The Latest: Expert Testifies for State at Freddie Gray Trial

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Assistant medical examiner testifies about Gray’s injuries.

BALTIMORE — The latest on the trial of a Baltimore police officer who is charged with manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was injured in the back of a police transport van. Morris Soriano, an Illinois neurosurgeon, testified Monday at the manslaughter trial of Officer William Porter, who is accused of not getting Gray medical help even though he requested it after being put in a police van. Zeroing on the pivotal question of whether what happened in the van was a crime or an accident, defense attorneys accused the medical examiner of sloppy research, ignoring professional standards and possibly bowing to political pressure in order to bring charges against Porter and five other Baltimore police officers in a case that led to rioting and protests. Porter is the first of six officers to go on trial in the case and faces manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment charges. Murtha accused medical examiner Carol Allan of departing from the National Association of Medical Examiners’ definition of homicide as a “volitional act.” Allan said medical examiners in different regions and different cases often depart from the standard definition in reaching the conclusion that a death is a homicide.

Williams angrily interjected at one point and threatened to hold Murtha in contempt for inserting his opinions into his heated questioning by insisting that Gray’s death should have been ruled accidental. According to Soriano’s testimony, Johnson suffered an injury in the same section of his spinal cord as Gray, and that in pulling the man out of the van, the officers exacerbated his injury. Allan wrote in the report that Gray’s injuries suggested he had gotten up sometime between the second and fourth van stop, lost his balance due to an “unexpected turning motion, acceleration or deceleration” and was unable to brace himself because of his wrists and ankles were restrained.

Allan added that Porter’s lack of buckling Gray into a seat belt was “not a primary concern,” when considering the man’s injuries, perhaps an important admission considering the state’s position that Porter’s failure to secure Gray in a belt amounts to criminal negligence. Allan also said that if the wagon driver, Caesar Goodson, had taken Gray to the hospital immediately after Porter had asked him to she would not have ruled Gray’s death a homicide. Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams announced at the outset of Monday’s session that juror number eight, a woman, has been excused due to a medical emergency.

It didn’t initially appear that Gray was injured, Porter told detectives. “It was always a big scene when you tried to arrest Freddie Gray,” Porter told investigators during his videotaped interview. “After a while, you’re kicking around in the wagon, and your adrenaline begins to settle.” Just how Gray was injured was unclear, but prosecutors have alleged that Porter and his colleagues are responsible for Gray’s death. She’s been replaced on the 12-member panel by alternate juror number one, a man. (TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. But exactly when and how the injury occurred during a van ride that included six stops and involved multiple officers interacting with Gray remained far from clear. Allan said that she had no physical evidence to prove Gray got up, but that his injury could be sustained only in such a way that led her to that conclusion.

The defense attorney also took issue with Allan’s decision to research police prisoner-handling regulations via online sources without getting any context from the police. “You need to know what the rules are,” Allan argued, comparing the situation to a sports-related injury where the rules of the game are relevant. In later testimony, an expert witness agreed that the injury would have taken a truly traumatic blow, akin to diving into a hard object or being thrown from a crash. Gray’s spine, which showed two of his neck vertebrae lodged at an odd angle against each another, the doctor described how his spine had been “functionally cut through,” though not fully severed. They say Porter became a police officer to help the community where he grew up but worked for a department that rarely followed its own rules and made it hard for officers to understand its ever-changing policies.

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