Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Doctors Blame Police for Freddie Gray’s Death

BALTIMORE (CN) - New claims that Freddie Gray mentioned a back injury before he suffered a fatal spinal cord injury in police custody made for an intense day at court Monday.

During a grueling cross-examination by defense attorney Joseph Murtha on Monday, both an assistant state medical examiner and an expert medical witness testified that they saw no evidence of a prior injury that would account for Gray's death.

After the dust settled on the day's proceedings in Baltimore Circuit Court, Judge Barry Williams found that the "bad-back issue" did not warrant declaring a mistrial for William Porter, the first of six police officers to face trial over Gray's death. Prosecutors rested their case case Tuesday, after just over a week of proceedings. It is uncertain how long defense testimony will last.

Porter, 26, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and other charges he faces in connection to Gray's April 12 arrest and death one week later on April 19.

The officer's defense team moved for a mistrial Monday based on the supposed failure of prosecutors to disclose that 25-year-old Gray had told an officer back in March that he had "a bad back."

Prosecutors said Monday was the first they heard of the statement, which the defense claims to have heard about over the weekend.

At several points during the ME's testimony, Judge Williams warned Murtha not to give his own testimony to the jury. The third warning came with a threat to hold Murtha in contempt.

Prosecutors accuse Porter of ignoring Gray's cries for medical help and failing to buckle him into the van after his arrest, in violation of department regulations.

With at least 4,800 autopsies under her belt, assistant medical examiner Carol Allan deftly rebuffed an onslaught of questions from defense attorney Murtha as to her preparation of the report that ruled Gray's death a homicide.

After Gray's arrest, police made six stops while hauling him in a police van to the Western District Police Station.

The assistant ME testified that Gray's fatal injury occurred sometime between the second and fourth stop of a trip he spent in handcuffs and leg shackles.

Face-down on the van's floor, Gray had requested medical attention at the fourth stop, but his treatment began at the station after the nearly 45-minute trip.

Murtha's line of questioning focused on the fourth stop because investigators say it was there that Porter helped Gray up onto a bench and asked if he needed a medic.

Critically, though, this also where prosecutors say Porter failed to buckle Gray in as department regulations require.

Porter told investigators that he had relayed Gray's need to go to the hospital at that point to the officer driving the van, Caesar Goodson Jr.

Unlike his fellow six indicted officers, Goodson is charged with murder.

Allan testified that she would not have ruled Gray's death a homicide if the police van's driver had sought medical help for Gray when Porter first suggested it.

"If he had gotten prompt medical attention, it would not have been a homicide," Allan said.

The assistant ME said she ruled the 25-year-old's death a homicide after conducting her own investigation. Allan's probe included speaking with members of the Baltimore City Police investigating Gray's arresting officers, as well as members of the Maryland Attorney's office.

Illinois neurosurgeon Morris Mark Soriano, the other expert medical witness to take the stand Monday, testified that Gray might have lived if the officers transporting him had sought medical help for him right away.

Soriano described in detail Gray's injuries, which included severe damage to the spinal column, around the C-4 and C-5 joints of the neck, swelling of the spinal cord and hypoxic brain death from paralysis caused by the injuries.

Consistent with reports of Gray's behavior in the van, Soriano testified that Gray could have had some function of his arms and legs, and may have been able to talk following the injuries.

"It did not help the patient to be moved from the [van's] bench to be slumped on the floor," Soriano testified. "The first rule is to secure the patient."

On the stand, Soriano, whom the prosecution paid $12,000 to give expert analysis on the case, said Gray might not have suffered brain death if he had been intubated.

Testimony wrapped up Monday with the paramedic who treated Gray at the station.

Angelique Herbert said the call summoned her to treat an injured arm but that she found Gray being held by Porter and another officer, unresponsive and not breathing.

In addition to trying to help Gray breathe, Herbert began treating him for a possible overdose of opiates, the medic testified.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.