The criminal trial for Caesar Goodson, Jr., the Baltimore policeman who drove the transport van in which prosecutors say 25-year-old Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal cord injury more than a year ago, is scheduled to begin Thursday morning, PEOPLE confirms.
Goodson’s bench trial gets underway at 9:30 a.m. inside Baltimore’s Circuit Court. The 46-year-old officer stands charged with depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office, and two counts of manslaughter by vehicle.
Of the six officers charged with offenses that contributed to Gray’s death, Goodson is the only one charged with his murder. He could be sentenced to 30 years behind bars if a judge convicts him.
Last year, Gray’s arrest and his death a week later sparked demonstrations and riots throughout Baltimore.
Goodson’s trial will be the third stemming from the Gray case. One officer was acquitted while the other case ended with a hung jury and was declared a mistrial.
The focus of Goodson’s trial will center around what responsibilities he had for Gray, who died a week after his April 15, 2015, arrest.
Gray, who was handcuffed, was standing in the back of the police van when he sustained a fatal neck injury. When the van stopped short, Gray was unable to break his fall, slamming his head as he toppled over.
Gray was arrested in his West Baltimore neighborhood after he made eye contact with a police officer and then ran away. Cops chased Gray down, detaining him before loading him into the van.
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Prosecutors claim Goodson is at fault for Gray’s death as he failed to secure the 25-year-old inside the van. He’s also accused of ignoring Gray’s requests for medical help.
The prosecution contends Goodson acted recklessly and callously, “despite Mr. Gray’s obvious and recognized need for medical assistance,” Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said at a 2015 press conference.
Goodson’s attorneys argue their client acted as any reasonable officer would have, and maintain he did nothing criminal in failing to buckle Gray’s seat belt.
An autopsy report confirmed Gray suffered a broken neck in the back of the van.
A gag order is in place, preventing both sides in the case from discussing the trial.