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This image from a citizen video taken on April 12, 2015 shows Freddie Gray on the ground behind a police van. The driver of the van, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. now faces more than 20 charges of violating police policies in his handling of Gray, who died a week after his arrest.
This image from a citizen video taken on April 12, 2015 shows Freddie Gray on the ground behind a police van. The driver of the van, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. now faces more than 20 charges of violating police policies in his handling of Gray, who died a week after his arrest. (HANDOUT)

An expert forensic pathologist called as a defense witness in the ongoing administrative trial for Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. on Friday testified that Freddie Gray’s death was an accident, not a homicide resulting from the negligence or actions of Goodson or any other officer.

Goodson, the driver of the police van in which Gray was found unconscious and suffering from mortal spinal cord injuries on April 12, 2015, faces more than 20 charges of violating police policies in his handling of Gray that day.

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The testimony from Dr. Jonathan Arden, a former medical examiner in Washington, matched Arden’s testimony at a separate criminal trial against Goodson last year — wherein Goodson was acquitted of murder — but clashes with the findings and testimony of the assistant state medical examiner in Baltimore who conducted Gray’s autopsy and determined his death was a homicide.

The testimony was the most technical to date in the administrative case against Goodson, which began Monday. It covered not only the timing and likely cause of Gray’s injuries, as Arden believes them to be, but also many of the finer details of his injuries — such as how he suffered fractures to his vertebrae, and how one “jumped” another with great force, pinching his spinal cord to such a degree that it was functionally, if not physically, severed.

The testimony was challenged at one point as irrelevant by Neil Duke, the attorney for the city who is prosecuting the case. Duke said the tragic end to Gray’s life was not as much at issue in the administrative case as the policy failures by Goodson that led, directly or indirectly, to the death.

Attorneys for Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. began his defense at his administrative trial in the death of Freddie Gray on Thursday by calling a series of police witnesses whose testimony highlighted policy and training failures by the city police department.

Duke said the administrative proceedings are “not an extension” of the failed criminal prosecution of Goodson on second-degree depraved heart murder and other charges last year, and involve no allegation that Goodson “is culpable for a homicide.”

In response, Goodson’s attorney Thomas Tompsett Jr. argued Arden’s testimony as to the timing and immediate symptoms of Gray’s injuries was directly relevant to the charges, including that Goodson violated a policy that requires officers to call for a medic when necessary or if a detainee asks for one.

The defense has not challenged the fact that Gray requested a medic, but has argued that the policy in question was put in place just days before Gray’s arrest, and that Goodson was unaware of it because the department had failed to alert him or other officers to it. They have argued that the earlier policy that Goodson believed he was operating under only required officers to call for medics when it was necessary.

Arden testified that, based on his review of the evidence, he had concluded that Gray suffered the “sudden and catastrophic” injuries to his neck on the last leg of the van ride — indicating that a medic was not in fact necessary when Gray asked for one, and was only necessary at the last stop of the van, when Gray was found unconscious and a medic was called.

Dr. Carol Allan, the state medical examiner who conducted Gray’s autopsy, concluded that Gray was injured earlier in the van ride, that Goodson had multiple opportunities to seek medical attention for him, and that seeking medical attention might have saved Gray’s life.

Duke, in cross-examining Arden, asked him whether he believed the injury Gray suffered could have been prevented had Gray been secured in a seat belt in the van. Arden said he did not believe so, in part because Gray could have taken the seat belt off.

Goodson’s defense said they expect to call one or two more witnesses on Monday, and agreed with Duke and the panel of three police officers presiding over the trial that both sides would be prepared to give closing arguments Monday afternoon.

Attorneys for the city have rested their case against Baltimore Police Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. in his administrative trial on more than 20 charges of violating policies in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.

The panel could clear Goodson of the charges, a decision that could not be challenged. It also could find him guilty of some or all of the charges and recommend punishment to Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. Davis could then accept the recommended punishment or elect a different one, up to termination.

Two other officers, Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller, already accepted “minor” discipline in relation to the case and are back at work with the department, according to a police union attorney.

Two additional officers are fighting the charges against them. Lt. Brian Rice is scheduled to go to administrative trial on Nov. 13, and Sgt. Alicia White is scheduled to go to administrative trial on Dec. 5. Both face termination.

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