Last week, the judge in the murder trial of a Baltimore police officer rendered a decision of Not Guilty on all charges. It the course of the trial, he had spanked the prosecution for failing to furnish exculpatory evidence to the defense team, and it came out that the prosecutors hadn’t wanted to hear what the lead investigator had to say. That lead investigator, in fact, testified that when the case was presented to the grand jury, the prosecutor put words in her mouth: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/freddie-gray/bs-md-ci-taylor-grand-jury-freddie-gray-20160625-story.html .
The deceased, Freddie Gray, died of neck injuries and was found in extremis after his arrest and a ride in a “paddy wagon.” He was African-American, and his death triggered a major race riot. In an obvious act of placation, the District Attorney got indictments against six officers, three of whom were also African-American. The defendant in question here, Caesar Goodson, was hit with the highest charge: Murder. The State threw multiple theories against the wall of the courtroom, hoping at least one would stick. None did. The prosecutors went to great lengths to overlook the fact that the deceased was known to injure himself so he could sue for damages (known as “crash for cash” in the trade), and that a fellow arrestee in the van told police that Gray seemed to be deliberately throwing himself around on the ride to jail. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/08/07/attorneys-in-freddie-gray-case-drop-bombshell-claim-about-evidence-they-say-was-withheld-by-prosecution/ .
This is the third trial to come out of that prosecutorial train wreck. The first ended in a hung jury. The last two were bench trials (judge only) and both this one and the prior trial resulted in total acquittals. (The judge, by the way, is African-American.) You can read his explanation of his verdict at http://www.baltimorecitycourt.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/goodsonruling062316.pdf .
Here we see among other things validation of long-standing conventional wisdom in the trial courts: “If the case turns on the facts, go with a jury, but if the case hinges on the law, go with a bench trial.” In this case, the judge appears to have correlated the facts and the law most wisely.
If you’re interested in more comprehensive info, the most telling coverage of the trials I’ve seen came from Mike McDaniel at statelymcdanielmanor.wordpress.com and our friend Andrew Branca at his own blog, lawofselfdefense.com, and at legalinsurrection.com.
A lawyer friend on a closed forum caught my attention with a joke now going around in criminal justice circles –
Cop: Knock, knock.
Baltimore Prosecutor: Who’s there?
Prosecutor’s Office: Ofa who?
Cop: 0 for 3.