By Donna Owens
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - The Baltimore police officer being tried for murder in the death of black detainee Freddie Gray failed to ensure his safety and should have called for medical aid, a prosecutor contended during the trial's closing arguments on Monday.
But a defense lawyer for Officer Caesar Goodson Jr said Gray himself was responsible for the broken neck he suffered inside a transport van Goodson was driving in April 2015. He also accused the prosecution of withholding evidence.
Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams, who is deciding the case in a bench trial, said he would hand down a verdict on Thursday.
Goodson faces the most serious charges, making his the marquee case for Maryland prosecutors over Gray's death. They have failed to secure a conviction in two earlier trials of officers.
Gray's death triggered rioting and protests and stoked a U.S. debate on police treatment of minorities. Six officers have been charged in his death, and Goodson is accused of second-degree depraved heart murder, manslaughter and other charges.
Prosecutor Janice Bledsoe said the Supreme Court had ruled that police officers had a duty to guarantee a detainee's safety and well-being.
"Officer Goodson, as the driver of the van that Freddie Gray was in, neither ensured his safety nor his well-being," Bledsoe said.
She said Goodson's repeated failure to summon a medic and to seat-belt Gray violated police policy and training.
Matthew Fraling, Goodson's attorney, struck back by saying that Goodson lacked the training to recognize Gray's injuries and that Gray caused his own injuries.
"We certainly do not want to speak badly of the deceased but Mr. Gray created a high degree of risk," he said.
He also compared prosecutors' case to three-card monte, a con game in which a card is hidden from a bettor. Prosecutors did "a dance with discovery" of evidence, Fraling said.
Williams has sanctioned prosecutors for failing to turn over to Fraling and his team notes from an interview with a man who was in Goodson's van with Gray.
Williams peppered both sides with questions and at times seemed skeptical of the prosecution's legal theories.
Gray, 25, was arrested for fleeing officers unprovoked. He was bundled into Goodson's van shackled and was not seat-belted, a violation of procedure.
The manslaughter trial of Officer William Porter ended in a hung jury in December, and he faces retrial in September. Williams acquitted Officer Edward Nero of misdemeanor charges last month.
(Writing by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Bernard Orr)