BALTIMORE (AP) — The prosecution rested its case Tuesday after calling about 15 witnesses in the manslaughter trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray.
Gray was a 25-year-old black man who died April 19, a week after his neck was broken during a 45-minute ride in handcuffs and leg shackles in the back of police van.
Officer William Porter, who is also black, is charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. If convicted on all charges, he could face about 25 years in prison. Porter is the first of six officers charged in connection with Gray’s death to go on trial. His trial began last Wednesday.
Prosecutors have painted Porter as an indifferent officer who didn’t call for a medic despite Gray’s indication he needed help, and whose failure to buckle Gray into a seatbelt amounted to criminal negligence.
Porter’s attorneys, who will begin their case as early as Wednesday, have started to show their hand by trying to poke holes in the connection between Gray’s injury and Porter’s role in the van ride that included six stops and concluded with Gray unresponsive on the wagon floor. Porter was present at several stops the van made. The van driver faces more serious charges and will go on trial next year.
Defense attorneys Gary Proctor and Joe Murtha on Monday questioned the autopsy findings that Gray probably suffered his spinal injury after getting up from the floor of the van and losing his balance.
Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Carol Allan testified, and prosecutors contend, that Gray was already gravely injured by the van’s fourth stop, when Porter opened the doors and lifted Gray from the floor onto the bench, leaving him unsecured by a seat belt. Porter should have called a medic at that time, prosecutors say.
Defense attorneys argue that Porter thought Gray wasn’t really hurt but told the wagon driver, Caesar Goodson, to drive him to the hospital anyway. Goodson instead picked up a second passenger before delivering both men to the Western District station house.
Goodson faces the more serious charge of second-degree “depraved heart” murder.
Murtha, who cross-examined Allan on Monday, asked whether there was any evidence Gray had a pre-existing injury. Allan replied that while she’d discussed the possibility with the state’s attorney’s office, there was no indication of such an injury.
After the jury was excused Monday, Murtha moved for a mistrial, saying prosecutors had withheld evidence that Gray had told a police officer in March, a month before his fatal injury, “I hurt my back. I have a bad back.”
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams denied the motion for a mistrial and told defense attorneys they could introduce the evidence.
Gray’s death prompted nearly a week of peaceful demonstrations before rioting and looting broke out on the day of his funeral. His death became a symbol in the Black Lives Matter movement.