The two lawyers squaring off in the case had an evident dislike for one another. Grant McDaniel, the prosecutor, was a lumpy white man, with a penchant for following up statements with a high-pitched, breathy laugh, as if indicating that what he is saying is so obvious is it laughable that he even has to say it. He had been a prosecutor for more than 15 years and carried himself in the courtroom like he had seen it all.
Woodson’s lawyer, James Rhodes, is black, like Woodson. He wears sharp suits and had a Van Dyke mustache. Whereas McDaniel seems slightly annoyed, Rhodes wore an air of perpetual outrage.
Rhodes started by arguing that the charges were entirely false, fabricated by the officers.
“You know when it’s a fabrication? When the state gets up here and even they have trouble putting it in order,” he said in his opening remarks. “Pay attention specifically to Officer Mattingly’s testimony.”
It turned out that no one would have the opportunity to pay attention to Mattingly’s testimony. While the two lawyers and the judges were trying to schedule their various witnesses, McDaniel said he would not be calling Mattingly because he had “moved on.”
No one asked what he meant by “move on,” but I found myself thinking that Mattingly was no longer with the department, which didn’t make sense because I had seen records of arrests he had made since 2014, and I knew he was still on the force when Woodson died three months later.
As the state made its case, the other three officers present that day provided testimony that followed the narrative contours of the statement of charges written 17 months earlier. Rhodes asked one detective after another if they had taken notes at the time. None of the officers had. Rhodes asked them, with evident delight, how they had refreshed their memories. They all said they had read the statement of charges, written by Mattingly.
“You’re referring to someone else’s statements!” he said finally, his eyes flaring. He turned to the judge to say that if all the other officers based their testimony on Mattingly’s statement, Woodson deserved the chance to confront his accuser.
The judge, Jeffrey Geller, asked both attorneys to approach the bench for a private conference obscured from the jury by the sound of white noise. But when a case is done, Maryland law makes bench conferences public and it was there on the screen (Maryland law prohibits me from “broadcasting” that footage, however, so it is not shared online along with the other documents available on DocumentCloud).
In the bench conference, Geller asked McDaniel what he meant by “moved on.”
“In all due candor I was asked by the police integrity unit if I could present the case without him and I said I could—I don’t have any other information than that.”
Rhodes was furious. “‘He has moved on.’ That’s exactly what I was told,” he said, sounding almost stunned.
“I recall when talking about timing for testimony, the phrase ‘moved on’ was used,” Judge Geller said.
“If there is a potential issue with this detective and him being able to testify that should have been brought to my attention,” Rhodes said. “If it’s about his integrity, yes, it’s something I should have known prior to trial.”
McDaniel said he didn’t know what the issue with Mattingly was. The judge dismissed them and told the state to “find out the issues and turn it over.”
Earlier that year, the police department settled a suit against Mattingly for $50,000. As in most settlements, the terms insure that the officer is not admitting guilt. In the complaint, a 13-year-old boy alleged he was walking down the street in July 2011 when Mattingly pulled up and ordered the boy to come over the the car. When the boy kept walking, Mattingly chased him to a fence where he was thrown to the ground and punched in the face numerous times by Mattingly, the suit alleged.
According to the complaint, Mattingly said the boy had been carrying a pot plant.
The complaint further alleges that the officers got another call and dropped the boy off at his grandmother’s house without charges. His mother called an ambulance and when Mattingly allegedly heard about that, he arrived on the scene, handcuffed the boy to his bed, placed him under arrest, and remained in the hospital room with the boy for five hours. Mattingly then took him to juvenile booking, where no charges were ever filed.
The department settled, one of more than 100 such settlements which had cost the city nearly $6 million (plus another $5.7 million in legal fees used to defend officers in these cases) by 2014, according to a Baltimore Sun investigative report.
It is not clear whether this was the reason that the State’s Attorney’s Office did not want Mattingly to testify in Woodson’s case.
Jenifer Layman, who worked in the police integrity unit, appeared before the court explaining that “due to volume, due to triage, due to miscommunication with our office,” this situation was handled poorly, but she assured the court that there was nothing potentially exculpatory in whatever had not been disclosed.
