Those waiting for a verdict from the trials over the death of Freddie Gray will wait a little longer. The trials are now on hold after the jury could not reach a unanimous decision during the first trial.
The first trial against Baltimore police officer William Porter ended in a mistrial. This will complicate the trials of the two police officers that Porter agreed to testify against.
These two trials are now on hold because Porter’s attorneys say that he cannot testify without incriminating himself. Testifying before his own trial would compromise his new trial, currently scheduled for June.
Officer Porter will face court a second time for involuntary manslaughter. He also faces charges for reckless endangerment, second-degree negligent assault as well as misconduct in the office.
Porter is currently scheduled to testify in the trial of Sergeant Alicia White. He is also a key witness in the prosecution’s case against another Baltimore police officer, Caesar Goodson. Goodson drove the van in which Freddie Gray was allegedly fatally injured.
White is on trial for second-degree negligent assault. She is also charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in the office. She allegedly stopped to examine Gray. Upon noticing he was unresponsive, she also allegedly did nothing to assess his condition. She also allegedly neglected to seek medical attention.
Goodson will be tried for second-degree depraved-heart murder, the most serious of the charges. He also faces second-degree negligent assault, involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence and criminal negligence), reckless endangerment, and misconduct in the office.
The judge granted Porter limited immunity in exchange for both testimonies. Limited immunity encourages co-defendants to testify against each other in criminal trials.
Judge Williams also ruled that the police officer must testify in the trials, despite the delay in his own. Porter’s lawyers are appealing that decision. The appeals appeared in the form of written briefs to the Maryland appeals court. Oral arguments are set to follow the brief.
There is no timeline for the appeal at this time. The appeals end up setting the remaining cases back several months.
However, the appeals court said that resolving the issue is in the best interest of each of the trials.
Still, Porter’s attorneys worry that his immunity might not protect him from further charges. Especially if Porter perjured himself on the stand while testifying.
The state is not willing to give up without a fight. State prosecutors believe that Porter is a “necessary and material witness” in the case against White and Goodson. They also say that Porter is the “only witness able to testify to the critical aspects of” what happened the day that Freddie Gray died. Not having Porter as a witness would damage the state’s case.
Compelling a co-defendant to act as a witness for the prosecution when he has not yet tried is unusual. Making the decision has proven to be difficult because there are few cases to compare it with. This is partly because it is rare for the state to choose to try the co-defendants in six separate trials. In previous cases, the state tried co-defendants together.
The complexity of the case and the trial is a sign of the legal and social importance of the case. Freddie Gray’s death resulted in riots in the streets of Baltimore. Since then, the civil unrest among young African-American males has grown in Baltimore and throughout America with anger directed at police officers.
Ironing out these issues now is imperative for the state’s case. It is also important for protecting Porter’s constitutional rights. But more importantly, ensuring that everything is in order before trial might help keep the streets of Baltimore quiet for a few more months.
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