The Latest: Officer Charged in Gray’s Death Takes the Stand

9 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Defense set to call witnesses in Freddie Gray case.

BALTIMORE — Defense attorneys are set to begin their presentation in the manslaughter trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

BALTIMORE — Ground zero of the April 27 rioting in this city, at least symbolically, was the hard-knocks intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues.BALTIMORE — Bernie Sanders’ presidential prospects may be shrinking, but when he stepped off a campaign bus into the heart of this struggling city Tuesday, he was met by a spontaneous chorus of residents pleading for jobs and a pathway from poverty. “You don’t want us to sell drugs,” one person yelled as Sanders – surrounded by a throng of cameras and local pastors – trudged past boarded up homes and businesses in the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested in April before dying in police custody. Gray was a 25-year-old black man who died a week after suffering a spinal injury while riding, handcuffed and shackled, in the back of a police transport van. It’s where James Carter, a hood-savvy ex-crack peddler gone straight years ago, runs a cellphone store, and where Murshaun Young, bereft of prospects yet stubbornly hopeful, lingers on stoops, mulling how to escape his circumstances. Gray’s death set off a chain reaction of protests and, in some cases, violent recriminations that drew national attention to strained police-community relations.

Over the course of the state’s case prosecutors sought to emphasize a few key points: Prosecutors called five witnesses to testify about general orders requiring officers to belt in their prisoners and immediately seek medical care if a detainee appears injured or requests aid. Young’s dream: “This house right here,” he says, chin-gesturing to a shabby, three-story tenement on West North. “There was an auction the other day. Officer Alice Carson-Johnson, the state’s first witness, testified that Porter was a student in her training academy course, and that she taught all recruits to seek aid for any prisoner that requests medical care. “If you recognize that someone is in need of medical assistance, always call for 911 or emergency medical services,” she said. The house was going for, like, $5,000 initially.” Young, 27, says he pestered some of his pals in the corner drug trade, begging them to chip in cash with him. “I’m like, ‘Hey, we can get together $5,000.

He has struggled to connect with minority communities, which could stunt any momentum he gains if he manages to win early Democratic nominating contests in predominantly white Iowa and New Hampshire. But Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said Porter showed a “callous indifference for life” when he failed to secure Gray with a seat belt in a police van and failed to summon medical aid when asked. Front-runner Hillary Clinton appears poised to dominate the other early contests and holds landslide-level leads over Sanders in national polling, as well as in surveys of African American voters. Defense attorneys have said other police officers routinely break such policies, but Schatzow said those officers should not be considered “reasonable.” Prosecutors concluded their case Tuesday, and Williams said there was sufficient evidence presented for the proceedings to continue.

The van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, instead picked up a second prisoner and then drove to a West Baltimore police station, where Gray was found unresponsive and paralyzed from a broken neck. The pastors and surrogates who flanked Sanders during his appearance here repeatedly insisted that the 2016 contender still has time to make inroads in their community before primary polls open. “He’s a senator from Vermont that has an overwhelmingly white population.

In such requests for a judgment of acquittal, which are common but rarely granted, judges must look at the evidence in the “light most favorable” to the state. That’s not his fault,” said Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator who recently flipped her support from Clinton to Sanders and joined Sanders on the trail. “As he crisscrosses this country, people are going to hear his message and I believe that they’re going to respond to his message in the same way I did once I pulled back all the layers of what the status quo is and who I was supposed to support.” Sanders’ trip also refocuses attention on Democratic primary rival Martin O’Malley, who was a Baltimore city councilor in the 1990s and a two-term mayor before he became Maryland’s governor in 2007. I’m talking to drug dealers who do not understand the value of real estate.” A few boarded-up doors away from Young’s dream rowhouse, Carter, 48, manages a Metro PCS outlet, close to where a CVS pharmacy is being built, the previous CVS having burned to a husk April 27 in a nationally televised arson. That blaze formed an indelible video image from the civic mayhem sparked by Freddie Gray’s fatal encounter with Baltimore police, and the city’s Penn-North neighborhood came to be viewed as the epicenter of the widespread violence and looting.

