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Freddie Gray's Van Driver Selects Bench Trial, Will Not Face A Jury

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- There won't be jury selection for Officer Caesar Goodson's trial. Judge Barry Williams will again decide the fate of an officer charged in the Freddie Gray case. Officer Caesar Goodson made the bold move as the judge heard motions Monday morning. Goodson was driving the van when Gray was injured.

Investigator Mike Hellgren has more on what this critical decision means for Goodson's trial.

This was a calculated move by Officer Goodson, who changed his mind about a jury. It's the same no-nonsense judge who has handled all of these cases who will be at the helm now.


Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. arrived in a car with his lawyers. Sheriff's deputies quickly swarmed and led them inside, where they dropped a bombshell: there will be no jury trial. Goodson, the only officer charged with Freddie Gray's murder, decided Judge Barry Williams alone would decide his fate, just weeks after Williams acquitted fellow Officer Edward Nero.

"There's always a risk when you put the fate of your client in the hands of one person as opposed to 12," said Warren Brown.

Officer Goodson was driving the police van when Gray suffered severe spinal injuries that later killed him. Prosecutors have argued Goodson failed to get Gray the medical attention he asked for and failed to seatbelt Gray in the van required under general orders. Gray was shackled hands and feet in the back of the wagons.

"If there is evidence of a history of rough rides and people being injured and Officer Goodson being aware of the dangers of leaving someone in the back of the van, that would be a very strong point for the prosecution," said University of Maryland Law Professor Doug Colbert.

The other bombshell and a victory for the defense: Judge Williams excluded any testimony from Internal Affairs Detective Syreeeta Teel, calling it hearsay. Teel claims Officer William Porter, who checked on Freddie Gray with Officer Goodson, told her Gray said he couldn't breathe.

"What you're left with is he didn't seatbelt him in and I think you got a sense from the judge's ruling in Nero's case is that that alone isn't going to be good enough," Brown said.

Officer Porter is expected to take the stand for the prosecution. He's being forced to testify. The judge also kept in portions of Freddie Gray's autopsy, which the defense wanted out at trial.

Opening arguments begin on Thursday.

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