The officer that arrested 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who passed away on April 19, 2015, following what many have alleged to be severe police brutality, has been acquitted of charges against him.
Edward Nero was found not guilty on all counts, including second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office. This is a sharp blow to Freddie's family and thousands of protesters across Baltimore who are still searching for justice.
Nero had waived his right to a trial by jury, which means his determination of guilt was made by judge Barry Glenn Williams. Many believed he did not want a jury involved in the case because public opinion is so strongly against the officers involved in the fatal incident. His bench trial began on May 12.
According to local news source WJZ, there was a huge "roar of disapproval" that came from a group of protesters outside the courthouse. One of the protesters, Rev. Wesley West, said, "I’m angry because this is what we deal with, and when I say ‘we,’ we’re talking about the Black community and I’m a part of and represent that community as well, it seems like we have no voice when it comes to these issues.”
West continued, “When it comes to conversations like this, we’re not involved. This should have been a jury trial where the community had a voice in this case. Of course a system works in a system’s favor, that’s how I look at it. That judge represents the system and the police officer represents a system, but they’re all one system working together. And, again, I don’t think the case was actually tried fairly when it comes down to the community being involved.”
Gray's family attorney, Bill Murphy, also spoke to WJZ. “I have to commend Judge Williams on not being influenced by public opinion,” Murphy said. “It’s a very, very difficult job to sit as a judge under these enormously stressful conditions, and once again Barry Williams has shown he is a fair and impartial man… He showed tremendous courage in ruling against public opinion.” He added, "I don’t think anybody should be upset with this verdict nor do I think anybody should have been elated about a guilty verdict. Only the people who sat through this trial and heard all of the evidence have a right to have an opinion about whether his opinion was fair and whether or not it was warranted under the circumstances."
Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 also responded to the verdict shortly after it was announced.
Statement regarding acquittal of BPD Officer Edward Nero pic.twitter.com/JK4RGXavKE— Baltimore City FOP (@FOP3) May 23, 2016
Many had words of anger and disbelief on social media:
No charges ?? ...But of course smh deepest prayers to the #FreddieGray family . 🙏🏾— SZA (@sza) May 23, 2016
#FreddieGray should be alive today.— dr.* deray mckesson (@deray) May 23, 2016
The system will NEVER give Black people justice. As a people, we just rise up and get justice with our own hands. #FreddieGray— #FreeJalilMuntaqim (@BlakeDontCrack) May 23, 2016
City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake released a statement to the public to maintain peace in a city that has faced violent protests as a result of Gray's death. "This is our American system of justice and police officers must be afforded the same justice system as every other citizen in this city, state and country,” she said. "We once again ask the citizens to be patient and to allow the entire process to come to a conclusion. In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond. We will protect our neighborhoods, our businesses and the people of our city.”
As for the four officers who have yet to face trial, officer Caesar Goodson Jr. appears to be next. His trial, which was already delayed once, is not set to being on June 6. He was the driver of the van that transported Gray from the place of his arrest to the police station. It was during that van ride that Gray sustained serious spinal chord injuries that eventually claimed his life.
Goodson faces charges of second-degree depraved heart murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of vehicular manslaughter and misconduct in office. Goodson's defense team has already mentioned the possibility of waiving the right to a jury as well.
While the evidence from this case seemed to stack up against the officers in question, it now appears that there is now a possibility that these officers will not have to answer for their alleged crimes and that the justice system will once again fail the Black community.
(Photo: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, file)