Brandon Longo, CBS Baltimore, July 18, 2016
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams has ruled that Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking Baltimore City Police officer to be charged in relation to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, is not guilty of all the charges he faced–involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
Rice is the third officer charged in the Gray case to get a full acquittal from Judge Williams.
“The judge decided that there was no proof of any of the charges yet again,” according to WJZ’s Mike Hellgren, who was inside the courtroom as the verdict was read.
“He had the same reasoning in the prior cases. For involuntary manslaughter they would have had to prove that this was grossly negligent conduct. He said he thought the environment was tense out there and Lt. Rice made a judgment call that it was appropriate not to seatbelt him and that the new general order that mandates seatbelt use had not reached Lt. Rice. There was no proof presented that Lt. Rice had read that general order. He also said reckless endangerment failed as a matter of law, that because Lt. Rice did not drive the vehicle simply putting him inside without seatbelting was not reckless endangerment. And misconduct in office he felt that the state did not prove their burden that Lt. Rice was corrupt in his duties and failed in his duties. So the state had a significantly high burden of proof here, they failed on all counts yet again.”
“It became clear throughout the trial that this was an unusual injury and there were competing theories about when during the ride [Gray] sustained this fatal injury and what was interesting at some point the judge said he did not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Lt. Rice had caused the injury,” Prof. David Jaros of the University of Baltimore Law School tells WJZ.
“I think what you are seeing is the result of a rushed investigation,” Attorney Warren Brown says. “You’re witnessing the results of a rush to prosecution.”
“If the state had done a thorough investigation in this case and made an intellectually honest decision I think they would have concluded that we don’t know what happened in the back of that van,” he went on to say.
“I don’t think anyone was surprised by the outcome–these were aggressive charges when they were first announced,” says Levy. “We saw nothing in any of the trials leading up to this that would compel a finding that these officers had committed criminal acts.”
Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police president Gene Ryan called on City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to stop the prosecution against the three remaining officers.
“We of course are very pleased that Judge Williams has found Lt. Rice to be not guilty of all charges,” said Ryan. “As anticipated the facts have spoken for themselves, Lt. Rice’s actions were found to be reasonable based upon the situation he and the other officers faced. We again strongly urged Mrs. Mosby to stop her malicious prosecution against the remaining three officers. Based upon the evidence in previous trials we are certain the remaining three officers will also be found not guilty.”
Prosecutors said Rice, who is white, was most responsible of the six officers charged for following police procedures to fasten a prisoner in a seat belt, citing his 18 years of experience on the force.
Michael Belsky, Rice’s attorney, said officers could use discretion if they believe their safety is at risk. He said officers had concerns, because Gray was not cooperative and they weren’t sure what onlookers would do if extra time was taken to fasten Gray in the van.