Another person drew similar attention: Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.
Mosby gained national prominence in May 2015 when she announced charges against six Baltimore officers on the steps of the War Memorial building, days after arson and looting rocked the city.
Through three trials, Mosby's senior prosecutors have yet to gain a conviction against the officers charged in Gray's arrest and death. Goodson, the driver of the police van in which Gray suffered fatal spinal injuries in April 2015, faced the most serious charges in the case.
Mosby was in the courtroom Thursday when Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams found Goodson not guilty of the seven counts against him, ranging from second-degree depraved-heart murder to reckless endangerment.
While Williams read the verdict, Mosby shook her head. She did not speak publicly afterward; Williams has imposed a gag order in the case.
The acquittal means it will likely be difficult for Mosby's prosecutors to be successful in any of the other trials against the officers should Williams continue as judge in those cases, legal observers said.
"This is their Waterloo. This is their Gettysburg," said attorney Warren A. Brown, a critic of Mosby's who predicts that she will face several challengers for re-election in two years. "She is virtually persona non grata in the white community, and her support is waning in the black community and will continue to wane if she continues to lose these cases."
Charles D. Ellison, host of "The Ellison Report" on WEAA radio, agreed that the trial's outcome is significant for Mosby's political future but said she's savvy enough to survive Goodson's acquittal.
"This is the case that everyone has been watching," he said. "There are going to be some who see Mosby as being ineffective. It's not just a verdict on a Goodson. It's a verdict on her performance. But that's something she can pull through. She's a very talented lawyer and talented politician."
Mosby surprised many in Baltimore when she unseated incumbent State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein in 2014 despite a notable fundraising disadvantage. She has landed high-profile convictions of killers, rapists and gang members, but those have been largely overshadowed by the charges she brought against the officers in the Gray case.
While critics have accused Mosby of a rush to judgment in the Gray case, some residents have hailed her as a hero who is trying to bring justice despite the odds.
Opinion polls show that she has remained popular in Baltimore. Democratic primary voters surveyed last fall said they supported her handling of the case by a 3-to-1 margin.
"There are going to be a political repercussions, but I don't believe this will be a death knell," said former state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, who hosts the "C4" show on WBAL. "What the citizens of Baltimore wanted was a prosecutor who would have the courage to bring charges when it appeared that the police had done something wrong. She will get credit for that."
Attorney Richard C.B. Woods, a Mosby supporter, said the failure to secure convictions against police officers in the case could have repercussions for Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow, who was accused of not turning over exculpatory evidence to the defense team.
"If there's a failure in this case in overcharging, I don't think that should be laid at her feet," Woods said. "You don't go after the state's attorney for that; you go after the trial team."
In West Baltimore, many residents said they continue to support Mosby's efforts.
William Gibson, 55, of Sandtown-Winchester, said Mosby "did the right thing" by bringing charges against the officers. He compared the Gray case to that of Rodney King. Four Los Angeles officers were acquitted in that high-profile police brutality case in the 1990s, leading to riots in that city.
Ebony Elliott, 39, of Sandtown-Winchester said Mosby does not deserve blame for Goodson's acquittal.
All the same, Elliott said, "She's got to feel discouraged."
"She reassured people that justice would be served, and it isn't."
Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.