Freddie Gray Officer Acquitted

A Baltimore judge today found police officer Edward Nero not guilty in the death of Freddie Gray. From the Baltimore Sun:

The judgment, following a five-day bench trial, is the first in the closely-watched case. Nero, 30, faced four misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office.

Prosecutors had argued that Nero committed an assault by detaining Gray without justification, while the reckless endangerment charge related to Nero's role in putting Gray into an arrest wagon without buckling a seat belt. In closing arguments Thursday, Williams had skeptically questioned prosecutors about their theory of assault, which legal experts said was unprecedented.

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    The Gray family attorney (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by jbindc on Mon May 23, 2016 at 11:11:00 AM EST
    Billy Murphy, said the family was looking for a fair process and that's what they got.  He said he also believes that Officer Nero was not a player in Gray's death.

    (h/t Mary Bubala of WJZ Baltimore)

    Billy's a good friend and (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Mon May 23, 2016 at 11:28:38 AM EST
    a very good lawyer

    Not a player but he got his name dragged (none / 0) (#5)
    by McBain on Mon May 23, 2016 at 02:29:45 PM EST
    through the mud anyway.  Even though he was acquitted, this trial will probably hinder his career in law enforcement. It's not looking good for Mosby and co. right now.  

    Why was Nero even prosecuted? (none / 0) (#3)
    by leftwig on Mon May 23, 2016 at 12:09:55 PM EST
    I mean I can see some of the actions of some other officers potentially being prosecuted criminally, but what evidence existed for a Nero prosecution?

    The only thing I can think of (none / 0) (#4)
    by McBain on Mon May 23, 2016 at 02:26:41 PM EST
    is the prosecution needed something out of this trial to strengthen their cases in the upcoming trials. If so, that's incredibly unethical.

    Can Jeralyn or someone tell me why Nero chose a bench trial?  I'm assuming it has to do with the jury pool and public pressure.  


    if i recall . . . (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by The Addams Family on Mon May 23, 2016 at 04:51:16 PM EST
    the judge refused a change of venue, & so the defendant may have opted for a bench trial in order to enhance the possibility of a verdict that would be based strictly on the evidence & the law

    I am guessing he chose a bench trial (none / 0) (#6)
    by leftwig on Mon May 23, 2016 at 02:53:43 PM EST
    to avoid a hung jury situation which meant he could be retried.  The first officer (Porter) had a hung jury on all of his charges I believe, so its now up to the discretion of the prosecution to determine which charges will be retried if any.  By choosing a judge, the verdict can be appealed, but not retired.

    Sounds right but why don't (none / 0) (#7)
    by McBain on Mon May 23, 2016 at 03:33:22 PM EST
    more defendants opt for bench trials? Is it something you do when you really think the law is on your side?

    Because it's it's a huge gamble (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by jbindc on Tue May 24, 2016 at 07:44:07 AM EST
    With a bench trial, there's one person making the decision, and depending on the jurisdiction and court, that one person may be an elected official who will have to face voters. But, you do get someone who is more apt to follow the law in a much stricter sense.

    With a jury, your odds of acquittal are greater because you're playing a numbers game - all you need is to convince one person, not that you are innocent, but that enough reasonable doubt exists to acquit you.  Or, put another way, the prosecution must convince 12 people that the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty, which is a pretty high bar to cross.  Have you ever gotten 12 people to try and agree on something as innocuous as a lunch order?   It's pretty difficult.

    Knowing the potential jury pool, the media interest, and his client's position and amount of involvement in this case, Nero's lawyer was pretty smart to go for a bench trial.


    Anybody Know Current Statistics? (none / 0) (#12)
    by RickyJim on Tue May 24, 2016 at 09:22:32 AM EST
    When googling for respective conviction rates in the US for jury versus bench trials, I found this
    Using data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Leipold found that, since 1946, federal juries and federal judges have convicted defendants at almost the same rate: 75 percent by juries and 73 percent by judges.

    But barely a year after the introduction of federal sentencing guidelines, judges and juries began heading in different directions. In the 14 years from 1989 through 2002, the conviction rate of federal juries increased to 84 percent, while that of federal judges decreased to 55 percent. In 2006, jury conviction rates exceeded bench rates by 25 percentage points (89 percent to 64 percent, respectively).

    If anybody finds what the current comparison is in state courts, please post.  TIA

    Agree on the easier to prevent conviction, but (none / 0) (#13)
    by leftwig on Tue May 24, 2016 at 12:23:32 PM EST
    just because you get one person to agree with you, doesn't get you acquitted.  The result is a hung jury and the prosecution can choose to retry.  Porter (the first officer tried) opted for a jury trial and the jury was hung on all charges.  The prosecution now has the option to retry any of the charges in which a verdict was not reached.

    In Nero's case, the evidence was clearly on his side, so I think he wanted to end the case.  Yeah, he took a chance on one judge, but that judge does have to account for his rulings, not just to the public, but to higher courts.  If he had selected a jury trial, it would have only taken one person to vote guilty (and maintain the vote) and the prosecution could have used that to wage a new trial or at least hold that prospect over him.


    You are correct (none / 0) (#14)
    by jbindc on Tue May 24, 2016 at 12:59:19 PM EST
    I mis-typed.  But in most cases, the prosecution has to weigh the cost of bringing a new case that already hung. And with many jurisdictions being cash strapped, very few cases that are hung will be retried, except in the most heinous of crimes. Pleas may be taken in that case.

    As far as Porter's case, I think it just got a boost of not being retried with Nero's acquittal.  I think we will see some pleas come out of this or some reduced charges for the others.


    Exactly (none / 0) (#11)
    by me only on Tue May 24, 2016 at 09:19:24 AM EST
    When the trial is about the law, then the defense opts for a bench trial.  A judge is much less likely to be confused by witness testimony than lay jurors.

    Judge Williams released a transcript of his verdict.  The prosecution had a miserable go of it.


    The prosecution (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by jbindc on Thu May 26, 2016 at 06:58:29 AM EST
    Was trying to make new law by arguing that any arrest without probable cause = criminal assault, which is beyond ludicrous.

    indeed (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by The Addams Family on Thu May 26, 2016 at 02:37:14 PM EST
    watch the video of the SA's press conference of 1 May 2015, or look at still photos of that event, & notice the faces of good soldiers Michael Schatzow, Tammy Brown, & Janice Bledsoe, all with longer & deeper experience than their boss  - they look embarrassed to be there

    it makes sense (none / 0) (#9)
    by linea on Mon May 23, 2016 at 08:09:00 PM EST
    ... for a police office to request a judge trial.  a jury trial requires teaching noobs the basics of police procedures and also legal precedents like the terry case and that other case about running away in a known drug area.

    about why Nero was even charged... maybe there was some sort of political pressure on the prosecutors office?  

    there were riots and african americans wanted the "racist cop" who gave freddie grey a "rough ride as punishment" causing his death held accountable.  unfortunately, the van driver is black and the sargeant at the second stop who didnt immediaty call an ambulance is black too.  so they charged the three bicycle patrolman to show they were serious about fighting racism.  that's speculation obviously.