Defense Prepares to Take Stand in Freddie Gray Case

9 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Baltimore Residents Head To Courthouse To Watch Freddie Gray Trial.

Defense attorneys for Baltimore Police Officer William Porter will begin presenting their case to jurors on Wednesday after Judge Barry G. BALTIMORE — Ground zero of the April 27 rioting in this city, at least symbolically, was the hard-knocks intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues. It’s where James Carter, a hood-savvy ex-crack peddler gone straight years ago, runs a cellphone store, and where Murshaun Young, bereft of prospects yet stubbornly hopeful, lingers on stoops, mulling how to escape his circumstances. Porter’s attorneys argued Tuesday that prosecutors had failed to show that his conduct during the arrest of Freddie Gray was “extraordinary or outrageous.” Gray died in April after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody.

Young’s dream: “This house right here,” he says, chin-gesturing to a shabby, three-story tenement on West North. “There was an auction the other day. But Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said Porter showed a “callous indifference for life” when he failed to secure Gray with a seat belt in a police van and failed to summon medical aid when asked. The house was going for, like, $5,000 initially.” Young, 27, says he pestered some of his pals in the corner drug trade, begging them to chip in cash with him. “I’m like, ‘Hey, we can get together $5,000.

Carol Allan, conceded under cross-examination that she would not have ruled Gray’s death a homicide had the driver of a police transport van followed Porter’s instructions and taken Gray to a hospital. Defense attorneys have said other police officers routinely break such policies, but Schatzow said those officers should not be considered “reasonable.” Prosecutors concluded their case Tuesday, and Williams said there was sufficient evidence presented for the proceedings to continue. The van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, instead picked up a second prisoner and then drove to a West Baltimore police station, where Gray was found unresponsive and paralyzed from a broken neck. And after several days of testimony… “One moment, I’m like, `Oh yeah, he’s gonna go to jail,’ but once when I heard the defense side, I’m like, `Ah, yeah, he might got a chance,’” he said. “But you have to wait.” Johnson is planning to write a book around the Freddie Gray story.

In such requests for a judgment of acquittal, which are common but rarely granted, judges must look at the evidence in the “light most favorable” to the state. He had been in the back of the van for 45 minutes, handcuffed and shackled for most of the ride, and the defense sought to shift blame to Goodson. “There’s no testimony that what Officer Porter did was any sort of deviation from what a reasonable police officer would do,” defense attorney Gary Proctor said in arguing for dismissal of all charges. For him, sitting in court has been research and hearing the evidence firsthand has been eye-opening. “It changed my mind a lot because I actually thought that it was a slam dunk type of case but it actually wasn’t because you get away from your bias and you’re actually hearing from both sides,” he said. The death on April 19 of Gray, a 25-year-old black man arrested after he ran from police in his neighborhood, set off protests and a riot in the city, and became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m talking to drug dealers who do not understand the value of real estate.” A few boarded-up doors away from Young’s dream rowhouse, Carter, 48, manages a Metro PCS outlet, close to where a CVS pharmacy is being built, the previous CVS having burned to a husk April 27 in a nationally televised arson.

That blaze formed an indelible video image from the civic mayhem sparked by Freddie Gray’s fatal encounter with Baltimore police, and the city’s Penn-North neighborhood came to be viewed as the epicenter of the widespread violence and looting. Jurors heard from 16 state’s witnesses over five days and watched Porter’s videotaped interview with Baltimore detectives as the prosecutors centered on what he did and didn’t do for Gray, who repeatedly asked for medical attention. The first and last witnesses were police instructors who testified that Porter had a duty under Baltimore Police Department policies to call a medic after Gray requested one and asked the officer to help him off the floor. Jurors have already heard from Porter — last week, they were shown a taped statement that he gave to investigators five days after Gray was injured and before his death.

He also said he couldn’t find a single case where failing to seat belt resulted in the reckless disregard of human life, which is one of the charges Porter faces. Prosecutors contend Gray was gravely injured by the fourth of six stops the van made en route to the police station, when Porter opened the doors and lifted him from the floor onto a bench. But there’s also a crushing gravity, the weight of economic helplessness, which breeds frustration, which fueled the rage that exploded in violence more than seven months ago, and could again. He’ll pull dope dealers off the streets and give them honest jobs, open the gates to salvation. “I’m thinking, two stores in Timonium, two in Towson, two in Owings Mills and 14 more down the Eastern Shore,” he says.

Several prosecution witnesses — including training academy instructors and a top-ranking commander — testified that officers should always secure detainees with seat belts, and should quickly summon medical help when someone complains of a problem. Murtha’s aggressive style drew a warning Monday from the judge, who threatened to hold him in contempt if he didn’t stop “testifying,” by posing questions about information not in evidence, during his cross-examination of the assistant medical examiner. Lyman testified that it is the responsibility of all officers, not just the driver, to make sure prisoners are buckled into seat belts so they don’t move around, fall down or injure themselves. Until then, seven days a week, he stands behind the counter of a shop he doesn’t own, while nearby, Young sits idly on the stoop of a ramshackle house he can’t purchase.

