Judge Barry G. Williams (159956)
Credit: Contributed

(CNN) — The highest-ranking officer charged in connection with Freddie Gray’s death has chosen a trial by judge — the same judge who acquitted two of his co-defendants.

Baltimore police Lt. Brian Rice was one of the three bicycle officers who encountered Gray on April 12, 2015. Shortly thereafter, Gray suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody.

Rice faces several charges, including:

  • Involuntary manslaughter

  • Second-degree reckless assault/reckless endangerment

  • One count of misconduct in office for allegedly arresting Gray without probable cause

  • One count of misconduct in office for failing to secure Gray with a seatbelt inside a police vehicle.

Same judge acquitted Nero, Goodson

By choosing a bench trial, Rice’s case will be heard by Judge Barry Williams. The same judge acquitted Officer Edward Nero and Officer Caesar Goodson on all charges related to Gray’s death.

Of the six officers charged, Goodson faced the most serious charges — including second-degree depraved heart murder. Legal experts have said Goodson’s acquittal could set the tone for the four officers still awaiting trial.

“It does not bode well for prosecution,” CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos said.

Williams’ verdict in Goodson’s case “sends a message to the public and to the courts and the prosecution that if you can’t convict beyond a reasonable doubt as to a high charge like murder, what does it say about lesser crimes?”

CNN’s Ray Sanchez and Lawrence Crook III contributed to this report.