Prosecutors Rest in Freddie Gray Trial, Defense to Continue

9 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bernie Sanders takes a pass on talking about terrorism during Baltimore visit.

The prosecutors leading the effort to hold six Baltimore police officers accountable in the death of Freddie Gray are seasoned lawyers who spent significant portions of their careers on the other side of the aisle.

The Bernie Sanders campaign clashed head-on with an election cycle dominated by Donald Trump and the politics of terrorism on Tuesday, as the Vermont senator insisted that candidates needed to focus on the “third world” conditions of American cities instead.BALTIMORE — Bernie Sanders, who’s drawn attention for sticking to a heavily focused economic message in the wake of the Paris attacks and San Bernardino shootings, took a pass Tuesday on talking about terrorism.Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died April 19 of a spinal injury after being found unresponsive in a police van following his arrest, told a police officer a month earlier about a prior back injury — evidence that was not disclosed to the defense team of one of the police officers charged in Gray’s death. One once defended a city police officer accused of rape, while the other won an important expansion of constitutional rights for those facing criminal charges in Maryland. During a trip to Baltimore to meet with local church groups and tour a neighbourhood still reeling from summer rioting, Sanders was questioned in a press conference about why his staff had instructed journalists not to ask him about him about the Islamic State. “What about Isis, guys?” Sanders asked as he laughed and he turned to the black church leaders standing next to him. “How often are these people talking about the issues that we talked about today? “Of course I will talk about Isis,” he added, more angrily. “But today what we are talking about is a community in which half of the people don’t have jobs.

The Democratic presidential hopeful brought his message of economic injustice to the impoverished West Baltimore neighborhood that was home to Freddie Gray, the African American man whose death in police custody sparked rioting in this city in the spring. After learning of the discovery violation, attorneys representing Officer William Porter asked Judge Barry Williams during a Monday bench conference to dismiss the case, grant a mistrial and exclude testimony from the state’s medical experts. Michael Schatzow, Baltimore’s chief deputy state’s attorney, and Janice Bledsoe, the deputy state’s attorney of criminal intelligence, have spent the past week seeking to convince a jury that Officer William G.

Carol Allan, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Freddie Gray, and ended with testimony from an emergency medical technician who found Gray unresponsive at the Western District police station. Tuesday’s clash also followed a chaotic tour of the Baltimore’s Sandtown district during which the campaign’s awkward relationship with an unruly media pack was on full display. Those familiar with their work said both prosecutors are aggressive, passionate attorneys who are no strangers to the spotlight — though neither, perhaps, has handled a case with such high stakes.

Prior to the seating of the 12-person jury last week, about 150 potential jurors had been screened for any business or personal connections to more than 200 potential witnesses and stakeholders in the case. Depending on the outcome, observers said, the city might once again experience significant unrest. “There is a lot on the line, and a lot of people are focusing on it,” said longtime Baltimore criminal defense attorney Warren Brown, who is not involved in the matter. Jamal Bryant, pastor and founder of Empowerment Temple Church, who organized the meeting, said he was impressed by Sanders’s knowledge of the issues they discussed, which included education, incarceration and access to capital. Bryant described the meeting as “the beginning of a relationship” and said he is interested in hearing from other candidates as well, including Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, who is far better known among African Americans than Sanders.

Among the initiatives Sanders pitched Tuesday are a $1 trillion jobs program that would be focused on rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, an expansion of affordable child care and reforms to reduce the prison population. Sanders said during the meeting that residents in communities like Sandtown-Winchester are hurt by a lack of banking services and grocery stores that add to their financial burdens. Williams ruled that the prosecution inappropriately failed to disclose that Gray complained of back problems the month before he suffered his fatal spinal injury, though the judge stopped short of declaring a mistrial. But Porter’s defense team contends that Gray had a previous back injury – something supported by Gray’s newly revealed statement – and also is attempting to poke holes in the connection between Gray’s injury and Porter’s role in the 45-minute transport van ride that ended with Gray on the ground and unresponsive.

Prosecutors said that an assistant state’s attorney who was not among them had failed to share the information with colleagues working on the Gray case. Once, while questioning a witness about how the police department develops its rules and regulations, Bledsoe asked rhetorically, “Does it just come out of the sky?” At another point, Bledsoe seemed unwilling to accept Williams’s order that she not pursue a particular line of questioning with a detective who investigated the matter. When asked about the latest Department of Justice investigation into a similar death in Chicago, Sanders told the Guardian that “it’s a huge issue”, adding: “I made a request that the federal government do an investigation into what happened in Chicago and I am glad that they are.

As Sanders walked on trash-strewn sidewalks through a neighborhood of rowhouses, many of them boarded up, curious residences popped their heads out upstairs windows, some snapping pictures with their phones. Morris Marc Soriano, an Illinois neurosurgeon — both testified that Gray’s life could have been saved had Porter called for a medic when Gray first told him he needed one.

Bledsoe, a graduate of the University of Baltimore Law School, began her career in the Legal Aid Bureau, which offers legal services to those who could not otherwise afford them. She then worked for many years as a defense attorney in the city, notably representing Baltimore Officer Jemini Jones, who was accused of coercing women he had detained to have sex with him for their freedom. He was found not guilty in one case and prosecutors dropped the charges in another, though he was later convicted on a gun charge, the Baltimore Sun reported at the time.

O’Malley’s legacy as mayor, which included aggressive policing tactics that critics said strained relations with some communities, came under scrutiny as he entered the Democratic contest. Criminal justice issues, including police brutality, have become salient in the party’s race this year, with all candidates putting forward policy proposals. Baltimore Councilman Brandon Scott, who looked into the overtime matter, said he believes Bernstein unjustly fired Bledsoe because he did not want her investigating the officers — at least one of whom had a personal relationship with Bernstein’s family. Brown, the longtime Baltimore defense attorney, said both Schatzow and Bledsoe are likely both feeling the pressure, knowing that the outcome of Porter’s trial could substantially impact the five other trials.

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