Officer says he did nothing wrong in Freddie Gray’s death

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A defiant Officer William Porter took the stand in his trial in Freddie Gray’s death.

BALTIMORE (AP) — In a pivotal day in the manslaughter trial of one of six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, the defendant himself took the stand for more than four hours to try to convince jurors he is a reasonable and responsible police officer who didn’t do anything wrong on the day Gray was gravely injured. BALTIMORE • Officer William Porter was poised and calm as he testified in his own defense Wednesday, telling jurors that he didn’t call an ambulance for Freddie Gray because Gray was alert, appeared uninjured and didn’t complain of any pain or wounds in the back of a police van.Police continue to say they have no problem with protests or demonstrations and they won’t monitor or follow them as long as they remain lawful, but violence and destruction will not be tolerated. William Porter’s trial is the first in the most high-profile and high-stakes in-custody death case in the city’s recent history, and whether jurors believe his testimony will likely be the deciding factor in determining the verdict. Joined by community leaders Wednesday, the city cites new training and new state of the art riot equipment that has police prepared for whatever unfolds. “We view our role as a police department as one that keeps the peace during protests,” said Commissioner Kevin Davis, Baltimore City Police Department.

Schatzow, the Baltimore Sun reports, focused on contradictions between Porter’s testimony and the statement he gave investigators in the immediate aftermath of Gray’s death. Porter said he suggested to the van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, that Goodson take Gray to the hospital because he knew a prisoner claiming injury would be turned away from jail. With the first trial moving quicker than most expected, one group of protesters says they’re sending out an emergency email, putting demonstrators on standby for the verdict. “What we had during the unrest was nothing about justice. It’s the policy of the Baltimore Police Department to seatbelt those in custody, but in his opening statement defense attorney Gary Proctor suggested few do. In a key exchange, Porter disputed the prosecution’s claim that he told a police investigator in April that Gray told him he couldn’t breathe at the fourth stop of the van.

He told jurors Porter was “just like every other officer.” Officers placed Freddie Gray face down in the police van, handcuffed and with his legs shackled. Porter testified that he overheard someone — who he later learned was Gray — mentioning having trouble breathing, but that was at the first stop, when Gray asked for an inhaler.

Porter, 26, has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment in connection with Gray’s death. In testy, tense cross-examination, prosecutors picked apart Officer Porter’s past statements to police, attacking his credibility, even insinuating he lied to protect other officers and lied about what he did. “Ultimately, the prosecution must prove that Officer Porter did not take the actions that a reasonable officer would have done under the circumstances,” said Doug Colbert, University of Maryland law professor.

In a case that revolves around what Porter did or did not do during a few key encounters with Gray, Porter addressed those questions directly in his testimony. Prosecutors allege he “criminally neglected his duty” by failing to secure Gray with a seat belt in a police transport van on April 12 and not calling for medical assistance when Gray requested it. The trial comes as police agencies across the nation grapple with how to convince the public that the legal system can provide justice when their own are accused of wrongdoing.

His death was followed by widespread protests against police brutality, especially in predominantly African-American communities, and his funeral was followed by rioting. The department requires detainees to be buckled up and the policy was updated days before Gray’s arrest, leaving no ambiguity about whether a prisoner should be belted in.

There are a number of previous instances in Baltimore of people dying or becoming paralyzed after riding in Baltimore Police vans without being seatbelted. Prosecutors have argued that Porter, 26, should be held responsible in the April 12 incident because he failed to properly buckle Gray into a police van and failed to get him immediate medical attention when asked.

He wouldn’t give me a complaint of injury.” Porter, who is also black, told jurors that when Gray was arrested, he overheard him screaming and mentioning something about needing an inhaler. At another point, Schatzow stood a few feet in front of Porter and asked him why he could not recall the identity of the officer who placed Gray into the van at its second stop, despite being about the same distance from the van as Schatzow was from the witness stand. The state’s medical examiner and an expert neurosurgeon testified that by that point, Gray’s spinal injury would mean he was struggling for air, finding it difficult to talk. Porter said Gray was unresponsive “with mucus around his nose and mouth.” He called Gray’s name — which elicited responses at previous stops — but this time Gray was silent. Wearing a gray suit and a navy blue tie, Porter appeared exasperated at times but did not seem to get angry during his cross-examination by Baltimore Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow.

The prosecutor tried to put Porter on the defensive by raising inconsistencies between the interview he gave to investigators and Wednesday’s testimony. Wednesday marked the defense attorneys’ first day of presenting their case to the jurors, and Porter’s testimony followed that of a retired medical examiner.

Vincent Di Maio, a forensic pathologist from Texas, disputed virtually every significant finding by the state medical examiner in the case — including her classification of the death as a homicide. Porter testified about growing up in West Baltimore and becoming familiar with law enforcement at an early age at police athletic camps for children, which he attended in part because they were free. But Porter testified Wednesday that the investigator was mistaken, and that he only heard Gray say that when he was arrested, not when he was in the van. Three times during his testimony, Porter got out of the witness box to demonstrate on his attorney the various positions that he found Gray during the wagon stops. Allan and a neurosurgeon the prosecution brought in as a witness both dismissed the defense’s suggestion that Gray could have injured himself, saying the force of the impact was too strong.

In their cross-examination, the prosecution said Di Maio cherry-picked which parts of Porter’s recorded statement he believed, and which parts he ruled out. Novak was involved in Gray’s initial arrest and also called a medic to the Western District police station after Gray was discovered there unconscious. Instead, he only recalls hooking his arms under Gray’s to lift him out, he said. “Freddie Gray and I weren’t friends, but we had mutual respect for one another,” he said.

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