In the Media: Goodson Trial Begins; Mental Health Workers Call for Increased Staffing
A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.
From the Baltimore Sun: Officer Goodson trial: prosecutor says Freddie Gray was ‘injured because he got a rough ride’
"Freddie Gray case: Officer Caesar Goodson trial day begins with hearing on potential witness.
"Baltimore prosecutors alleged Thursday that the police officer driving the van where Freddie Gray was fatally injured gave him an intentional 'rough ride,' saying video shows him running a stop sign and crossing the center line.
"The accusation was made by Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow in opening arguments at the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., as prosecutors seek to convict him of second-degree depraved heart murder, three counts of manslaughter and other charges.
"Goodson's lead defense attorney, Andrew Graham, said prosecutors can't prove their case. He said testimony will show the medical examiner initially believed Gray's death to be a 'freakish accident,' and said the defense will dispute the timeline of the injuries by calling Donta Allen, the second man who was in the back of the van.
"He described Goodson as a good cop and docile person, and said prosecutors have overreached by charging Goodson and his fellow officers.
"'An accident can be just an accident, and the cause can be the person himself,' Graham said. He closed his statement by saying, 'Freddie Gray's death was a tragedy, but asking to convict a good officer to satisfy a desire to have someone to blame will just make a tragic situation worse.'
"The opening arguments came after a 90-minute hearing in which Circuit Judge Barry Williams, who will decide Goodson's fate instead of a jury, blasted prosecutors for failing to disclose a meeting they had with Allen last year, in which they did not take notes."
From the Baltimore Sun: State mental health care workers point to injuries in call for increased staffing
"State workers and their union called on the Hogan administration Thursday to increase staffing and improve training at mental health care facilities, pointing to injuries employees have received as a result of assaults by patients.
"Members of AFSCME Council 3 gathered outside a local union hall in Hagerstown to tell their stories of the dangers they face caring for mentally ill and developmentally disabled patients at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Potomac Center in Western Maryland and other facilities statewide.
"'Even though this is a difficult job, it is necessary and we want to work with management to urge our elected leaders to invest more in a safer level of staff, better training and improved programs to better serve the patients who desperately need us,' said Ginger Noble, president of AFSCME Local 354 in Washington and Frederick counties.
"Union officials contend that injuries suffered during assaults have increased at department facilities over the past year, largely as a result of understaffing.
"The union's campaign comes at a time when the department is also under pressure to admit more patients to its facilities that treat mentally ill individuals who have been found by the courts to be 'not criminally responsible' for their actions and incompetent to stand trial.
"The department is facing a class-action lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction against it in Baltimore for turning away criminal defendants referred by the courts to its hospitals, as well as a judge's order that it show why its should not be help in contempt of court for the same reason.
"Department officials have said their facilities cannot keep up with the number of court referrals because of a shortage of beds and that increasing staff would be the biggest cost of expanding capacity.
"While those court actions focused on conditions at Baltimore regional facilities that treat the mentally ill, AFSCME representatives contended Thursday that understaffing is a statewide problem that affects the developmentally disabled as well as the mentally ill. And they said their members, as well as the patients, are suffering as a result."
From the AFRO: AFRO’s clean block program comes back with a blast
"On June 4, members and leaders of about 20 community associations and organizations gathered at the headquarters of the Afro-American Newspapers to announce the reboot of the AFRO Clean Block Campaign in conjunction with the AFRO and the Department of Public Works (DPW).
"Jake Oliver CEO and publisher of the AFRO said 'We are excited. We have been conducting this program for over 70 years, can you believe that? And over the years we’ve seen Baltimore go through a lot of changes.' He continued, 'We intend to make this program one of the biggest and most successful Clean Block campaigns in the AFRO and Baltimore City’s history. The only way we can do that is by the support of you all and many more like you all.'
"The AFRO Clean Block program began in 1934, as a way to beautify Baltimore and ran for several decades. Frances L. Murphy I, daughter of the founder of the AFRO, John H. Murphy Sr., created and ran the project.
"This year’s Clean/Green Block program will run from June 4 to Aug. 20, when the organizations will meet in Druid Hill Park for a culminating program. The theme for this year’s program is 'AFRO Clean/Green Block Campaign – Our Community – Our Responsibility.'"