Around 11am on May 23 the verdict came down from Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams that Baltimore City Police Officer Edward Nero had been found not guilty of all charges against him in connection to the death of Freddie Gray. Nero faced four charges for his role in the arrest of Gray, who died in police custody last April. The charges were second degree assault, reckless endangerment and two charges of misconduct in office.
The second degree assault charge and one of the misconduct in office charges were filed against Nero for his involvement in the initial stop and arrest of Gray. Essentially Judge Williams found, with his acquittal, that Nero’s involvement at that point was merely secondary and even though he was at the scene, he was only on hand in a support capacity. Judge Williams found that it was actually Officer Garrett Williams, another of the officers charged in this case and one who testified at Nero’s trial, who was in fact the officer that detained and handcuffed Gray.
Williams also found that Nero’s actions were reasonable and not found to be corrupt in his initial involvement. This is key because the actions being corrupt are a standard for misconduct in officer charges. The reckless endangerment and the second misconduct in office charge both stemmed from a second stop that the van made in transporting Gray to central booking. The state alleged that Nero was reckless in his handling of Gray along with Officer Brian Rice and the placement of him inside the police van with leg shackles and handcuffs but without a seatbelt. Judge Williams again found no corrupt actions by Officer Nero in this instance either.
“I urge everyone in the Black community, especially, to remain calm because we put Judge Williams on the bench. He has done a spectacular job in almost every case he’s ever handled and he continues to show a level of competence that is well above the average judge” said attorney Billy Murphy while standing outside of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. courthouse in downtown Baltimore where Williams’ verdict was delivered. Murphy represented the Gray family during their civil case against the city of Baltimore which was settled for $6.4 million.
Baltimore City had prepared for the worst in the wake of the verdict but as of noon all was quiet at the intersection of Pennsylvania and North, site of the infamous CVS that was set on fire during last year’s unrest.
Local activist Kwame Rose took to Twitter to express his displeasure with the verdict writing, “Last year Marilyn Mosby stood in front of the world, and said that she heard the call for justice from those of us who marched in the streets. A year later, justice has not become a reality for the family of Freddie Gray and many other victims of police brutality here in Baltimore and across this nation.” He continued, “Freddie Gray would not have died on April 19, 2015 had it not been for 6 Baltimore Police Officers taking him into custody without a care for his well being. You can never put a price on a human’s life, but you can always hold those responsible for taking one away accountable. The community of Baltimore, backed by the support of like minded individuals across the world urges for calm, but more importantly we are DEMANDING justice for Freddie Gray and his family.”
Twitter link: https://twitter.com/kwamerose/status/734793767472013312