BALTIMORE, July 19, 2016 — Baltimore police Lieutenant Brian Rice was found not guilty on all charges Monday in the death of Freddie Gray. Rice faced charges of manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
Rice was the fourth officer on trial for Gray’s death. Officers Edward Nero and Cesar Goodson were acquitted in a bench trial by the same judge. Officer William Porter’s trial resulted in a hung jury; he will be retried at a later date. Judge Barry Williams has ruled on each officer’s case.
Rice was the officer who decided to shackle Gray and to transport him to the police department’s Western District instead of central booking. The prosecution team argued that Rice was responsible to ensure that Gray was wearing a seatbelt when he was placed in the van. The judge ruled that the failing to seatbelt Gray was a mistake and nothing more.
The trial did not introduce any new evidence; it was a replay of the previous trials dealing with Gray’s death. Judge Williams explained that Rice’s future cannot hinge on public opinion or emotion.
Gray’s death ignited riots in Baltimore last year as the city’s African American community protested what they see as discriminatory treatment by law enforcement. In response, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six officers for their involvement in Gray’s death. “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for, ‘No justice, no peace,” said Mosby.
While many praised the decision to charge the officers, Mosby has yet to get a single conviction. She comes from a long line of law enforcement family members. Criminal law experts believe her rush to indict was an attempt to appease the protesters and the Gray family. Her failure to get a guilty verdict has drawn critics who say her political career could be over as she faces a re-election battle next year against several strong contenders.
Mosby’s decision to prosecute was seen as too aggressive by Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz. “She acted politically. She acted too quickly, and the public ought to make her pay a price for seeking to distort justice.”
With Mosby unable to get a conviction against any of the officers, Baltimore residents are growing concerned that they will not see justice for Freddie Gray or his family. Community leaders have called the acquittals a failure of the judicial system.
Along with his fellow officers, Lt. Rice faces administrative review by the Baltimore Police Department and will likely be placed on paid administrative leave. Judge Williams will preside over the rest of the cases, including the retrial of Officer Porter.