Sanders kicked off his visit with a walking tour that quickly clogged city streets as curious residents trailed the horde of journalists following Sanders. But in a later recorded statement, Porter says at that time Gray only asked him for help off the van floor, and said yes when Porter asked if the man needed a medic.

Referencing the phone conversation, which was not tape recorded, is the only attempt prosecutors made to substantiate the claim that Gray told Porter he couldn’t breathe. Construction workers were actively repairing damaged buildings, some of which were adorned with signs reading “We must stop killing each other.” Onlookers who recognized him quickly informed neighbors who he was until an impromptu crowd buzzed around the presidential hopeful. “We don’t want Trump,” one man yelled, referencing the Republican presidential frontrunner and attempting to lead nearby strangers in a chant. Colbert expects Porter’s attorneys to call their own experts to show there is no agreement about what a reasonable officer should have done under the circumstances. Carol Allan, the assistant medical examiner who conducted Gray’s autopsy, took the witness stand and testified that Gray was injured by the time Porter met the transport wagon at the van’s fourth stop. But there’s also a crushing gravity, the weight of economic helplessness, which breeds frustration, which fueled the rage that exploded in violence more than seven months ago, and could again.

For the most part, Sanders stuck to a familiar script that he’s built into his stump speech, decrying soaring unemployment levels for African American youth, mass incarceration and the high school dropout rate. Proctor said in opening statements that Porter grew up in West Baltimore and joined the Police Department not to “swing a big stick” but to help people. Allan testified that Gray’s injuries, which included a pinch to his spinal cord so severe that it was nearly bisected, occurred between the van’s second and fourth stop. Because Porter did not call for an ambulance immediately, instead only requesting that Caesar Goodson, the wagon driver, take Gray to the hospital, the injury worsened to the point of being critical.

He’ll pull dope dealers off the streets and give them honest jobs, open the gates to salvation. “I’m thinking, two stores in Timonium, two in Towson, two in Owings Mills and 14 more down the Eastern Shore,” he says. A press aide urged reporters to refrain from asking Sanders about ISIS, and Sanders showed a flash of anger when queried about the unexpected restriction. “Of course I’ll talk about ISIS,” he said, his voice rising. “Today what we’re talking about is a community in which” half of the people don’t have jobs.” He said terrorism is a threat, but “so is poverty, so is unemployment.” During a roundtable with pastors at the Freddie Gray Empowerment Center, Sanders called it “expensive to be poor,” emphasizing the lack of traditional banking options or affordable, quality food in low-income communities. Until then, seven days a week, he stands behind the counter of a shop he doesn’t own, while nearby, Young sits idly on the stoop of a ramshackle house he can’t purchase. But he also said he told two other more experienced officers that he believed Gray would need to be taken to a hospital before he would be accepted at Central Booking.

The core reason for the unrest in impoverished West Baltimore that awful day and night last spring, the two men say, was this: People have dreams that feel forever out of reach. “It’s like, you teach a man to fish, he eats forever,” Young says. “You give a man a check, he’s just going to keep waiting around for another check. . . . Pastor Greg James, of Florida, said he appreciated Sanders’ focus on restoring prisoner voting rights after they reenter the community, a passion he said stems from his own 14-year incarceration on conspiracy and drug charges. “Every person who’s been turning back should be given a full opportunity to vote and be a part of society,” he said. “No taxation without restoration.” Sanders’ event came at the same time he received the endorsement of the Working Families Party, the progressive group’s first-ever national endorsement. And Young shrugs. “Ain’t nothing changed out here.” For weeks after the mayhem, the nonprofit Baltimore Development Corporation dispatched “geographic teams” to canvass nearly every block on the city’s west side and hand out offers of financial help for property repairs, according to spokeswoman Susan Yum. “We identified a little over 400 businesses that had been directly impacted by the riots,” she says. The group said Sanders overwhelmingly prevailed in a vote of its members, earning 87.4 percent support to Clinton’s 11.5 percent and O’Malley’s 1.1 percent. Several prosecution witnesses — including training academy instructors and a top-ranking commander — testified that officers should always secure detainees with seat belts, and should quickly summon medical help when someone complains of a problem.

Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development says it awarded about $1.4 million in loans to nearly 50 businesses and set aside an additional $2.7 million for other post-riot revitalization efforts. Michael Lyman, a professor of criminal justice at Columbia College in Missouri, said officers who transport a suspect have a “shared responsibility” to make sure that person is secured.

Cellphone video footage of Gray wailing and dragging his feet in apparent pain as police loaded him into the van sparked weeks of protest against police brutality. And by the end of July, three months after the rioting, the state says, insurers had paid $13 million in riot-related damage claims by merchants and residents. Amid nationwide concern about overzealous police conduct, particularly in poor communities, the fiery rioting after Gray’s funeral put Baltimore on TV screens across the country, damaging Charm City’s brand, civic boosters say.

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. Gray would get hurt” — a sentiment that could sway the jury. “The defense will be out to establish that he is just not the kind of guy who would knowingly put somebody under his care in a situation where they could be hurt,” Gray said.

Knots of young people in hoodies and Timberlands loiter on stoops, break apart, wander to other clusters and, in a while, regroup elsewhere on the block, on different stairs. The 24-year-old looter who torched the CVS, igniting a fire in the paper-goods aisle in view of a surveillance camera, lived a mile away in Reservoir Hill. He pleaded guilty to a federal crime and was sentenced to 48 months in prison. “A lot of our senior citizens depended on that CVS for their medicine,” Carter says ruefully.

After growing up in a tough pocket of northwest Baltimore, he was arrested twice for carrying loaded handguns in the early 1990s, when he was in his mid-20s. Out front sweeping, or taking the sun, or dragging on a Newport, he has a pleasant word for all who pass. “Mister James,” the drug boys call him, politely.

In return, they’ll leave a few dollars in a kitty under the counter, to help customers who are light in the wallet when they stop in to pay their bills. “They’re just trying to survive,” says Carter, whose workplace was only slightly damaged by the rioting. “When I see people selling drugs, I see a question: Why are you selling drugs? And once you have a criminal record, nobody wants to look at you.” “The way I want to set up all my stores is, you show me an ID, you show me a Social Security card, and you’re hired, let’s do this thing,” Carter says. “I don’t care if they were locked up.

Because I know they want to do the right thing.” He says: “I tell them, ‘Just hold tight.’ I tell them, ‘As I open my stores, if you can sell that crap out here, you got a talent for selling.’ I tell them, ‘You can come work for me.’ ” He graduated in 2006 from Baltimore’s Digital Harbor High, a magnet school for information technology; he studied at Baltimore City Community College for a while, then went to trade school to become a pharmacy technician. “I finished the training, but when they gave me a drug test, I didn’t pass that,” he says. “Sooo . . . yeah, yeah.” On the corners, one thing led to another, and he caught some possession charges. He has one case pending, to wit: “controlled dangerous substance, not marijuana.” Place of residence? “With friends; I got a spot.” Occupation? You could vote for me.” His voicing trailing off, he says, “I would like to, yeah.” But certain impediments to a campaign keep occurring to him: “I got too much s— going on, too much s— behind me.” In the weeks after criminal charges were filed against the six officers, many of their colleagues, demoralized and fearful of being second-guessed, seemed to dial down their enforcement tempo on the streets. And Young, like others, took notice. “They just backed off,” he says. “You could do whatever the f— you wanted to out here for, like, a month.” In that environment, from late April to late May, the city recorded more than 30 homicides — a startling total even for Baltimore, which has long been notorious for its high murder rate. As of Tuesday morning, 322 people had been slain here this year, compared with 152 in Washington, a city of comparable size. “I’m going to be honest with you,” he says. “The day they burned that CVS down, I told the CNN reporter, I told him: ‘The stuff they’re doing right now is minuscule.

You get all your money back!’ ” He says he tried to explain the bidding process to his friends. “My actual plan was, we get that $5,000 together and just kind of — what’s the proper word? It was like trying to tell somebody that lived in the 1300s that the Earth is a big circle, and we’re floating around in the middle of nothing, revolving around this big, hot ball.

Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

About this site