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Published On: Mon, Jul 18th, 2016

Freddie Gray death: Brian Rice cleared of charges

The heated Freddie Gray case makes headlines again as Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams acquits Lt. Brian Rice of all charges related to Gray’s arrest and death. Williams cleared Rice of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office in a downtown Baltimore courtroom on Monday morning.

Williams said prosecutors had failed to meet their burden of proving the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, instead asking the court to rely on “presumptions or assumptions” — something it cannot do. He said the court “cannot be swayed by sympathy, prejudice or public opinion.”

Freddie Gray

Freddie Gray

Based on the law, he said, the prosecution failed to prove the elements of the crimes.

The prosecution did not show Rice acted in a “grossly negligent manner,” required of manslaughter, he said. It did not show that Rice acted in an unreasonable way or ignored the substantial risk in placing Gray in a police van without a seat belt, required for reckless endangerment, he said. And, it did not show Rice acted “corruptly,” which is required for misconduct in office, he said.

Williams said a “mistake” or an “error in judgment” by Rice was not enough to prove the crimes alleged. He also noted the difference between criminal negligence and civil negligence, an apparent nod to the fact that the city previously negotiated with Gray’s family attorney, William H. “Billy” Murphy, on the civil side and agreed to pay the family $6.4 million.

“Here, the failure to seatbelt may have been a mistake or it may have been bad judgement, but without showing more than has been presented to the court concerning the failure to seatbelt and the surrounding circumstances, the state has failed to meet its burden to show that the actions of the defendant rose above mere civil negligence,” Williams said.

Rice, 42, is the fourth officer cleared of charges related to Gray unexpected death during transportation after an arrest. Judge Williams had dismissed a second-degree assault charge at the trial’s midpoint, and prosecutors dropped a second misconduct charge at the start.

Rice selected a bench trial rather than a jury trial, putting his legal fate in Williams’ hands.

 

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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