Doctors Divided in Freddie Gray Murder Trial

     BALTIMORE (CN) — The police officer charged with murdering Freddie Gray called his first defense witnesses Tuesday, though the prosecution has not yet rested its case.
     Forensic pathologist Jonathan Arden and neurosurgeon Joel Winer both testified that 25-year-old Gray would have instantaneously felt effects of the spinal cord injuries he sustained while Baltimore police transported him in a van to the police station, handcuffed and shackled without a seatbelt.
     Gray was arrested on April 12, 2015, but arrived at the police station unresponsive after the 45-minute van ride. He died a week later. Caesar Goodson, the officer on trial, was driving the van. Goodson is one of six officers the state has charged in connection to Gray’s death, but he alone faces the most severe charge of second-degree depraved-heart murder.
     During questioning by defense attorney Amy Askew, Arden testified that Gray’s injuries would have left him unable to move from the neck down, unable to speak or breath, and would have caused Gray to become incontinent, which is exactly how police at the Western District Police Station found Gray.
     Arden, who has performed more than 3,000 autopsies, testified that given the circumstances of Gray’s death and evidence presented to medical examiners, he would have determined that Gray’s death was an accident, which directly opposes assistant medical examiner Carol Allen’s ruling that Gray was the victim of homicide.
     Allen testified last week that Gray’s injury occurred between the second and fourth stops of the van ride, and that the effects of the injury did not become fully apparent until the sixth and final stop.
     Winer testified today that the nature of Gray’s neck injury was “sudden and instantaneous,” and “could not occur gradually.” Winer’s determination mirrors Allen’s, except as to time. Witnesses have repudiated Allen’s findings multiple times during the course of two trials related to Gray’s death.
     Just this past Monday, officer William Porter testified that he and Gray worked together at the third stop to get Gray off the floor of the van and into a seated position on the bench.
     Porter also testified Gray spoke to him at the third stop when he asked for help and requested a medic. Gray allegedly spoke to officers again at the fifth stop, replying in the affirmative that he wanted to go to the hospital.
     Porter, the first of the six officers charged in relation to Gray’s arrest and death, went on trial in December, but a mistrial was called after a jury was unable to reach a verdict. Porter was compelled to testify against his fellow officer following a decision handed down by Maryland’s highest court.
     Prosecution witness Dr. Marc Soriano testified on Tuesday that he believed Gray may have been able to speak following the injury and might have even been able to sustain his position kneeling on the floor of the van. But Winer testified today that the nature of the spinal cord injury would have prevented Gray from being able to breath.
     Law professor Douglas Colbert said scheduling conflicts likely prompted the unusual move of having the Goodson’s defense present witnesses while the state is still mounting its case.
     Prosecutors began the trial with the theory that Goodson gave Gray a “rough ride” in retaliation for resisting arrest.
     No one has testified directly to the rough-ride theory in court yet, but Detective Michael Boyd did walk the court through a series of city surveillance videos earlier this week. In testimony that began on Monday afternoon and finished Tuesday, Boyd presented video of Goodson driving his van during the 45-minute trip from Gray’s arrest to the police station.
     Despite questions regarding the driving habits of Goodson by Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow, Boyd gave no testimony to suggest that the van took any abrupt stop, start or turn during the trip.
     The state called crime lab technician Thomas Wisener and serologist Virginia Cates, who both testified Gray’s blood and DNA were present in the van during the investigation of Gray’s injury.
     The state also called Stacey Lyles-Foster, acting warden of the Central Booking and Intake facility in Baltimore. Lyles-Foster testified that detainees brought to the facility undergo a medical assessment to determine if they can “withstand” the 24-hour booking process.
     Lyles-Foster testified that in 2014, 42,852 arrestees were brought to the facility, but that 612 individuals were rejected on medical grounds. She said that, in 2015, 629 of the 32,728 individuals arrested and charged in Baltimore were rejected on medical grounds.
     On cross-examination by Goodson’s lead defense attorney Andrew Graham, Lyles-Foster testified that Gray had been rejected at the booking facility in December 2014 on the suspicion he was suffering from an opiate overdose.
     It is widely believed the prosecution will continue with witnesses on Wednesday, before Goodson’s defense team calls any more witnesses to the stand.

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