Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams cleared Lt. Brian Rice of all charges against him in the Freddie Gray case Monday, including the charge of involuntary manslaughter after failing to secure Freddie Gray in the back a police van, which led to severe spinal cord injuries and ultimately, Gray’s death.
Judge Williams has also heard three of the other officer’s cases of the six accused, acquitting two of those three in bench trials. The third, for Officer William Porter, was declared a mistrial in December, when jurors could not reach a verdict. Officer Porter will be retried later this year; Officer Garrett Miller and Sgt. Alicia White’s trials are scheduled for late July and September.
Lt. Rice was the highest ranking officer of the six involved with Freddie Gray’s death. He also chose a bench trial, putting himself in Judge Williams’ hands. Williams has been vocally critical of the charges against the officers, according to the Baltimore Sun:
In order to convict Rice of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors had to prove that he acted in a grossly negligent manner and was aware of the risks to Gray but disregarded them. For reckless endangerment, they had to prove that Rice was aware of the risks and acted unreasonably. For misconduct, they had to prove he corruptly failed to carry out an act required of him.
Williams had seemed skeptical of the basis of the charges during closing arguments Thursday, asking Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow whether the prosecution believed that the failure to seat belt Gray was in itself a crime.
“The simple fact he didn’t do it means he’s guilty of these crimes?” Williams asked.
Lt. Rice’s acquittal likely indicates how the remaining two officers will be treated in trial. After Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver, was acquitted in June, he received $87,000 in back pay.
Image via AP.