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In the Media: Officer Goodson Heads to Trial; Rep Elijah Cummings Helps Craft Dem Party Platform

The six Baltimore Police officers charged in Freddie Gray's homicide.
Baltimore City Police Department

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Officer Caesar Goodson, facing the most serious charges in death of Freddie Gray, heads to trial

"The Baltimore police officer who faces the most serious charges in the death of Freddie Gray is headed to trial this week.

"Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. drove the van in which the medical examiner ruled that the 25-year-old West Baltimore man suffered a fatal spinal injury in April 2015. Alone among the six Baltimore officers accused in Gray's arrest and death, he has been charged with murder.

"Goodson, 46, is expected to elect a jury trial this week on charges that include what's known as depraved-heart murder, a second-degree charge that carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

"He also faces three counts of manslaughter and charges of second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. The trial comes two weeks after Officer Edward M. Nero was acquitted in a bench trial of four misdemeanor counts related to Gray's arrest.

"Motions in the case will be heard Monday, and jury selection could begin thereafter.

"Goodson's case presents a unique challenge for prosecutors in that he was the only one of the six officers who did not give a statement to investigators. The trial is expected to feature medical experts giving contrasting opinions over exactly how and when Gray was injured.

"Defense attorneys, meanwhile, will have to defend Goodson after the trials of two fellow officers in which a parade of officers and law enforcement experts said it was his responsibility to secure Gray with a seat belt.

"While experts in the trial of Officer William G. Porter last year debated when, exactly, Gray was hurt, they agreed that the injury occurred while he was in Goodson's custody.

"Prosecutors have hinted that they will present a 'rough ride' theory, which would involve allegations that Goodson intentionally drove erratically to cause Gray harm. They have released few details in pretrial pleadings.

"'This case ... does not involve the simple misuse of a vehicle's seatbelt resulting in the vehicle making harmful contact with a prisoner,' they wrote in a recent filing. 'It involves a multi-faceted act of recklessness that resulted in fatal injuries to Mr. Gray.'

"In recent weeks, attorneys for Goodson have challenged the admissibility of key evidence, including portions of Gray's autopsy findings.

"Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams has prohibited attorneys on either side from discussing the case outside of court filings or hearings."

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From the Baltimore Sun: West Baltimore family center welcomes dads bicycling for fatherhood

"When Antonio Martin's 11-year-old daughter found a racy website two years ago, the East Baltimore dad nearly erupted.

"Instead, he remembered lessons from the Center for Urban Families: Be patient, breathe, talk it through.

"The center now stands to receive a $1,000 donation from bicyclists in the Dads Honor Ride. They're riding three weeks — from Boston to Chicago, by way of Baltimore — and visiting organizations, such as the family center in Mondawmin, that support fathers.

"On Sunday, Martin and other fathers welcomed five of the men bicycling.

"'Fatherhood is something I think is at risk,' said Kevin Heerdt, a board member at the center who pedaled with the dads through Baltimore. 'It's something we can't lose hold of in our society.'

"About 25 million American children live in fatherless households, said Joe Jones, president of the Center for Urban Families. In Baltimore, he said, fathers are absent from two-to-three in five families.

"Furthermore, he said, about 4,000 parents who don't live with their children in Sandtown-Winchester, Park Heights and Mondawmin owe more than $26 million in child support.

"About 1,000 men a year participate in the center's fatherhood classes. They learn patience, and how to listen and communicate with a child's mother.

"President Barack Obama visited the center three years ago to observe a fatherhood class, Jones said. The center also helps about 400 fathers a year find work.

"The cyclists visited about a week into the second annual ride by the 21st Century Dads Foundation, which works to encourage and support fatherhood. They plan to finish on Father's Day in Chicago.

"Along the way, each rider will donate to nonprofits in the cities they visit."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Rep. Elijah Cummings to help craft a party platform of unusual import

"Rep. Elijah E. Cummings has for years served as a kind of defense attorney for the Obama administration, deflecting Republican investigations as the top Democrat on the House committee charged with federal oversight.

"But the Baltimore lawmaker will have an entirely different role this summer as Democrats prepare to nominate a presidential candidate in Philadelphia: He will have to be a conciliator, helping to stitch an unexpectedly divided party back together.

"Cummings is the chair of the party's platform drafting committee, an ordinarily sleepy task that will take on new significance this year as Democrats try to appease Bernie Sanders' supporters and ensure that they maintain their energy for the party's front-runner, Hillary Clinton, in the November election.

"The platform, in other words, will be a central part of the effort to reunite the party.

"'My approach is not to take us to common ground — it's not good enough this time,' Cummings said in an interview. 'I want to take us to higher ground.'

"'The way you do that, the way I've done it in the past, is to keep people's eyes on the prize — on the things that people truly care about.'"

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