The Latest: Jury selection starts in Freddie Gray case

30 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

High Stakes For Baltimore As Freddie Gray Trials Begin.

BALTIMORE (AP) — The latest on the trial of a police officer accused in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a mysterious injury in the back of a transport van (all times local): All the potential jurors for the trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray have indicated that they’ve heard of the case. Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams asked 75 potential jurors on Monday whether anyone had not heard about the Gray case, the city-wide curfew imposed after his death or the settlement paid to his family.

The verdict could have immediate consequences for Baltimore: An acquittal could mean protests and potentially more unrest, while a conviction could shake the city’s already distressed police department. Twelve jurors said they had family members who are in law enforcement, while 37 said they had been a victim or a suspect in a crime, had been to jail or had charges pending against them.

Officer Porter – who faces charges of second-degree assault, misconduct in office, manslaughter, and reckless endangerment – is accused of ignoring Gray’s requests for medical aid and failing to put a seatbelt on him, despite Gray being shackled and handcuffed. A small group of protesters gathered outside the courtroom just before 9 a.m., and their chants of “All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray,” could be heard throughout the morning’s proceedings. The troubles forced an incumbent mayor in the throes of a re-election campaign to drop out of the race, and toppled the career of a reform-minded police chief who was unceremoniously fired. In the wake of the violence, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake faced criticism and has since dropped her bid for re-election, while then-Police Commissioner Anthony Batts was fired. The trials, like Gray’s death, are expected to serve as a microcosm for deeper, more systemic issues the city and the nation face, and throw into sharp relief Baltimore’s social and political troubles.

For one, the lack of an incumbent in the mayoral race has opened the door for others to step in – including former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was forced to resign after being accused of embezzlement; and Nick Mosby, a city councilman and husband to state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is leading the charge against the six officers. “If it doesn’t go over well, what will Christmas be like? I know what’s important: that we have order in the city,” she said. “I’m prayerful that justice will prevail and the officers will be given a fair trial by a fair and impartial jury, and that the citizens of Baltimore and the police can respect the decision.” Later during his van ride, his legs were shackled and he was placed back in the van without a seatbelt, a violation of department policy, prosecutors have said.

When violent crime began surging in May, residents of predominantly poor black neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the bloodshed blasted the police for abandoning their posts– a side effect, some said, of the charges against the officers involved in Gray’s death. An independent review of the police response revealed “major shortcomings,” and painted a portrait of an overwhelmed and under prepared department that made tactical errors and endangered officers. Department of Justice announced a patterns and practice probe into the department stemming from allegations that officers hassled people and used excessive force. In August, she announced that she would not seek re-election, instead pledging to focus her energy on helping the city heal in the riot’s aftermath.

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