The core reason for the unrest in impoverished West Baltimore that awful day and night last spring, the two men say, was this: People have dreams that feel forever out of reach. “It’s like, you teach a man to fish, he eats forever,” Young says. “You give a man a check, he’s just going to keep waiting around for another check. . . . And Young shrugs. “Ain’t nothing changed out here.” For weeks after the mayhem, the nonprofit Baltimore Development Corporation dispatched “geographic teams” to canvass nearly every block on the city’s west side and hand out offers of financial help for property repairs, according to spokeswoman Susan Yum. “We identified a little over 400 businesses that had been directly impacted by the riots,” she says.

Morris Marc Soriano, an Illinois neurosurgeon, both testified that Gray’s life could have been saved had Porter called for a medic when Gray first told him he needed one. Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development says it awarded about $1.4 million in loans to nearly 50 businesses and set aside an additional $2.7 million for other post-riot revitalization efforts. D’antuono’s message: “It stops with cops.” He says he’s trying to persuade police officers not to let fellow officers get away with sometimes deadly violence against defenseless citizens. Cellphone video footage of Gray wailing and dragging his feet in apparent pain as police loaded him into the van sparked weeks of protest against police brutality. And by the end of July, three months after the rioting, the state says, insurers had paid $13 million in riot-related damage claims by merchants and residents.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams on Monday denied a defense motion for a mistrial regarding whether Gray had a pre-existing back injury but said defense attorneys could use the documents in question to build their own case. Amid nationwide concern about overzealous police conduct, particularly in poor communities, the fiery rioting after Gray’s funeral put Baltimore on TV screens across the country, damaging Charm City’s brand, civic boosters say. Gray would get hurt” — a sentiment that could sway the jury. “The defense will be out to establish that he is just not the kind of guy who would knowingly put somebody under his care in a situation where they could be hurt,” Gray said. If you treat them like dogs, they’re going to act like a pack of wild dogs.” Carter’s side of West North, between Pennsylvania and North Carey Street, is a forlorn stretch of three-story brick tenements with storefronts — Hair Jazz, A&M Grocery, a payday lender, Smitty’s Furniture, Tax Pro$ (“No cash kept on premises”) — and is anchored at one end by the upstairs rowhouse law office of Ike Dixon. “Bankruptcy, Criminal Defense, Personal Injury,” his sign reads, the gamut of legal concerns in Penn-North. Knots of young people in hoodies and Timberlands loiter on stoops, break apart, wander to other clusters and, in a while, regroup elsewhere on the block, on different stairs.

The 24-year-old looter who torched the CVS, igniting a fire in the paper-goods aisle in view of a surveillance camera, lived a mile away in Reservoir Hill. He pleaded guilty to a federal crime and was sentenced to 48 months in prison. “A lot of our senior citizens depended on that CVS for their medicine,” Carter says ruefully. After growing up in a tough pocket of northwest Baltimore, he was arrested twice for carrying loaded handguns in the early 1990s, when he was in his mid-20s. Out front sweeping, or taking the sun, or dragging on a Newport, he has a pleasant word for all who pass. “Mister James,” the drug boys call him, politely.

In return, they’ll leave a few dollars in a kitty under the counter, to help customers who are light in the wallet when they stop in to pay their bills. “They’re just trying to survive,” says Carter, whose workplace was only slightly damaged by the rioting. “When I see people selling drugs, I see a question: Why are you selling drugs? And once you have a criminal record, nobody wants to look at you.” “The way I want to set up all my stores is, you show me an ID, you show me a Social Security card, and you’re hired, let’s do this thing,” Carter says. “I don’t care if they were locked up. Because I know they want to do the right thing.” He says: “I tell them, ‘Just hold tight.’ I tell them, ‘As I open my stores, if you can sell that crap out here, you got a talent for selling.’ I tell them, ‘You can come work for me.’ ” He graduated in 2006 from Baltimore’s Digital Harbor High, a magnet school for information technology; he studied at Baltimore City Community College for a while, then went to trade school to become a pharmacy technician. “I finished the training, but when they gave me a drug test, I didn’t pass that,” he says. “Sooo . . . yeah, yeah.” On the corners, one thing led to another, and he caught some possession charges.

He has one case pending, to wit: “controlled dangerous substance, not marijuana.” Place of residence? “With friends; I got a spot.” Occupation? You could vote for me.” His voicing trailing off, he says, “I would like to, yeah.” But certain impediments to a campaign keep occurring to him: “I got too much s— going on, too much s— behind me.” In the weeks after criminal charges were filed against the six officers, many of their colleagues, demoralized and fearful of being second-guessed, seemed to dial down their enforcement tempo on the streets. And Young, like others, took notice. “They just backed off,” he says. “You could do whatever the f— you wanted to out here for, like, a month.” In that environment, from late April to late May, the city recorded more than 30 homicides — a startling total even for Baltimore, which has long been notorious for its high murder rate. As of Tuesday morning, 322 people had been slain here this year, compared with 152 in Washington, a city of comparable size. “I’m going to be honest with you,” he says. “The day they burned that CVS down, I told the CNN reporter, I told him: ‘The stuff they’re doing right now is minuscule. You get all your money back!’ ” He says he tried to explain the bidding process to his friends. “My actual plan was, we get that $5,000 together and just kind of — what’s the proper word?

It was like trying to tell somebody that lived in the 1300s that the Earth is a big circle, and we’re floating around in the middle of nothing, revolving around this big, hot ball.

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