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In the Media: State Rests Case Against Goodson; Baltimore Minimum Wage Proposal

Baltimore City skyline.
Phil Gold

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Freddie Gray case: State rests case against Goodson after ‘rough ride’ expert testifies

"Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday in the murder trial of Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., after calling a police expert witness who testified about so-called rough rides but couldn't say whether the Baltimore officer gave such a ride to Freddie Gray.

"The state concluded its presentation after calling 21 witnesses over five days. The defense then filed a motion for acquittal, arguing that there is not enough evidence for the case to go forward. Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams, who Goodson chose to decide his fate rather than a jury, will rule on that motion Thursday morning before the defense begins its case.

"Wednesday's testimony featured two witnesses: the medic who responded to treat Gray when he was found not breathing at the Western District police station, and Neill Franklin, a retired state trooper who once oversaw training for the Baltimore Police Department. Franklin was called to testify about "retaliatory prisoner transportation practices" and police training.

"Goodson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, three counts of manslaughter and related charges. Prosecutors allege that he failed to secure Gray with a seat belt in the back of a police transport van and intentionally drove him around in a reckless manner. Defense attorneys have said Gray's injuries were a tragic accident.

"Franklin testified that prisoners who were unsecured but shackled in a police van would have no way to stop themselves from becoming 'projectiles.'

"'It's extremely important that the ride be as smooth as possible to prevent the person in the back from being propelled around the inside,' Franklin testified.

"Defense attorney Matthew Fraling asked Franklin whether he had seen anything in his review of surveillance video which suggested that Goodson had driven the van erratically.

"'It's not your contention that Officer Goodson in any way engaged in a rough ride?' Fraling pressed Franklin.

"'I can't say for sure,' Franklin replied.

"Franklin, now executive director of the drug-reform group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, testified that a seat belt would not necessarily have ensured that Gray would have been secured in the van. But he contended that Goodson should have at least tried to put a seat belt on Gray on several occasions, saying he saw no evidence that Gray posed a safety risk for officers.

"Franklin's testimony underscored prosecutors' difficulty in proving their theory of a rough ride. A previous state witness, Detective Michael Boyd, also testified under cross-examination that he saw nothing in the videos to suggest that the van took an abrupt path. And Donta Allen, who was arrested later and placed into the back of the van with Gray, told investigators last year that he had a 'smooth ride,' though prosecutors question the legitimacy of his comments."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore activists, businesses speak out on $15 minimum wage proposal

"A push by labor advocates Wednesday to persuade a City Council panel to approve a $15 an hour minimum wage was met with criticism from business leaders, who say such a law would drive companies from Baltimore.

"Council members planned to further study the proposal. Baltimore would become the latest city to adopt a minimum wage, amid a national push for better pay for low-skill workers. A $15 an hour wage won initial approval last week in Washington, joining San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.

"Under the proposal, which Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke introduced last month, the minimum wage in the city would gradually increase to $15 an hour by 2020.

"Donald Fry, president and CEO of the business advocacy organization Greater Baltimore Committee, called the proposal 'premature' while speaking in front of City Council. He warned the measure would put Baltimore at a 'competitive disadvantage' and make the city 'an island in the central Maryland region.'

"Instead, Fry said the city should wait to see how businesses react to a statewide minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour 'before jumping to another level that places additional stress on businesses,' he said. The state recently approved gradual increases in the statewide minimum wage level from $7.25 an hour up to $10.10 an hour by July 2018.

"He said this legislation would hurt low-income, low-skilled workers the most, the exact people it is intended to help. Additionally, by outpacing surrounding communities, it would put the city on an island, geographically surrounded by areas with much lower minimum wage levels, such as Baltimore County's $8.75 an hour rate.

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From the Baltimore Sun: Cardin, Mikulski weigh in on Senate guns filibuster

"Democrats angered over the lack of action on gun control after this weekend's shooting in Orlando launched a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor Wednesday, vowing to continue talking until some progress is made on a bill to bar sales of guns to people suspected of being terrorists.

"Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut began the effort before noon and said he would remain on the floor 'until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together.'

"He yielded the floor at 2:11 a.m., saying he had won commitments from Republican leaders that they would hold votes on amendments to expand background checks and ban gun sales to suspected terrorists. It is unlikely that those amendments will pass.

"Murphy, an outspoken proponent of gun control, represents Newtown, where the 2012 elementary school shooting occurred.

"'I know this is uncomfortable,' Murphy said Wednesday evening, six hours into his talk. 'Those of us who are on the floor today...said 'enough, enough.' We've got to show a signal to the American public that we care so deeply about the consequences of inaction that we're going to stop this process until we can't stand any longer.'

"Maryland's senators -- both Democrats -- also spoke on the floor in an effort to give Murphy some relief.

"'I noticed that in the Orlando tragedy, one of the weapons that was used was an assault weapon, a military style weapon,' said Sen. Ben Cardin. 'I must tell you that in my observations in Maryland, I don't know too many people who need to have that type of weapon in order to do hunting in my state or to keep themselves safe.'

"In the days following the Orlando shooting, Democrats have pressed for a measure that would ban people on government terror watch lists from obtaining weapons. Lawmakers want to attach an amendment on that issue to a criminal justice spending bill that pending in the Senate.

"Republicans have supported another bill that would let the government delay firearms sales to suspected terrorists for up to 72 hours. Prosecutors would have to persuade a judge to block the transaction permanently during that time."

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