Baltimore Police Officer Found Not Guilty In Freddie Gray Case : The Two-Way Officer Edward Nero had faced multiple misdemeanors in connection with the arrest and subsequent death of Gray in April 2015.
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Baltimore Police Officer Found Not Guilty In Freddie Gray Case

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Baltimore Police Officer Found Not Guilty In Freddie Gray Case

Baltimore Police Officer Found Not Guilty In Freddie Gray Case

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The trial of the second Baltimore police officer to be charged in the death of Freddie Gray has ended in an acquittal. Gray, who was black, suffered a fatal spinal injury after his arrest last year. Officer Edward Nero was the first white officer to go to trial in the case. He opted for a bench trial with a judge deciding his fate. He was found not guilty on all four misdemeanor charges in connection with Gray's death. The first officer's trial last year ended in a hung jury. NPR's Eyder Peralta is in Baltimore with on today's verdict.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Right before Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams handed down his decision, it was eerily quiet outside the courthouse - no wind, blue skies. The stillness is only interrupted by a protester and his guitar and the helicopter up above.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR MUSIC)

PERALTA: But suddenly, the news makes its way through the smartphones in the crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Protestors...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: No justice.

PERALTA: Officer Edward Nero had been found not guilty on two charges of misconduct in office - an assault charge and a reckless endangerment charge. Reverend Westley West, a well-known activist here in Baltimore, is overcome. A trial without a jury is hardly justice, he says.

WESTLEY WEST: How much longer are we going to lay down and allow the same thing to keep happening? Aggressive policing is not what we need. We need accountability, and we need a system that works for us and not against us.

PERALTA: Legal analysts have always said that the case against Nero was aggressive. Nero wasn't charged with the death of Freddie Gray. Instead, all his charges stemmed from what prosecutor said was an illegal arrest. Scholars say this was the first time ever that an officer has been criminally charged for the violence resulting during an arrest.

PAUL BUTLER: It was a gutsy move by a prosecutor, and it was a failure.

PERALTA: That's Paul Butler, a professor of law at Georgetown University who has been following the case closely. He says that ultimately few of these cases end up with a guilty verdict because the system favors police. But these cases also tell us that both sides are often right, he says.

BUTLER: It can be true that the police officers treat African-American men unfairly. They treat them differently from other people and that they act within the law.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) The whole damn system (inaudible).

PERALTA: Back at the courthouse, protesters are still in shock. And then officer Nero walks out, and the chase ensues. Tina Thompson screams that he should be ashamed. As he enters the parking garage with other officers surrounding him, Thompson is overcome. She doubles over near the sidewalk.

TINA THOMPSON: I'm tired. They murdered - they killed somebody's child. He killed somebody's child (unintelligible).

PERALTA: She says she's 29 years old with kids and nephews who could be killed by police. I ask her, what happens now?

THOMPSON: I don't know. I'm just tired. I'm just tired of - it's been a whole year. Nobody has not gotten the time that he deserve. I don't understand. How much longer - then they just - he just walking around looking like he OK. You killed somebody.

PERALTA: Immediately after the verdict, Billy Murphy, an attorney for Freddie Gray's family, praised Judge Williams, saying the judge had a job to do, and he did it.

BILLY MURPHY: Because the family wanted justice. They didn't want a particular result.

PERALTA: What remains unclear is how this verdict will affect the trials of the other five officers. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Baltimore.

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