(Baltimore, MD) If the case of the State of Maryland v. Officer Caesar Goodson, Jr. ends in an acquittal, the signs of problems were obvious in the beginning. The Prosecution started losing before the case began. A Defense Attorney for Donta Allen, the only person who was in the police van with Gray, said his client was interviewed by Prosecutors and they did not disclose the conversation to the defense.
|Michael Schatzow and Janice Bledsoe|
The Baltimore Police Union, who has questioned the charges from the start, has “smelled blood in the water” suggesting the state should drop all the charges. The tension arising between the police, the state attorney’s office, and the public is palatable. It was on full display following the “Baltimore Uprising.” Murders spiked in the city and some suggested police “took a knee” in protest to the arrest and charging of its own officers.
Five of the six officers have filed defamation suits again Mosby (beating a May 1st deadline) alleging “their illegal arrests were made without probable cause and demonstrated ill will, improper motivation and/or evil purpose," according to their attorneys. They go on to say they filed false charges "in furtherance of [their] own personal interests and political agenda." Also named in the suit was Sheriff's Office Maj. Samuel Cogen, he investigated the police officers.
Observers of the case against Goodson, a veteran officer, was the only one to invoke his right not to testify under the Maryland Police Officers Bill of Rights (the State Legislature has changed this provision). Goodson, the police van driver, transported Gray after his arrest. During the ride the 25 year old Gray who was in his custody, died.
Following an order by the judge to turn over all discovery to the defense that was not disclosed we learned not only had the Prosecution not disclosed an interview with Donta Allen, who was in the van with Freddie Gray. We also learned the lead investigator, Dawnyell Taylor, had a falling out with the prosecution. She was removed from the case because Lead Prosecutor Schatzow said she was trying to “sabotage the case.” Both Taylor and Allen were put on the stand.
Taylor, a former marine, took over from Detective Syreeta Teal who had to leave for medical reasons. In testifying for the Defense she told Judge Williams she meet with Dr. Carol Allan, the Assistant Medical Examiner, on two occasions (April 23rd, and April 29th 2015). During her first meeting Dr. Allan told her Gray’s death was “an accident.” At the second meeting with Baltimore Police brass in attendance she called it a “freakish accident.” This claim refuted her earlier testimony on the stand, when Dr. Allen refuted Defense charges she had made this statement.
During cross examination by the Prosecutor Schatzow, things got testy.
Schatzow: Isn’t it true you had problems with Ms. Bledsoe?
Schatzow: You were removed because you were trying to sabotage the investigation?
Taylor: You don’t have the authority to remove me.
Schatzow: What if I told you I had letter from your superior, saying you were removed at my request.
(Bench hearing with Judge Williams).
Questioning continues under adversarial conditions with glares and stares between Taylor and Bledsoe.
Schatzow asks a question regarding Taylor's contact with the prosecutors.
Taylor: We ceased contact with prosecution.
Schatzow: On August 4, 2015 you provided information/notes to the defense on case. Things that weren’t in our packet.
Taylor: I gave the same thing to the prosecution. I handed it to Ms. Bledsoe who looked at them and pushed them back across the table.
(Another bench hearing)
Schatzow focuses on the April 23rd meeting with police brass. Asks about Dr. Allan telling the group about a “freakish accident.”
Schatzow: The officials in the room were pleased with that conclusion (paraphrase).
Taylor: I’m not certain.
Schatzow: In fact you didn’t take notes at the April 23rd meeting nor at the April 29th meeting.
Taylor: I wasn’t in charge.
Schatzow: Dr. Allan never said the manner of death was an accident?
Taylor: She said it was an accident.
Schatzow: Det. Taylor didn’t Ms. Bledsoe question your integrity?
Taylor: (agitated) I questioned Ms. Bledsoe integrity?
Judge Williams calls for a recess. When we return Taylor steps down from testifying.
The arrival of Donta Allen in handcuffs and leg irons caused a buzz in the courtroom. The judge has allowed a transcript and a video deposition he had with homicide detectives in as evidence to as a remedy for prosecution from failing turning over evidence. Neither side has wanted to use Allen in any of the previous trials, despite the fact he was in the police van with Gray, and has firsthand knowledge. Allen’s statements have changed so many times you don’t know what he’s going to say.
The questioning for Allen begins with a simple question from Defense Attorney Mr. Allen do you remember your arrests on April 12th, 2015. Allen responds, “I don’t recall anything that day.” There is a bench hearing. Attorney produces a transcript of what he told investigators, “How can this document refresh my memory…I don’t remember anything.” They proceed to show Allen’s integration by a pair of officers. The tape is stopped, Judge Williams calls for a recess and has to take up another case not related to the Freddie Gray Trials.
When the case resumes we see Allen talking to investigators being cooperative. The deposition points to several factors favorable to the defense. Allen tells them he heard Gray “banging his head...it was crazy loud.” He demonstrates to officers. Says the ride from Pennsylvania and North Avenues was a “smooth ride.” When they arrive in officers says Gray is unconscious.
It’s also during this interrogation Allen makes some inconsistent statements. Starts by telling officers he was on the right side of the van (Gray was on the right side). He is unable to tell officers if the banging was on the right or left side of the van. The judge accepts video into evidence.
As the questions begin again, Allan has to admit the tape refreshed his memory. As Prosecutor Bledsoe questions Allen, we learn there were two interviews one at the Western District and another at the Downtown Homicide Offices where he was video-taped. While on the stand Allen says Detectives offered to let him go if he took his card. He had to also admit he could never see Gray because of the partition in the van. “I can’t tell he was banging his head because I didn’t see him.” He says he told a television station the noise was more like a rapping sound. At the time of his interrogation he was never charged with anything.
In the most telling question and answer he was asked if he was under the influence when he gave the deposition. He tells Prosecutor he was using “heroin and Xanax.”
It was clear he has an adversarial role with police telling Prosecutor Bledsoe, “I was trying to get out of jail…I don’t trust the police.” He also offer a damning statement from an unidentified officer who said, “He got a run for his money.” A reference to the trip which left him deceased.
During cross examination by the Goodson’s Defense Attorney, he ask him to read parts of his deposition testimony out loud in court. He challenges the attorney several times asking him, “Why you got be so loud.” The judge admonishes the attorney. Things get testy when he is asked to read a section where he tells detectives he is “sober and clean…all I had is a Pepsi.” When asked to explain his answer, “I lied!”
Neither testimony helped the Prosecution’s case. The judge has been very clear, when he was asked to dismiss the case after the state had rested he noted the state had not prevented compelling evidence to back up its claim of a “rough ride,” nor had it provide the pre-requisite evidence in the charge of “depraved heart.” He let the case continue but like the Officer Edward Nero case the judge can only weigh the facts and not the emotions in this case