BALTIMORE (AP/WJZ) — Blood stains found in the back of a Baltimore police transport wagon where a 25-year-old black prisoner’s neck was broken were a match for the prisoner, Freddie Gray, an expert testified Tuesday in the murder trial of a police officer who was driving the wagon.
The defense has called its first witness in the trial of a police officer charged with murder stemming from the in-custody death of a man whose neck was broken in the back of a transport wagon.
Dr. Jonathan Arden, former medical examiner for the District of Columbia, testified on behalf of Caesar Goodson, who faces second-degree murder, manslaughter and other charges stemming from the death of Freddie Gray.
Goodson’s trial began Thursday. Prosecutors have so far called 19 witnesses. They have not yet finished presenting testimony, but allowed the defense to call one witness out of order.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams accepted Arden as an expert despite his problematic past. Arden was forced to resign as medical examiner in Washington in 2003 after a highly critical Inspector General report that included complaints of sexual harassment from his employees and findings of systemic operational problems.
Virginia Cates, a Baltimore police serologist, testified that the stains found in officer Caesar Goodson’s wagon were indeed blood. The state then called Thomas Herbert, a DNA analyst, who confirmed that five of the roughly 20 blood samples submitted for testing included Gray’s DNA.
Goodson, 46, who is black, faces second-degree murder, manslaughter and other charges stemming from Gray’s death. The prisoner died April 19, a week after his neck was broken in the back of Goodson’s wagon while he was handcuffed and shackled, but left unrestrained by a seat belt. Gray’s death set off days of civil unrest in Baltimore.
Prosecutors say Goodson gave Gray a “rough ride” in the wagon, and intentionally failed to buckle him into a seat belt or call for medical help. Goodson’s attorneys say the officer did nothing wrong, and maintain that a rough ride “never happened,” adding that officers “virtually never” buckle their prisoners into seat belts for transport.
The state’s own witness, Detective Michael Boyd, testified during cross-examination that after reviewing video footage of the wagon’s journey, he never observed Goodson making any abrupt stops or unusually sharp turns.
“It may be that we don’t see that smoking gun in terms of video evidence of the rough ride. That doesn’t mean we won’t have other evidence,” said David Jaros, University of Baltimore School of Law.
Goodson’s attorneys have suggested that Goodson and the other officers involved in Gray’s detention didn’t think Gray was injured or in medical distress. Officer William Porter, whose own trial ended in a mistrial in December, testified Monday that Gray “said the magic words” when he indicated he wanted to go to a hospital, because once a prisoner asks for medical aid jails will reject them, he said.
“With each witness, there’s another piece of the puzzle,” said University of Maryland law professor Doug Colbert.
The state on Tuesday called Stacey Lyles-Foster, a warden at the city’s central booking and intake center. Foster testified that only 1.43 percent of prisoners were rejected for medical reasons in 2014. She said prisoners don’t get a full physical, and part of the process does involve interviewing a prisoner about his or her condition. She mentioned that Gray was rejected when he was brought to Central Booking in December after a suspected overdose.
Prosecutors also called Detective Edward Bailey to the stand. He has testified at previous trials that he conducted an audit into departmental use of seat belts and determined that most wagon drivers do indeed fasten their prisoners into seat belts. But in Goodson’s trial, the audits were not permitted into evidence.
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