Jaros discusses concept of negligence as police case wraps up

Professor David Jaros.

Professor David Jaros.

Professor David Jaros was quoted in the media after the prosecution and the defense in the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. rested their cases Monday.

Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams said he would deliver his ruling at 10 a.m. Thursday. Goodson, the driver of the police van in which Freddie Gray sustained an ultimately fatal spinal-cord injury last year, requested a bench trial.

Goodson, the third of six Baltimore City police officers charged in connection with Gray’s death to be tried, faces the steepest charge, second-degree depraved heart murder.

In closing arguments Monday, prosecutors said Goodson intended to hurt Gray when he drove him around in shackles but unsecured by a seat belt. Moreover, they said, Goodson failed to seek medical help for Gray when he realized the 25-year-old had been injured.

However, Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe did not refer to a “rough ride” in her closing, as her colleague Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow had done in opening statements.

Jaros, who has been following the police cases, said the closing arguments boiled down to a debate over whether Goodson had been reasonable or unreasonable in his actions, though Jaros said that’s not the only consideration Williams will weigh in deciding the case.

Jaros told The Baltimore Sun that the difference between “ordinary negligence” – which is enough to win in a civil case – and criminal negligence is showing that the defendant not only put someone in peril but was also “subjectively aware of the risk.”

“To be just negligent in a civil sense, someone has to be unreasonable — simply screw up. They could have believed they were acting appropriately, but a reasonable person would have known better,” he said. “To be grossly criminally negligent, they have to be aware of the danger and ignore it.”

Jaros also spoke with The Daily Record and The New York Times.

In the Times, Jaros said the case had raised important questions about policing in the city: “I think it’s a mistake for people to focus entirely on whether or not there’s a criminal conviction here, rather than on whether or not we have ample proof of serious problems with police in Baltimore that require that we explore: How are we going to prevent these in the future?”

Learn more about Professor Jaros.

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