High stakes for Baltimore as Freddie Gray trials begin

30 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘The future of the city is at stake’ as Baltimore readies for 1st Freddie Gray trial.

Gray, 25, suffered a mysterious injury in the back of a police transport van and died April 19, inspiring thousands to take to the streets to protest what they believed was the mistreatment by police of another young black man. BALTIMORE — Seven months after this city erupted into riots over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man injured while in police custody, Baltimore is preparing for the criminal trial of the first of six officers charged in his death — another turn in the intensifying national debate over race and policing.

But, on Sunday, city Police Commissioner Kevin Davis asked his officers to break with tradition and gather on the same side of the field with members of a Penn North team before a police-community game designed to defuse tensions between the department and residents during a critical time. William Porter, the first to stand trial, is charged with manslaughter and misconduct in office. “The fundamental question as to whether it was a homicide is usually a pretty straightforward question in most cases.

The proceedings, which will begin with jury selection, could have significant implications for the city and for the five other officers slated to be tried consecutively over the next several months, experts said. In this case, it’s not a straightforward question,” said attorney Adam Ruther. “The van itself will certainly be an important piece of evidence. The Baltimore trials have gained national prominence as activists have sought to bring attention to police brutality and to the lack of charges in other cases where young black men have been killed, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. 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 was from Sandtown-Winchester, which was also represented by players in Sunday’s game. “We’re getting to know each other in a different way,” said Davis, appointed to lead the department in July after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired his predecessor, Anthony W. The trial will unfold against the backdrop of intensifying protests over police conduct in other cities, including Chicago and Minneapolis, where residents have been demonstrating against police shootings of black men.

Gray suffered his injuries in an environment where there were no cameras, no witnesses, the state is going to have to prove its case by and large by circumstantial evidence and the testimony of experts,” Ruther said. “The way the state presents the evidence is going to be something the defense is going to be very interested in because it gives them a preview that they wouldn’t normally get as to how they should organize their defense when it’s time for their trial to go forward,” Ruther said. Former Baltimore Colts great Lenny Moore performed a ceremonial coin toss. “Whether the city is here in the stands right now doesn’t matter,” Davis told members of both teams in a huddle at midfield before the game. “The city is watching us. He is accused of checking on Gray during several stops the van made during its 45-minute trip from the Gilmor Homes in Sandtown-Winchester, where Gray was arrested, to the Western District station house, where officers found Gray unresponsive and he was taken to a hospital. Williams of the Baltimore City Circuit Court, is African-American and has experience prosecuting police officers from his days as a lawyer with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The charges were condemned at the time by police union officials as a “rush to judgment.” Mosby’s office would later credit the decision with restoring order “before the entire city became an armed camp or was burned to the ground.” Porter, who is expected to take the stand, was present at multiple stops of the transport van in which Gray was injured, and prosecutors allege he should have sought medical attention. The tough-talking state’s attorney who brought the charges, Marilyn Mosby, is African-American. “Everybody is interested in Freddie Gray,” said Deray McKesson, a Baltimore native and prominent leader in the national Black Lives Matter movement. “It’s one of the clearest indictments by a prosecutor.

The Baltimore Sun has previously reported that, according to a police review of Porter’s statement to detectives, Porter mentioned not being sure whether Gray was faking his injury. The proceedings Monday will start with the search for a panel of city jurors who can be impartial — forgetting everything they’ve heard about the highly publicized case and dismissing any emotions about its impact on the city or their own neighborhoods. 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.

Judge Barry Williams has said the only way to find out is to call potential city jurors to the court and ask them during the jury selection process, known as voir dire, if they can be fair. Scott, at 31 the youngest member of the City Council. “My message is to remain calm, let the law be the law and to help folks understand that when you’re dealing with trials and cases, you are dealing with the legal system. 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. Cases aren’t going to handle emotions or feelings and opinions.” “People are waiting for a guilty verdict in these charges,” said Sharon Black, an organizer with the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly who is helping to plan the demonstrations. “It may be an unpopular view with some, but nothing ever happened in Baltimore until the young people rebelled.” Legal experts said it was extremely difficult to win guilty verdicts in cases against police officers. Hours before Police Commissioner Anthony Batts was fired in July, the police union issued its own scathing report, and its president called for Batts to “step up.” The U.S.

And they caution that the Porter trial, which will revolve around narrow legal questions, will not yield the sweeping debate over police brutality that many black residents, who complain of decades of “police terror,” would like to see. “Freddie Gray’s death raised massive and critical social policy issues, issues about racial profiling, issues about abuse by police,” said David Jaros, an associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore. Department of Justice announced a patterns and practice probe into the department stemming from allegations that officers hassled people and used excessive force. But Jaros said issues such as “why Freddie Gray was initially stopped, why or whether police should be able to chase someone down just because they are in a high crime area and run from the police” might not surface. He was charged with carrying an illegal switchblade, but a lawyer for his family, which eventually settled with the city for $6.4 million, said his only crime was “running while black.” He died in a hospital of a spinal cord injury a week later.

I know he will uphold the highest standards.” “We’re having constant conversations and planning sessions,” she said. “The police have set up a joint information center. Gray seemed healthy when he entered the van; when he arrived at Baltimore’s Western District police station 40 minutes later, after several stops, he was not breathing and was sent to the hospital. She said businesses like CVS and Rite-Aid, which are rebuilding after their pharmacies were looted and destroyed in April, have shown good faith in returning and are important resources for elderly residents and others. I know what’s important: that we have order in the city,” she told The Associated Press. “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.” The absence of an incumbent in the mayoral race has created opportunities for others.

Sheila Dixon, the city’s former mayor who was forced to resign after being convicted of embezzling about $500 in gift cards meant for poor children, announced her candidacy in July. But no reputations hinge on the trial’s outcome as much as state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby and her husband, Nick Mosby, a councilman for Baltimore’s west side who announced his mayoral candidacy shortly after Rawlings-Blake pulled out. Jaros sees “a very challenging case” for the prosecution, which must prove that “a reasonable person would have known that Freddie Gray would essentially die if he didn’t receive medical attention.” Given the intense media scrutiny, Williams has imposed a strict gag order on the lawyers, barring them from discussing the case, and ruled that jurors’ identities will be shielded.

Though he has rejected defense lawyers’ requests to move the trial, he has said he will do so if he is convinced that an impartial jury cannot be selected. In October, a group of students staged an all-night sit-in at City Hall over a list of demands that included the firing of the city’s housing commissioner over a lawsuit that alleges handymen traded sex for repairs for poor, black women living in public housing. “If it doesn’t go over well, what will Christmas be like?

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