Baltimore police lieutenant acquitted in Freddie Gray death

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Highest Ranking Officer Found Not Guilty for Death of Freddie Gray

Baltimore prosecutors on Monday failed for the fourth time to secure a conviction against a city police officer for the death of black detainee Freddie Gray, as a lieutenant was cleared of all charges.

The acquittal of Lieutenant Brian Rice renews questions about the prospects for the remaining cases stemming from the death of Gray, who suffered a fatal neck injury in April 2015 after he was bundled into the back of a police transport van.

Baltimore's police union called on prosecutors to drop the charges against three officers still awaiting trial in the case. Gray's death triggered protests and rioting in the mainly black city and stoked a national debate about how police treat minorities.

RELATED: Baltimore, officers charged in death of Freddie Gray

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BALTIMORE, MD- SEPTEMBER 02: Several protesters march and rally in downtown Baltimore. Some even blocked intersections impeding traffic. Today is the first hearing for six Baltimore police officers charged in the death Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on September 02, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD- SEPTEMBER 02: Several protesters march and rally in downtown Baltimore. Some even blocked intersections impeding traffic. Today is the first hearing for six Baltimore police officers charged in the death Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on September 02, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: City Sheriff's deputies form a perimeter around State's Attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby (C) as she leaves the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings were held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD- SEPTEMBER 02: Kwame Rose is arrested after he and several other protesters blocked various intersections in downtown Baltimore. The first hearing for six Baltimore police officers charged in the death Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on September 02, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: A small and peaceful group of demonstrators gather to protest in front of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings will be held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: A Baltimore City Sheriff's deputy moves among a small crowd of peaceful demonstrators in front of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings will be held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: A small and peacful group of demonstrators gather to protest in front of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings will be held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march through the streets in support of Maryland state attorney Marilyn Mosby's announcement that charges would be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray died in police custody after being arrested on April 12, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march through the streets in support of Maryland state attorney Marilyn Mosby's announcement that charges would be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray died in police custody after being arrested on April 12, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march on North Avenue after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges will be filed. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: A man tears up on the street at North Ave., and Pennsylvania Ave., in West Baltimore a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: People participate in a dance party on North Ave., a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: People participate in a dance party on North Ave., on the street a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: Protesters march on the street from City Hall a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march through the streets in support of Maryland state attorney Marilyn Mosby's announcement that charges would be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray died in police custody after being arrested on April 12, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
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Tensions flared anew this month with the deaths of African-American men at the hands of police in Minnesota and Louisiana. The controversy took a tragic turn when eight police officers were shot dead in apparent reprisal attacks staged by lone black gunmen in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Rice, 42, the highest-ranking officer charged in the Gray case, was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct following a bench trial.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams, who oversaw a non-jury trial at Rice's request, said prosecutors did not prove that Gray died as a result of Rice's failure to secure him with a seat belt.

In separate statements, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Congressman Elijah Cummings, who represents the district Gray lived in, urged city residents to respect Williams' decisions.

RELATED: Baltimore, Freddie Gray protests around the nation

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(5/1 update) Baltimore Freddie Gray protests - NYC and elsewhere
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(5/1 update) Baltimore Freddie Gray protests - NYC and elsewhere
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Micaiah Bakues-Freeman, 9, joins protestors demonstrating over the death of Freddy Gray outside City Hall on April 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Protestors march over the death of Freddy Gray on April 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Protestors march in demonstration over the death of Freddy Gray on April 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Protestors linger in front of a large contingent of police officers after marching over the death of Freddy Gray on April 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: Protestors march over the death of Freddy Gray on April 30, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: A man takes part in a Solidarity Baltimore rally on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: An NYPD Officer stands watch at a Solidarity Baltimore rally in Times Square on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: A woman takes part in a Solidarity With City Of Baltimore rally at Union Square on April 29, 2015 in New York City. in Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. . (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: Demonstrators snarl traffic as they try to block an entrance to the Holland Tunnel during a solidarity protest of the death of Freddie Gray on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police. (Photo by Michael Abbott/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: A man gestures to a police officer during a Solidarity Baltimore rally on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: An NYPD Officer keeps watch at a Solidarity Baltimore rally in Times Square on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: A man takes part in a Solidarity Baltimore rally on April 29, 2015 in New York City. Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: A woman takes part in a Solidarity With City Of Baltimore rally at Union Square on April 29, 2015 in New York City. in Baltimore, Maryland remains on edge in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, though the city has been largely peaceful following a day of rioting this past Monday. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. . (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
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Baltimore was peaceful after the verdict. Only a handful of protesters had gathered outside the downtown courthouse and there were no police reports of unrest.

Rice was the fourth of six officers to stand trial in the case. Williams had acquitted Officers Edward Nero and Caesar Goodson Jr., both of whom were in court on Monday.

Goodson, the driver of the van, had faced the most serious charge, second-degree murder. Officer William Porter faces a September retrial after a jury deadlocked.

Officer Garrett Miller is scheduled for trial this month, while Sergeant Alicia White's trial is set for October. Porter and White face manslaughter among their charges, while Miller is charged with assault and other crimes.

Warren Alperstein, a Baltimore defense attorney who attended the trial as a spectator, said he was "not surprised by the verdict whatsoever."

"At the end of the day, the state may have to say we're cutting our losses and moving on," he said.

But Doug Colbert, a law professor at the University of Maryland, said there was still value in having brought the prosecutions, even if they were unsuccessful.

"The police departments are now on notice that the legal community stands ready to prosecute in these types of cases," he said.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the case are barred from commenting by a gag order from Williams.

Rice, who is white, ordered two officers on bicycle to chase Gray, 25, when he fled unprovoked in a high-crime area.

Prosecutors said Rice acted negligently by failing to secure Gray with a seat belt in the van.

But defense lawyers said Rice made a reasonable split-second decision while Gray was being combative and a hostile crowd looked on, they said.

The judge said prosecutors failed to show the lieutenant was aware of a departmental policy requiring seat belts for prisoners during transport.

"A mere error in judgment is not enough to show corruption," Williams said.

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