Officer Says He Did Nothing Wrong in Freddie Gray’s Death

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

City Calling For Peace Ahead Of Verdict In First Freddie Gray Trial.

Officer William Porter is the first of six Baltimore police officers who stand accused of playing a role in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after injuries sustained in the back of a police van while he was handcuffed and shackled. 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.Baltimore’s mayor and police commissioner, concerned about the possibility of a return to the unrest of April, urged residents Wednesday to react “respectfully” when a verdict is announced in the trial of Officer William G. 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. Defense attorney Gary Proctor directed Porter’s testimony to show that he was a good, responsible cop who did everything required of him even in conditions that weren’t ideal, while Michael Schatzow’s cross examination tried to present Porter as inconsistent and unreliable, following some lines of questioning that seemed intended to do nothing more than frustrate the defendant on the stand.

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. Porter had pled not guilty to manslaughter and other charges stemming from 12 April, when Gray suffered from what proved to be a fatal spinal cord injury after being arrested that morning near the Gilmor Homes housing projects in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester. In more than four hours on the witness stand, Porter calmly described himself as a “fair” officer who had regular encounters with Gray, a man he said feigned injury to avoid arrest.

City and state officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of April’s unrest, when Baltimore erupted in rioting, looting and arson, leading Rawlings-Blake to impose a curfew and Gov. He described the events of the day as “very traumatic, because of being in the neighborhood every day”. “Freddie Gray and I weren’t friends, but we had a mutual respect for each other,” Porter said of Gray. “I had a job to do and he did things but we built a rapport.” He demonstrated to the court how he helped Gray up off the floor of the van and not the bench, and said that in the 150 arrests in which he had been involved, no seatbelt had been used. 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. He testified that he told both the van driver, officer Ceasar Goodson, and both of the arresting officers that Gray needed to be taken to the hospital – if only to save time when Central Booking would refuse him because of an injury. “We’re efficient,” he said on cross-examination. Porter’s testimony could shape whether jurors believe that he ignored Gray’s pleas for help or was a well-meaning officer simply caught up in a tragic accident.

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. A spokesman for Hogan said the state’s homeland security director has been in regular contact with the federal Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office to discuss and prepare for the potential of further unrest. 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.

Among the sticking points was evidence presented by detective Syreeta Teal, the initial investigator, which said that Gray told Porter he could not breathe at the van’s fourth stop. Kohler. “We feel there could be the potential for people not to be satisfied with the verdict.” Kohler said Guard officials have been meeting with the Maryland State Police and Baltimore police more regularly since the unrest. There are a number of previous instances in Baltimore of people dying or becoming paralyzed after riding in Baltimore Police vans without being seatbelted. He said he hopes Baltimore residents won’t let “outsiders” define the reaction to a verdict in the Porter trial. “What I expect is for Baltimore to talk about Baltimore,” Davis said. “I expect the leaders in this city to lead this city, and I expect the community leaders, the faith leaders in the city to speak for our people. I think that’s the healthiest thing possible.” Davis spoke of changes he’s made in the department since taking over in July, including additional training and equipment for officers and efforts to improve community relations.

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. 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. According to Porter, Gray spoke in a normal tone of voice and made eye contact at the van’s fourth stop, and though Gray said “yes” when Porter asked if he needed a medic, Porter said Gray was unable to give him any reason for a medical emergency. 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.

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