Freddie Gray Examiner Defends Autopsy Report

     BALTIMORE (CN) — The medical examiner who performed Freddie Gray’s autopsy defended her opinion that his death was a homicide during Friday testimony in the bench trial of Baltimore cop Caesar Goodson Jr.
     Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Carol Allen’s testimony corroborated the prosecution’s claim that the 25-year-old sustained a fatal spinal cord injury during a “rough ride” in a police van, while he was in handcuffs and shackles without a seatbelt.
     Gray was arrested on April 12, 2015, and he died a week later. His death and funeral culminated in violent protests, which were quelled when the National Guard was called in.
     Goodson, the driver of the van, faces a second-degree murder charge in relation to the incident and is third of the six officers charged in the case to go on trial.
     Allen testified Friday that the injury occurred sometime between the second and fourth of six stops the police van made between Gray’s arrest and the final stop at the Western District Police Station, where he was found unresponsive.
     When Allen was pressured under cross-examination by Amy Askew, one of Goodson’s defense lawyers, to admit she had at least considered Gray’s death accidental at some point during the investigation, Allen held her ground and refused to give in to the defense’s assertion.
     “The word ‘accident’ never crossed my lips unless it was to say this was not an accident,” Allen said as she defended her autopsy report during questioning.
     Askew asked a series of questions related to testimony and reports that Gray was making noise, moving and speaking with officers after the time Allen concluded he had sustained the severe spinal cord injury, but Allen was unflinching in her opinion.
     State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed criminal charges against six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and death.
     Goodson is the third officer to go on trial. Officer William Porter’s trial in December ended in a mistrial with a hung jury. Officer Edward Nero was acquitted last month of four misdemeanor charges in a bench trial held before Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams, who is also hearing Goodson’s trial.
     Prosecutors utilized a video created with the help of Lloyd Sobboh, a Baltimore police officer who is about the same body shape as Gray, which showed what the back of the police van utilized to transport Gray would have looked like with a handcuffed and shackled detainee inside.
     In the video, Sobboh, who was at the Baltimore City Police Academy at the time of the filming in May 2015, was able to rock the van and kick the sides and back while being handcuffed.
     It is unclear how the video provides evidence of the crimes Goodson faces, but the same video was used in Nero’s trial last month. The video does make clear that any officer would be in very close proximity to a detainee if they were to enter the van to make sure the prisoner was seat-belted.
     Also called to the stand Friday was Brandon Ross, who is currently jailed on unrelated charges. Cellphone video of Gray’s arrest taken by Ross shows Gray screaming in apparent pain and being dragged to the police van before being loaded in.
     Gray was arrested after police allegedly saw him run from them unprovoked in a high crime area. Police say after Gray was detained, he was found to have an illegal spring-loaded knife on his person.
     Prosecutors, who have not made the knife available for public inspection, contend the knife was not illegal and that Gray’s arrest was.
     Ross, who was visibly shaken as the video played, pointed out and identified several of the officers at the scene. He also testified that he called 911 using his father’s name, Rodney Clark, saying he feared harassment by police if he used his real name.
     The case will continue on Monday when it is widely anticipated that another arrestee, Donte Allen, who was in the other compartment of the van during Gray’s trip, will be called to the stand.

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