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What Are the Charges in the Freddie Gray Homicide?

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 01, 2015 11:39 AM

The Baltimore medical examiner ruled the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody a homicide. And an investigation by the state's attorney's office has led to charges against six Baltimore police officers.

Baltimore's lead prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby announced the charges this morning, ranging from second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter to assault and official misconduct. The investigation also ruled Gray's arrest was illegal in the first place, and warrants have been issued for all six officers.

Here are the charges:

Second Degree Depraved Heart Murder

In Maryland, second degree murder encompasses all murders that aren't first degree murders, meaning the killing was intentional, but was not premeditated. For a conviction, the state would need to prove that the conduct of the defendant caused the death and that the defendant engaged in deadly conduct with either the intent to kill, or the intent to inflict such serious bodily harm that would likely result in death.

The only officer charged with second degree murder is Officer Caesar R. Goodson, Jr., who drove the police van that took Gray to the police station. The allegation is that Gray was the victim of what is known as a "rough ride," during which suspects, while handcuffed but not secured to a seat, are intentionally battered by a rugged and bumpy ride to the station. Mosby said Gray was not properly restrained in the back of the police van.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Unlike murder, involuntary manslaughter is an accidental killing that is the result of a person's unlawful or negligent act, or a person negligently failing to perform a legal duty. Officer Goodson, Jr., along with Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice, and Sgt. Alicia D. White are charged with involuntary manslaughter. Goodson, Jr., Rice, and Officer Edward M. Nero were also charged with manslaughter by vehicle, which is causing "the death of another as a result of the person's driving, operating, or controlling a vehicle or vessel in a grossly negligent manner."

Second Degree Assault

In Maryland, second degree assault is a misdemeanor. It is defined by intentionally causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another. All six officers are charged with at least one count of second degree assault, Miller, Nero, and Rice are charged with two counts each.

Misconduct in Office

Maryland's Public Ethics Law defines criminal misconduct in office as:

..."'corrupt behavior by an officer in the exercise of the duties of his or her office or while acting under color of office.' This definition is also found in case law, and there are no statutory penalties prescribed in Maryland for this offense. Therefore, misconduct in office is, at common law, a misdemeanor. Punishment for the offense is entirely within the discretion of the judge subject to constitutional proscription against cruel and unusual punishments."

Again, all six officers are charged with at least one count of misconduct in office, and again, Miller, Nero, and Rice are charged with two counts each.

False Imprisonment

Again in Maryland, false imprisonment is a common law misdemeanor, and is generally understood as "illegal confinement of one individual against his or her will by another individual in such a manner as to violate the confined individual's right to be free from restraint of movement."

As referenced above, the Mosby said officers had "failed to establish probable cause for an arrest," and therefore Gray's arrest itself was illegal. Police had said Gray was carrying an illegal switchblade, but the investigation determined the knife he was carrying was legal.

Mosby also pointed out that officers repeatedly ignored Gray's pleas for help and failed to seek medical attention for Gray until he was removed from the police van, at which time he was "no longer breathing at all."

What's Next?

The state's attorney's office will likely present its findings to a grand jury and ask for the jury to return an indictment on the charges. Without an indictment, the case could not move forward to trial. (Which is why there was no trial in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.)

There is no date for the grand jury set at this time. Although the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police sent a letter requesting a special independent prosecutor to be appointed in the case, Mosby said she would be handling the case herself.

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