Sunday, April 18, 2021

Fourth Officer Cleared in Freddie Gray Case: Judge Acquits Lt. Brian Rice

Lt. Brian Rice in undated booking photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department
Lt. Brian Rice in undated booking photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department

*Four of the six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray have escaped conviction, the latest coming Monday morning with the acquittal of Lt. Brian Rice.

Circuit Judge Barry Williams cleared Rice, 42, of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office, according to The Baltimore Sun. The judge had dismissed a second-degree assault charge at the trial’s midpoint, and prosecutors dropped a second misconduct charge at the start.

Rice chose a bench trial instead of a jury trial, putting his legal fate in Williams’ hands. He was the fourth of six officers charged in the case to go to trial.

Williams previously acquitted two other officers — Edward Nero and Caesar Goodson Jr. — of all charges in May and June, respectively. A fourth officer, William Porter, had a mistrial in December after a 12-member jury could not reach a consensus on any of the charges against him.

Officer Garrett Miller is scheduled to go to trial next, on July 27. Porter is scheduled to be retried on Sept. 6. And Sgt. Alicia White, is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 13. All of the officers have pleaded not guilty.

Via The Baltimore Sun:

Prosecutors alleged Rice, the highest-ranking officer of the six charged, had caused Gray’s death by failing to secure him in a seat belt in the back of the police transport van in which he suffered severe spinal cord injuries last year. Gray, 25, died a week after his arrest. His death sparked widespread protests against police brutality.

Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe, during closing arguments in the case, said Gray’s death “cannot be blamed on poor judgment or error,” and that Rice’s intentional actions “put together formed a chain” of events that caused Gray’s death.

Rice’s defense attorneys said his actions were reasonable given the volatility of the scene at the time, Gray’s combativeness and the danger associated with placing a detainee in a seat belt in the close quarters of the van’s rear compartment.

“Everything about it was professional, correct,” said Michael Belsky, Rice’s attorney.

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.

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