Baltimore residents, police and city officials collectively hold their breaths and hope for the best as the first of the officers indicted in the murder of Freddie Gray goes on trial. Gray, 25, an unarmed black man, was taken into police custody for what Maryland State Attorney, Marilyn Mosby called a “legal knife.” Before he could be booked he would be rushed to the hospital in a coma. His death in police custody came at a time when the nation was already a powder keg waiting to explode following similar deaths or unarmed black at the hands of those sworn to protect them.
Bystanders recorded Gray’s arrest as police tackled him, cuffed him and then dragged him to a police van screaming with his feet barely touching the ground. Against Baltimore City Police Department policy he was placed in the back of the police van unsecured. At least twice during the ride to the police station the van was stopped and officers opened the door of the van to cuff Mr. Gray’s legs and again to secure another suspect. At least twice, according to official documents he asked for medical assistance, which he never received. By the time he arrived at the western District station he was in cardiac arrest and transported to the emergency room where it was discovered that he had a severe spinal injury. A week Later he was dead, never having regained consciousness.
His death fanned the flames of a long standing tension between the residents of Baltimore City, many black and it’s police officers. Cries of unfair treatment and excessive force were already rampant in Baltimore. A week of protests preceded his funeral and on April 27th just hours after his burial, a riot unlike anything the city has seen since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in the 60’s broke out. Hundreds of business were looted and destroyed. Some were even set ablaze. The city was in chaos for four days.
On May 1st Maryland States Attorney, Marilyn Mosby announced charges against the 6 officers who had interaction with Freddi Gray from the time of his arrest until the time he was transported to the hospital. The officers indicted were William Porter, Caesar Goodson, Alicia White, Brian Rice, Edward Nero and Garret Miller.
Maryland States Attorney Marilyn Mosby in her prepared statement gave a complete timeline of the facts she knew off Mr. Grays arrest from the time he was stopped until he was transported to the hospital.
Mr. Gray started the fateful ride on the floor of the police van, Ms. Mosby said. A short time later, Officer Goodson “proceeded to the back of the wagon in order to observe Mr. Gray. At no point did he seek, nor did he render, any medical help for Mr. Gray,” Ms. Mosby said.A few blocks later, he called a dispatcher to say that he needed help checking on his prisoner. Another officer arrived, and the back of the van was opened. “Mr. Gray at that time requested help and indicated that he could not breathe,” and asked twice for a medic, Ms. Mosby said. While the officers helped him onto the bench in the back of the van, she said, they still did not belt him in. While they were there, she said, a call went out for a van to pick up and transport another person who had been arrested. “Despite Mr. Gray’s obvious and recognized need for assistance, Officer Goodson, in a grossly negligent manner,” answered that call, rather than seeking medical help, Ms. Mosby said. At the van’s next stop, Officer Goodson met the officers who made the initial arrest, and a sergeant who had arrived on the scene. Opening the van once again, they “observed Mr. Gray unresponsive on the floor of the wagon,” Ms. Mosby said. The sergeant, she said, spoke to the back of Mr. Gray’s head, but he did not respond. “She made no effort to look, or assess, or determine his condition,” Ms. Mosby said. When the van finally arrived at the Western District police station and officers tried to remove him, “Mr. Gray was no longer breathing at all,” she said. A medic was summoned and found Mr. Gray in cardiac arrest. Then he was rushed to a hospital.
Officer William Porter is the first to go on trial and faces charges of Reckless Endangerment, Involuntary Manslaughter, Second-Degree Assault and Misconduct in Office. He has plead guilty and is out on $350,00 bond.
There is a gag order keeping prosecutors and defense attorneys from speaking to the media about the case. Reporters will have a time on their hands breaking news as cameras and recording devices are not allowed in the courtroom. Reporters will be allowed to take notes but will not be able to share information until they reach a designated media room or go outside. Fox News, CNN and MSNBC are among some of the networks sending reporters and camera crews to Baltimore.
Today begins the first phase of the trial, jury selection. There have been questions as to whether the officers can receive a fair trial in Baltimore. Defense attorneys motioned to have the trial moved but were denied by Judge Barry Williams. In a rare move however, he did grant the impending jurors anonymity. Anonymous juries are very rare, the first documented case was a drug conspiracy case in the late 1970’s in New York. In cases like those the authorities were concerned about the safety of the jurors and their families. In today’s society, the ease of access to personal information via social networks underscores the emphasis on giving jurors anonymity in such high profile cases.
William Porter’s trial marks the first of the criminal proceedings in the Freddi Gray case. The city of Baltimore, however, decided to skip a wrongful death suit and settled with the family. In September Baltimore City settled with the family of Freddie Gray for $6.4 Million .
Judge Barry , Williams is no stranger to police misconduct cases. before he was the judge overseeing the Freddie Gray trials, Barry G. Williams investigated and prosecuted police misconduct cases across the country for the federal government. As a former prosecutor he has prosecuted and convicted officers for misconduct in Missouri, Florida and The Virgin Islands just to name a few places. “His expertise in all aspects of investigating, prosecuting these kinds of cases is certainly an advantage” in the Gray case, Molloy said. “I don’t know anybody better suited for this trial.” Douglas Molloy, a former federal prosecutor who worked with Judge Williams in Florida. Williams joined the Justice Department in 1997, first as a trial attorney in the criminal section of the Civil Rights Division, then rising to the position of special litigation counsel, a supervisory role in the unit. Judge Williams was appointed to his current position in 2007 and later voted in.
No matter what happens now that this first trial has started, Baltimore residents and the eyes of the world alike are on this courthouse. Whether in favor of the officers or demanding answers on what happened to Freddie Gray everyone is hoping for the same thing, Justice.