Prosecution nears finish in Baltimore officer’s trial

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Prior back injury alleged as officer’s trial in Freddie Gray case moves forward.

Demonstrator Arthur Johnson carries a sign advocating justice for Freddie Gray on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, outside the courthouse in Baltimore where the trial of Offcer William Porter enters its second week. (AP Photo/David Dishneau) (The Associated Press) BALTIMORE – Prosecutors in the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William Porter, an officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, are nearing the end of their case.Prosecutors failed to disclose information that Freddie Gray told a police officer about a prior back injury the month before he was arrested in the incident that led to his death.

Judge Barry Williams declined Monday to declare a mistrial, as the defense requested, but ruled that the prosecution had committed a discovery violation and that the information could be introduced by Officer William G. Williams said defense attorneys would be allowed to use the information, but he stopped short of dismissing the case, declaring a mistrial or striking the testimony of a medical expert as defense attorneys had wanted. Porter and another officer cradling his head. “His head was to the side, his eyes open and he was looking straight, but he wasn’t moving,” the paramedic, Angelique Herbert, told the jury. Prosecutors say Gray died because Porter and five other officers failed to seat-belt Gray in the back of the police transport van where he was injured in April, and failed to call for a medic when he asked for one. Prosecutors said in court that an assistant state’s attorney had received the information previously but that the attorney did not share the information with colleagues working on the Gray case.

Before Williams’ surprise ruling, the day’s proceedings had been dominated by medical testimony about Gray’s injuries from the April incident — which included a broken neck and a severe spinal cord injury. The state medical examiner who performed Gray’s autopsy took the stand and stood by her finding that Gray’s death was the result of a homicide, even as Porter’s attorney suggested it was simply a “theory” that is unsupported by evidence.

Morris Marc Soriano, an Illinois neurosurgeon brought in as an expert by the state, who agreed with a defense lawyer’s assertion that “time was of the essence” and that prompt medical attention could have saved Mr. Allan testified that Gray was injured between the second and fourth stops of the van, and that she wouldn’t have ruled the death a homicide had Porter or the van’s driver, Officer Caesar R. Allan defended her findings, and Murtha’s assertions provoked an angry response from Williams, who threatened to hold the defense attorney in contempt of court. She said her findings did represent a theory, but one based on her medical expertise and information from witnesses, including the testimony Porter gave to police investigators. Gray was hurt inside the van, which carried him through the streets of West Baltimore, making five stops before arriving at the Western District police station, where officers called paramedics to treat him.

Gray’s death on April 19, which spawned riots here, critics of the Baltimore Police Department speculated that he may have been given a “rough ride” designed to hurt him. Porter, who has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office, was present at five of the van’s six stops and told investigators Gray did not exhibit signs of distress during the ride. “No one was there,” Allan said. He questioned Allan on the National Association of Medical Examiners’ guidelines for determining the manner of death during an autopsy and whether her ruling was consistent with those guidelines. Raising the idea of a “pre-existing condition,” Murtha asked the experts whether their testimony would change if they knew Gray had suffered a previous back injury.

He then hit his head because of a dramatic acceleration or deceleration of the vehicle, she said, and was paralyzed from the neck or shoulders down while his ability to breathe slipped away. Gray’s neck injury might have occurred when he tried to get up as the van was moving, perhaps as the vehicle accelerated quickly or made short stops. Joseph Murtha, a defense lawyer, moved aggressively to poke holes in her theory. “Do you have any facts, anything that was documented?” he demanded, asking for proof that the injury occurred as she said it had. Murtha asked whether the death would have been ruled a homicide if Officer Goodson — who faces a much more serious charge of murder — had followed Officer Porter’s suggestion. Rioting and looting that broke out on the day of his funeral led to the National Guard being brought into the city and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituting a weeklong nightly curfew.

If a paramedic responded at that point, he said, Gray “would not have suffered the brain injury, which is ultimately what killed him.” Murtha said Porter had told Goodson that he did not think Gray would be admitted to central booking because of his poor condition and that he should be taken to a hospital. The case has received national attention in part because citizen video showed Gray screaming during his initial arrest, his feet dragging beneath him as he was placed in the van. Soriano testified against Baltimore police in 2010, at the civil trial of three officers accused of failing to seat-belt a detainee who suffered a serious neck injury and died. Herbert said that “the first thing that crossed my mind was overdose.” Allan said she was aware of that, but added that the Narcan had “no effect” on Gray.

Allan also testified that a urine sample taken from Gray upon his initial admission to Maryland Shock Trauma Center tested positive for marijuana and opioids.

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