She said that Mattingly was under ongoing investigation by the State’s Attorney’s Office “and it does concern his integrity.” She mentioned “prior bad acts” that can call credibility into question.
Layman assured the judge that there was no effort by the state to “play fast and loose and hide the ball” and that “had the right pieces fallen into place that letter would have been disclosed.”
After she left, McDaniel, Rhodes, and the judge tried to figure out how to proceed. Judge Geller acknowledged the rules had been violated but said he would not dismiss the case like Rhodes asked. He would, however, read the “missing witness” instruction to the jury, informing them that if a witness integral to the state’s case isn’t called, it may be because that witness’ testimony would harm their case.
I sat and watched this unfold on a computer screen in a small room that used to be a U.S. Marshall’s office. I could hardly believe what was happening. At the time, the State’s Attorney’s Office maintained a “do not call” list of officers who had integrity issues and could create problems on the stand. But here was an assistant state’s attorney saying that the arresting officer had “moved on” so that he would not have to testify.
I paused the tape to clear my head. I knew McDaniel’s name was familiar. A quick search reminded me that McDaniel himself “moved on” when Marilyn Mosby fired him shortly after taking office. He said he was fired “without cause.” Mosby’s office later declined to comment on McDaniel’s involvement in this case.
When I hit play again, I watched McDaniel’s case against Woodson take another blow. Although the judge didn’t dismiss the entire case, when the prosecution rested, he issued a judgement of acquittal for all of the assault charges related to Woodson either trying to run over officers or smashing into their car, agreeing with the defense that no evidence had been presented to support them. There were no photographs of either car—the police still had Woodson’s. No work order reports from the police department for repairs to the car. No injuries. And no witnesses from the crowded shopping center.
But Woodson was still facing the drug charges, so he took the stand in his own defense. I could see how people called him “the professor.” He sat there wearing his glasses propped on his nose between a long, almost scholarly beard and a bald head.
Woodson was not effusive on the stand. His answers were generally confined to yes or no. But as it came out, Woodson said that his fiancée sent him to the store. He had only been gone for five minutes, he said, before he was stopped and inexplicably arrested.
“I wasn’t informed of why I was being arrested,” he said, adding that he never knew what he was being charged with until he was at Central Booking.
He was never on Ashton Road, where they said they first spotted him, at all, he said. And he did not have heroin capsules either on his person or in the car. He did not crash into officers or try to evade them.
“The police are lying?” McDaniel asked on cross-examination.
Woodson’s lawyer objected and the judge sustained it.
“So they’re mistaken?” McDaniel amended his question.
“They’re lying,” Woodson answered.
The jury found Woodson not guilty on all remaining counts.
“When we came out of the courthouse, one of the officers was sitting outside of the courthouse, just sitting there,” McDougald said. “And when my son’s girlfriend came out she said to the guy, she said, ‘Well how do you like us now? My fiancée beat the charges.’”
McDougald felt that the officers had it out for Woodson and told White to watch what she was saying. When Woodson came out, McDougald said, that same officer, whose name she does not remember, gave him a dirty look.
“Now that was May 5. August 5 they pick my son up and say they want to question him about a shooting and my son never comes home,” she said.
When a man was found dead in a police bathroom, authorities said he was a dangerous attempted murderer. But the facts didn't seem to add up.
“Eight years before my son was ever shot, police threatened him. Southwest District cops threatened him,” Tyree Woodon's mother said.
Offc. Mattingly arrested Woodson Dec. 26, 2012, alleging that Woodson tried to run over officers and smashed into their car as he fled.
At trial, the prosecutor said Mattingly had "moved on" and could not testify but it came out SAO was concerned with his "integrity issues."
After Woodson was cleared of all charges, he and his fiancee got shot. Police said Woodson shot the assailant, his cousin, in retaliation.
Woodson was again arrested, wearing a medical shoe, in which he was supposed to have concealed a gun from officers who searched him.
Police brought Woodson to the Southwest precinct where, they say, he shot himself in the bathroom. Officer Mattingly wrote the report.
The police investigation into Woodson's death left many questions unanswered. His mother and fiancee still wonder what happened to him.
The complete file given to Baynard Woods by the Baltimore Police via MPIA
This article is published in partnership with Democracy In Crisis.