemic violations of constitutional and federal laws. LDF has repeatedly asked the DOJ to expand its investigation to the Baltimore School Police Force after two videotaped beatings of middle and high school students surfaced in the past several years. Last month, DOJ indicated that it would conduct a limited probe into the joint policing activities between the two police forces.
“As the Baltimore community awaits the results of the civil rights ‘pattern or practice’ investigation of the BPD, LDF will continue to urge police officials and DOJ to take steps to address systemic problems that have contributed to police violence against youth and adults of color in Baltimore, including the seemingly inadequate and infrequent training provided to officers, and the lack of supervision of officers,” commented Monique Dixon, Deputy Director of Policy and lead attorney for LDF’s Policing Reform Campaign. Through its Policing Reform Campaign, LDF partners with national and local advocates to support demands for unbiased and responsible policing practices, including:
Chris Hayes looks at why the prosecution is having such a hard time getting a conviction.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.