In Baltimore, Judge Barry J. Williams has found police officer Edward Nero not guilty on all criminal charges related to the death of Freddie Gray, saying there was not enough evidence to warrant a guilty verdict on the charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. Nero had been accused of failing to buckle Gray into the back of the police van, but the judge noted that police training manuals dealing with transport safety were addressed to the driver of the van. Nero was not the driver.
As you might imagine, a crowd has been growing outside the courthouse, hungry for “justice” and “peace.” Let’s pray that any calls for peace don’t involve injury or destruction of property.
Some, in particular the Rev. Wesley West, have said that by waiving his right to a jury trial and opting for a bench trial (in which the judge alone renders a verdict), the defendant denies the community a voice in the case. Tell me, if Nero has a “right” to a bench trial, why should anyone wish to deny him that right? And why should the community have any voice in the determination of this man’s fate in the first place? There’s a term for that: mob rule.
This was the first of six separate trials in the Freddie Gray case. The actual driver of the van, Caesar Goodson, Jr., faces multiple counts of second-degree depraved heart murder (a term most of us have never heard before this case), manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of vehicular manslaughter, and misconduct in office. Obviously, this will be a very different trial from the one just completed; it starts June 6.
For full details of the Nero trial and the developing community reaction, click here.