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Freddie Gray Case Becomes Tense Near Close

A cloud of tension and mistrust between Baltimore prosecutors and the city’s police department is hanging over the high-profile trial of an officer charged with murder in the death of a Black prisoner whose neck was broken in a police transport van.

Testimony in the case ended Friday, though the biggest surprise in Officer Caesar Goodson’s trial came a day earlier. That’s when a high-ranking prosecutor said he tried to have the lead police detective removed from the case against six officers last year, because he believed she was “sabotaging the investigation.” It was just the opening salvo in an unusual expression of rancor between police and prosecutors in the trial over Freddie Gray’s death.

Detective Dawnyell Taylor went on to say she had problems with the integrity of Janice Bledsoe, a prosecutor in the case. Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow countered that Bledsoe questioned Taylor’s integrity, as well. He suggested Taylor falsified notes about what a medical examiner initially believed was the cause of death. The detective’s notes indicate the medical examiner initially considered it an accident, but she later ruled Gray’s death a homicide. Schatzow suggested in court Dr. Carol Allan had been pressured by police to rule his death an accident.

The accusations were triggered by the judge’s finding that prosecutors violated discovery rules — for the second time in the trial — by not turning over Taylor’s notes about discussions with Allan. That paved the way for defense attorneys to call Taylor to the stand.

The resulting eruption, Thursday, still loomed over the trial a day later.

Prosecutors have yet to win a conviction in Gray’s April 2015 death, which sparked Baltimore’s worst civil unrest in decades.

Goodson, 46, is the third officer to go on trial. He was the van’s driver, and faces the most serious charge of second-degree “depraved heart” murder. He also is charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. Closing arguments were given on Monday.

Goodson, who is Black, declined to testify in his own defense. He was the only officer who didn’t make a statement to investigators.

Prosecutors contend Gray was given a “rough ride,” causing the injuries from which he died a week later. But Stanford Franklin, an expert on police training and practices, could not say for sure whether he believed there was evidence supporting a rough ride.