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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Charges Stand for Witness in Freddie Gray Trial

BALTIMORE (CN) - A judge overseeing the Freddie Gray murder trial ordered the officer's colleague to testify Wednesday, though the witness himself faces a manslaughter charge.

Prosecutors have said Baltimore Police Officer William Porter, 26, is a material witness against Officer Caesar Goodson, 46. The men are among six officers whom the state has charged in connection to the April 19 death of 25-year-old Gray, but Goodson alone faces the most serious charge of second-degree depraved-heart murder.

Judge Barry G. Williams is set to begin jury selection in Goodson's trial on Monday. The officer is also charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of vehicular manslaughter and misconduct in office.

At a hearing Wednesday, Williams said he was in "uncharted territory" when he granted Porter a type of immunity that precludes his testimony from being used against him since manslaughter and other charges against him remain standing.

Though Porter had been the first of the six to go on trial, proceedings ended last month with a hung jury . He is scheduled to be retried in June for involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

Gary Proctor, one of Porter's two attorneys, argued that compelling Porter to testify would violate his rights under the Maryland and U.S. Constitutions that protect defendants against self-incrimination.

Testifying could subject Porter to perjury charges or expose him for a federal investigation, Proctor added.

Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow told the court that Porter cannot claim protection of the Fifth Amendment once granted immunity.

"Officer Porter, in the Officer Goodson case, is a witness," Schatzow said at the hearing. "That's the only status he has."

Porter's attorneys said they will move to enjoin Williams' order to testify against Goodson.

Porter also seeks to avoid testifying against Sgt. Alicia White, a Baltimore City Police Department supervisor on the day of Gray's arrest.

White is scheduled to face trial on Jan. 25 on charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office charges.

On the day of Gray's April 12 arrest in which he sustained a fatal spinal cord injury, Goodson had been driving the police-transport van taking Gray to the station.

Gray was purportedly arrested for possessing an illegal knife, and prosecutors say the officers failed to get medical attention for Gray in time after his injury.

Following Gray's funeral on April 26, riots erupted in western sections of the city. Many vehicles and businesses were set on fire during the unrest, which ended with Gov. Larry Hogan calling in the National Guard and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake imposing a curfew.

Though Goodson also tried to have his trial moved outside Baltimore City, Judge Williams rejected that motion Wednesday, saying he still has "faith in the system" after the Porter mistrial.

Emphasizing that the jury will base its decision on evidence in court, rather than media coverage, Williams noted how attorneys seated the jury in Porter's case after just two days of jury selection.

Williams also ruled that jurors will remain anonymous but will not be sequestered. Jurors will also be given the opportunity to view the transport wagon at the center of the trial.

The other officers charged in connection to Gray's death are Lt. Brian W. Rice, and Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller.

All six officers pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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