Professor David Jaros is quoted in today’s New York Times in a story about the acquittal on all four charges of Officer Edward Nero.
Nero is among six Baltimore police officers charged in the case of Freddie Gray, 25, who died in police custody last spring a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van, in which he sustained a spinal injury. Gray, who was shackled, was not restrained by a seat belt and apparently slammed headfirst into the back doors of the van when the driver rapidly decelerated.
Nero, who helped arrest Gray after he ran from police, faced four misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office.
The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office said Nero committed an assault by arresting Gray without justification. The reckless endangerment charge stemmed from Nero’s role in putting Gray into the police van without buckling him in.
Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams ruled on the case after Nero requested a bench trial.
“The state’s theory has been one of recklessness and negligence,” Judge Williams said, according to The New York Times. “There has been no evidence that the defendant intended for a crime to occur.”
The verdict is the first in the case. The trial of Officer William Porter ended in December in a hung jury. He will be retried. The other officers’ trials have been scheduled.
The Times wrote that, in a city whose police department is already being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department over claims of officers’ using excessive force and practicing discriminatory policing, Nero’s trial has brought up questions about when an officer can stop a citizen and what that officer is allowed to do.
Said Jaros: “I would say the trial has engendered a wider conversation about how police operate in poor communities, particularly poor communities of color that raises critical issues about society.”