Here’s the latest from Baltimore, where prosecutors continue to falter in their quest to convict Baltimore police officers for their alleged role in Freddie Gray’s death. So far they’ve lost one trial, struggled to achieve a hung jury in the other, and now this:
The judge overseeing the trial of a police officer charged with murder in the death of Freddie Gray has determined that prosecutors withheld information that would have been beneficial to the defense.
Judge Barry Williams was visibly angry in the Baltimore court, but he did not dismiss the charges against police officer Caesar Goodson, as his attorneys had requested. Williams is giving prosecutors until Monday to disclose any other relevant evidence they have withheld. Goodson was the driver of the van during the arrest of Gray, 25, last year.
Goodson’s attorneys have argued that prosecutors withheld statements made last year by Donta Allen, a key witness. Allen was picked up by the Baltimore police van after Gray.
How important is Allen? This important:
During the crucial last leg of Freddie Gray’s ultimately fatal transport in the back of a Baltimore police van last year, there were only two other people present: the driver, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., and Donta Allen, an arrestee placed on the other side of a thin metal divider from Gray.
Given his unparalleled proximity, Allen since has been a figure of considerable intrigue in the criminal cases brought against Goodson and five other Baltimore officers in relation to Gray’s transport and death. That’s in large part due to contrasting statements he has made – one to police in which he said he believed Gray was “trying to knock himself out” in the back of the van, and others to the media recanting that statement.
It turns out that Allen had given a second, extended interview to the prosecution where he reaffirmed his initial story, and that initial story is devastating to the prosecution’s case:
Attached to the documents released Wednesdaywas a transcript of Allen’s taped statement to police the day of the incident. In it, Allen told police that it sounded like Gray “was banging his head against the metal, like he was trying to knock himself out or something.”
Allen said he thought there was “a dope fiend” on the other side of the divider purposefully banging his head, four or five times. “It was like – he wasn’t doing it hard and [expletive], but he was definitely banging himself in the head. I know he was.”
Allen also said that it was a “smooth ride.”
If Allen’s testimony is credible it undermines the prosecution theory that Gray’s injuries occurred much earlier in the ride. If Allen is correct, then the injuries occurred late, were not the result of a “rough ride,” and the police rendered aid as soon as they knew of his distress. Goodson is on trial for “depraved-heart murder” – the most serious of the charges brought in the Gray case – and news of the prosecution’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidence is particularly troubling. The judge stopped short of accusing the prosecutors of intentional misconduct, but senior prosecutors know better. They have no excuse.
The first two Freddie Gray prosecutions were shameful. The current case is off to an inauspicious start. A rush to judgment rarely yields justice.