Freddie Gray hearing could see Baltimore officers’ cases postponed

The Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death could see their trials postponed during a Tuesday hearing at which defense teams for the six officers will argue they need more time to prepare because prosecutors have turned over additional material.

It’s unclear what that material entails because Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams has ordered that the defendants’ statements not be made public.

However, The Baltimore Sun reported that it was granted exclusive access to the police department’s investigation, which shows Officer William Porter allegedly told Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the driver of the van in which Gray was transported after his arrest, that the police booking facility would not process Gray because of his medical condition.

Citing investigators who reviewed the officers’ statements as part of the departmental probe, the newspaper reported that Porter also told investigators that he and other officers weren’t sure if Gray was faking his injuries or being uncooperative.

If the account is true, Porter’s testimony will shed light on a long-looming question in the case: Why wasn’t Gray taken to a hospital immediately after he requested medical attention and his inhaler following his arrest?

According to then-Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, officers took Gray into custody at 8:40 a.m. on April 12. At 8:54 a.m., the officers stopped the van to place more restraints on Gray. A surveillance video captured footage of Gray conscious and speaking, Rodriguez said at the time.

At 9:24 a.m., police called an ambulance to pick up Gray at the Western District police station, Rodriguez said. At some point between 8:40 and 9:24, Gray asked for his inhaler and for medical attention, said Rodriguez, who has since resigned.

Gray, 25, was arrested on a weapons charge and suffered a severe spinal cord injury while being taken away in a police van, authorities have said. That injury led to his death seven days later.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has said Gray’s injury happened because he was handcuffed and shackled — but not buckled in — inside the police van.

The six officers were indicted in June. They have pleaded not guilty. They face the following charges:

• Goodson is charged with one count of second-degree depraved-heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence), misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

• Porter is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

• Officer Garrett Miller is charged with one count of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of reckless endangerment.

• Officer Edward Nero is charged with one count of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of reckless endangerment.

• Lt. Brian Rice is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, one count of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of reckless endangerment.

• Sgt. Alicia White is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

Nero, Miller and Rice have asked that their reckless endangerment charges be tossed out because they are based solely on the allegation that they didn’t put a seat belt on Gray, which their attorneys contest is not a crime in Maryland.

Baltimore Police Department spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk has said three of the officers were on bikes and initially approached Gray, another made eye contact with Gray, another officer joined in the arrest after it was initiated and one drove the police van.

Porter was slated to go to trial first, on October 13, but that could be postponed with Tuesday’s hearing. The order of the trials, which Judge Williams has ruled will be held separately, is important because, for one, Porter is expected to implicate other officers.

Prosecutors have written Williams to say that if officers who incriminate their fellow officers aren’t tried first, they might refuse to take the stand to avoid self-incrimination in their own trials, The Sun reported.

If Porter’s case is postponed, The Sun said, citing prosecutors, Miller could be tried first, followed by Porter, Goodson, White, Nero and Rice. If it’s not postponed, they’d prefer the order to be Porter, Goodson, White, Miller, Nero and Rice, the newspaper reported.

Gray’s death sparked outrage and demonstrations, some of which were plagued by arson, vandalism and looting despite the Gray family’s pleas for peace.

The political fallout has been significant: Not only did Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake remove Police Commissioner Anthony Batts from his post, Rawlings-Blake has announced she won’t seek re-election because a political campaign would take away from the city’s ability to cope with a police brutality scandal.

“The last thing I want is for every one of the decisions I make … to be questioned in the context of a political campaign,” she told reporters.

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