First officer goes on trial in Freddie Gray death

30 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

First officer faces trial in Freddie Gray case.

The latest on the trial of a police officer accused in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a spinal injury in the back of a transport van (all times local): Gov. The jury selection process for officer William Porter is crucial because it could determine whether it is possible to select impartial juries in the city for each of six officers charged in connection with Gray’s death. The Republican governor said Monday that a security team in his administration has been working with the city’s police commissioner and the state police superintendent.

The verdict could have immediate consequences for Baltimore: An acquittal could mean protests and potentially more unrest, while a conviction could shake the city’s already distressed police department. Officer Porter – who faces charges of second-degree assault, misconduct in office, manslaughter, and reckless endangerment – is accused of ignoring Gray’s requests for medical aid and failing to put a seatbelt on him, despite Gray being shackled and handcuffed. The troubles forced an incumbent mayor in the throes of a re-election campaign to drop out of the race, and toppled the career of a reform-minded police chief who was unceremoniously fired. Gray’s case also prompted protests across the nation from demonstrators still outraged by the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere.

In the wake of the violence, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake faced criticism and has since dropped her bid for re-election, while then-Police Commissioner Anthony Batts was fired. Prosecutors say he monitored Gray during more than 30 minutes Gray spent in the van but ignored Gray’s pleas for medical assistance. “We just want fairness and justice for Freddie Gray in a legal, calm way, and the courtroom is where it’s happening,” Hill-Alston told the Sun. The trials, like Gray’s death, are expected to serve as a microcosm for deeper, more systemic issues the city and the nation face, and throw into sharp relief Baltimore’s social and political troubles.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams asked 75 potential jurors on Monday whether anyone had not heard about the Gray case, the city-wide curfew imposed after his death or the settlement paid to his family. For one, the lack of an incumbent in the mayoral race has opened the door for others to step in – including former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was forced to resign after being accused of embezzlement; and Nick Mosby, a city councilman and husband to state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is leading the charge against the six officers. “If it doesn’t go over well, what will Christmas be like? Twelve jurors said they had family members who are in law enforcement, while 37 said they had been a victim or a suspect in a crime, had been to jail or had charges pending against them. I know what’s important: that we have order in the city,” she said. “I’m prayerful that justice will prevail and the officers will be given a fair trial by a fair and impartial jury, and that the citizens of Baltimore and the police can respect the decision.” Goodson, the officer driving the van, is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder, a charge for an action that is considered to demonstrate a callous disregard for human life.

Gray family lawyer Billy Murphy said the settlement “represents civil justice.” But Ryan called the deal “obscene,” saying it would damage relations between officers and the city as well as efforts to return the city to “pre-riot normalcy.” When violent crime began surging in May, residents of predominantly poor black neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the bloodshed blasted the police for abandoning their posts— a side effect, some said, of the charges against the officers involved in Gray’s death. An independent review of the police response revealed ‘‘major shortcomings,’’ and painted a portrait of an overwhelmed and under prepared department that made tactical errors and endangered officers. Department of Justice announced a patterns and practice probe into the department stemming from allegations that officers hassled people and used excessive force.

In August, she announced that she would not seek re-election, instead pledging to focus her energy on helping the city heal in the riot’s aftermath.

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