US & Canada

Freddie Gray given 'rough ride' by police before death

Baltimore Police officer Caesar Goodson arrives at the Mitchell Courthouse-West for jury selection in his trial January 11, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. Image copyright Jose Louis Magana/Getty Images
Image caption Officer Caesar Goodson faces 30 years in prison if convicted

Prosecutors allege a police officer charged over the death of Freddie Gray gave the detainee a "rough ride" while transporting him to the police station.

Officer Caesar Goodson drove the van in which Mr Gray, a 25-year-old black man, suffered a fatal spine injury.

He faces a charge of second-degree depraved heart murder, the most serious charge against the six police officers accused of causing Mr Gray's death.

Mr Goodson's lawyer has argued Mr Gray's death was accidental.

Mr Gray was arrested in April 2015 for running away from police officers unprovoked. He died a week after sustaining a spinal injury in the back of a police van.

Mr Gray's death sparked civil unrest in Baltimore amid a national debate on police brutality and the death of unarmed black men at the hands of police.

Image copyright Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Image caption Freddie Gray's death last April sparked mass protests throughout Baltimore

Prosecutor Michael Schatzow argued on Thursday that Mr Goodson was negligent when he failed to use the seat belt to secure Mr Gray, who was handcuffed and shackled.

Mr Goodson intentionally took sharp turns to allow Mr Gray to be thrown around, according to the prosecutor.

But Andrew Graham, Mr Goodson's defence attorney, contends the death was caused by a "freakish accident," adding that Mr Gray violently kicked and screamed. He also argues his client drove cautiously.

The van made six stops on the way from Mr Gray's arrest to the police station. Mr Goodson was the only officer present at each of the stops.

Before the opening statements were made on Thursday, Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams rebuked prosecutors for allegedly withholding evidence and violating discovery rules.

Prosecutors failed to submit defence material from an interview in May 2015 with Donta Allen, who was put in a separate van compartment after Mr Gray's arrest.

Mr Williams did not dismiss the cases, but ordered prosecutors to turn in any potentially exculpatory evidence obtained in the interview by Monday.

Mr Goodson, who is also charged with three counts of manslaughter, faces 30 years in prison if convicted.

He is the third officer to face trial over Mr Gray's death. Last month, Officer Edward Nero was acquitted of all charges. Officer William Porter's trial ended in a hung jury and is slated for a retrial.