Freddie Gray’s Van Buddy Testifies in Murder Trial

     BALTIMORE (CN) — Plied with video of him after Freddie Gray’s death, a Baltimore man testified Thursday about his fateful ride with Gray to the police station last year.
     Gray, 25, arrived at the police station unresponsive on April 12, 2015, and the state is trying to prove that officer Caesar Goodson gave Gray a “rough ride” as payback for Gray resisting arrest.
     Of the six officers Maryland has blamed for Gray’s death, Goodson faces the most severe charge of second-degree depraved-heart murder.
     Prosecutors say Gray sustained the spinal cord injury that killed him between the second and fourth stops of his 45-minute ride to the police station, in which he was handcuffed and shackled, but not secured by a seat belt. Goodson had been driving.
     At the van’s fifth stop, on the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues, police picked up a new arrestee, Donta Allen, for allegedly smoking marijuana.
     Allen was not charged with a crime that day but testified Thursday in handcuffs.
     Wearing a light blue nurse’s scrub T-shirt over a long-sleeve white T-shirt and jeans, Allen is serving a 10-year sentence for violating probation on an armed-robbery conviction with a 17-year sentence.
     Prosecutors had said they would put Allen on the stand but rested their case this week without called him.
     Goodson’s team did so Thursday afternoon, the sixth day of trial.
     Though the witness initially provided short, terse answers to questions from defense attorney Matthew Fraling, Allen softened after Fraling played a lengthy video of Allen speaking with two detectives about the last leg of Gray’s ride to the Western District Police Station.
     Allen told police in that interview he heard what he thought was Gray banging his head on the other side of the compartmentalized van.
     During cross-examination Thursday by Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe, Allen said he was being taken out of the van when he heard officers say: “You must have given him a run for his money, because he’s unconscious.”
     Allen also told police the ride to the police station was smooth, and that he did not experience any sudden stops, starts or unexpected turns.
     He said he did not see Gray banging his head, but that the sound came from low in the metal compartment and occurred five or six times.
     The day police interviewed him about the ride, Allen was under the influence of heroin and Xanax, he testified.
     The defense rounded out Thursday’s proceedings with witness testimony from John Ryan, an expert on police patrol tactics and detainee transport.
     Ryan said officers have broad discretion on seat-belting arrestees during transport but are continually reminded to “use good judgment and common sense” out in the field.
     The day started with Baltimore City Judge Barry Williams denying a defense motion to dismiss all charges against Goodson.
     Williams said the state had presented enough evidence to continue the case on all seven charges, though he said it was “a close call” on the murder charge.
     The first witness whom the defense called Thursday was Dawnyell Taylor, the lead detective in the police’s investigation.
     Prosecutors say Taylor “sabotaged” the investigation, but Taylor told the court Thursday she believed Deputy State’s Attorney Bledsoe “lacked integrity” and “threw tantrums” on at least two occasions.
     Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow accused Taylor of making notes after the fact regarding statements of the assistant medical examiner on Gray’s death.
     Taylor testified that the AME, Carol Allen, had said the spinal cord injury Gray suffered during the ride was “a freakish accident,” and that “no human hand caused this.”
     Allen swore otherwise last week. “The word accident never crossed my lips, unless it was to say, this was certainly no accident,” the doctor had testified.
     Williams allowed the defense to present Taylor’s evidence about Allen’s statement, which normally would be considered hearsay, as a “remedy” for prosecutors’ transgressions during discovery process.
     Prosecutors failed to provide the defense with information about its interviews with Donta Allen in May.

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