Yesterday I looked at the trial of Baltimore Police Officer Ceasar Goodson which is set to begin this week regarding the death of Freddie Gray. As I noted at the time, perhaps the biggest question to be answered was whether Goodson’s defense team would opt for a jury trial or a bench trial. Sources reported to be close to Goodson claimed that they were leaning toward allowing a jury to decide his fate, but that prediction was proven false last night. NBC News reports that Goodson has decided to let the judge make the call.
Caesar Goodson, the police van driver in the Freddie Gray case, opted for a bench trial on Monday in the high stakes and racially charged case which shone a spotlight on the tension between law enforcement and the minority communities they serve.
The stakes are high in the upcoming trial for Goodson who prosecutors say bears the most responsibility for the death of Gray, a young black man whose spine was snapped in the back of a police transport wagon. The trial is slated to start on Thursday.
Officer Goodson, faces second-degree murder and other charges. He will also face buck-passing from fellow officers who have already testified in two previous trials that if anyone was responsible for ensuring Gray’s safety, it was him.
This is a rather curious call on Goodson’s part and it’s possible that he saw this as a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. He would obviously view the ideal resolution to be an acquittal on all charges with no subsequent jail time or other penalties, but he has to balance that against the potential threat of a very long jail sentence on the most serious charge of murder. If he secured a jury with at least some members who would find the charges implausible he could hope for a hung jury and potentially walk out with no convictions, but a very angry group of locals who are distrustful of the police department might choose to send him up on all of them. The judge, on the other hand, may find it very hard to swallow the murder charge, but still find him negligent and hand down some sort of jail time. Perhaps Goodson simply couldn’t be convinced of his chances of seating a favorable jury.
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