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In the Media: Goodson Acquitted of All Charges; Md Inmates to Receive Pell Grants

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

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From City Paper: Goodson acquitted of all charges in death of Freddie Gray

"The case against Baltimore City Police Officer Caesar GoodsonJr., highlights the power that police officers have over those they arrest, but not the responsibility for those they have taken into custody.

"Goodson, who drove the van Freddie Gray was riding in when he sustained the injuries that would lead to his death a week later, had been charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, second degree assault, misconduct in office, involuntary manslaughter, two charges of manslaughter by vehicle and reckless endangerment. He was found not guilty of all charges today [Thursday, June 23].

"Judge Barry Williams delivered his verdict in a packed courtroom, beginning a little after 10 a.m.

"Williams said that he relied, in part, on testimony from William Porter, when making his decision. Porter himself is facing charges stemming from Gray's April 2015 death after his earlier trial ended in a hung jury.

"During Goodson's trial, Porter testified that although Gray had asked for help, and he had told Goodson that he wouldn't pass medical evaluation to be processed into Central Booking, he never really believed that Gray was in real medical distress. If Porter didn't think Gray was in need of medical attention, the judge said, it stood to reason that Goodson wouldn't have either.

"Baltimore City Police officer Caesar GoodsonJr. was found not guilty on all charges including second-degree depraved heart murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in the death of Sandtown resident Freddie Gray. About a dozen protestes showed up at Courthouse East for the verdict.  (J.M. Giordano)

"Apparently, the fact that Gray asked for help was not evidence enough to show that he needed it.

"In closing arguments given earlier this week, Goodson's lawyer seemed to argue two sides of the same coin—that officers have discretion in whether they take arrestees to the hospital, but also that their client didn't have the training to evaluate the kind of serious injury Gray sustained.

"Going through each charge, Williams said the state, led by Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow, failed to prove that Goodson's actions were intentional and criminal. The state had argued that Goodson neglected to seat belt Gray, and didn't take him to the hospital when he asked, was enough to prove his guilt.

"The State's Attorney's Office relied heavily on inferences and had difficulty proving its case. During closing arguments, the state argued that Goodson had meant to give Gray a rough ride, but that Gray's injury was greater than Goodson thought it would be.

"Williams hammered on the state's use of the term 'rough ride,' calling it 'inflammatory' and saying it was 'not to be taken lightly.' He said that while the state was not required to prove what a rough ride was, since they made it a centerpiece of their case, they should have. However, none of their witnesses could define what a rough ride even was, save Stanford O'Neill, a member of the Maryland State Police for 23 years, who couldn't say whether or not Gray had been given one.

"The judge said that he had reviewed the few minutes of video the state submitted of the van possibly running a stop sign and crossing a set of yellow lines about 15 times—and didn't feel it was enough to prove much of anything.

"'Unlike a shooting or stabbing… this injury manifested itself internally,' Williams said. If the doctors that both sides presented didn't know when Gray was seriously hurt, then how would Goodson?

"The judge said he was acknowledging that Gray was injured and that it happened in police custody—but also said there was no evidence that Goodson intended to give a rough ride.

"At the conclusion of the verdict, journalists rushed out of the courtroom, and Goodson embraced members of his team. Mosby exited the second floor of the courthouse, flanked by security. Outside, protesters waited outside the steps of the courthouse with signs and chants."

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: Planning Commisssion approves Port Covington master plan

"The Port Covington development took another big step forward Thursday, with the city Planning Commission unanimously approving the master plan that outlines a street grid, parks, building heights and transit aspirations for the South Baltimore area.

"The vote came after about two hours of testimony, in which opponents faulted the developer and city leaders for failing to consider ways to ensure the project includes economically and racially integrated housing and supporters praised the opportunities presented by the estimated $5.5 billion investment.

"The project is controversial because Sagamore Development, which is owned by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, has said it wants $1.1 billion in public financing and grants to help build the streets, parks, sewers and other infrastructure in the area, an underused, largely industrial zone south of Federal Hill and Interstate 95.

"'If Mr. Plank's going to do this on his own, fine, but if Baltimore is going to sink its financial health into this, this must be visionary,' said Dr. Gwen DuBois, an internist at Sinai Hospital who lives in Mount Washington.

"Sagamore wants to redevelop Port Covington with a new campus for Under Armour and adjacent mixed-use development, including offices, residences, stores and light manufacturing. The firm plans to work with private partners on the development, expected to include about 15 million square feet of new construction and roughly 40 acres of parks.

"Sagamore Development President Marc Weller said he was excited by the Planning Commission's approval for the project, which he called a 'one-of-a-kind opportunity' for the city.

"The $535 million would come from bonds sold by the city and repaid by property taxes produced the project and, initially, a special tax assessed on the developer.

"'I feel many of the community concerns have already been addressed,' Weller added.

"The Planning Department received about two dozen written comments on the plan, many of which endorsed it, but some of which also touched on concerns about too much parking and inadequate transit connections as well as the decision not to include neighboring Westport.

"More than 100 people packed into the city Planning Department offices to participate in the proceedings, though the crowd thinned by the time the commissioners made their decision. Some held Port Covington signs as a show of support, while others held signs calling for the city to slow down or stop the approval process.

"'Our master plan should not be segregation,' one read.

"Barbara Samuels of the ACLU of Maryland, which opposes the project and city subsidies it says would exacerbate the city's racial and socioeconomic divisions, said the Planning Commission approval was 'what we expected.' The group will continue to press its concerns over fair housing next month, she said.

"'We're going to [the] City Council with it,' she said."

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: Thousands of inmates will receive Pell grants

"Some 12,000 prisoners will have access to federal Pell grants to help pay for college courses under an effort the Obama administration is pursuing despite a decades-old congressional ban on offering student financial aid to inmates.

"The program, first announced last summer, will bring together 67 colleges and universities -- including several in Maryland -- with 141 federal and state prisons across the country in an effort to reduce recidivism. Only inmates eligible for release will be permitted to enroll in the program.

"A 'belief in second chances is fundamental to who we are as Americans,' Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. told reporters Thursday.

"A number of Maryland schools will take part in the effort, including the University of Baltimore and Goucher College, which has offered college coursework at state prisons for years. Federal officials, including then Education Secretary Arne Duncan, visited the Maryland Correctional Institute in Jessup last year to announce the program.

"But despite bipartisan support for criminal justice reform on Capitol Hill, the program has met with resistance from congressional Republicans in the past. Lawmakers prohibited the government from providing student aid to prisoners in 1994. The administration is relying on a 1965 law that gives the Education Department broad latitude to run pilot programs.

"Rep. Donna F. Edwards, a Prince George's County Democrat, has carried legislation that would lift the ban on prisoners receiving student aid.

"The politics of criminal justice has shifted significantly in recent years; tough-on-crime stances previously embraced by both political parties have softened. Lawmakers have proposed bipartisan legislation that would reduce swollen prison populations, but it is not clear whether any of those measures will advance in a thorny presidential election year.

"Administration officials also unveiled millions of dollars in new grant funding Thursday intended to help prisoners transition into the workforce after release. The Labor Department will provide more than $60 million in grants to organizations setting up job centers within prisons or offering registered apprenticeships to young adults."

Full Article