Jury Selection Opens in First of Freddie Gray Trials

     BALTIMORE (CN) – The first of six police officers to go on trial for the death of Freddie Gray got a glimpse Monday at the pool of jurors who could soon decide his fate.
     Gray, an unarmed black man, died on April 19 – a week after he sustained a critical spinal cord injury while in police custody. Video of the arrest shot by a bystander shows Gray dragging his feet while police put him in a van. The day of Gray’s funeral saw riots take hold of the city, with at least 235 people arrested and hundreds of businesses damaged or set on fire.
     Six officers connected to Gray’s arrest face charges and will be tried separately. First at bat, 26-year-old William Porter is charged with manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment.
     On the day of Gray’s arrest, according to court documents, Porter told the driver of the van that Gray was in medical distress and would not be admitted to Central Booking.
     Caesar Goodson Jr., the police officer who drove that van, is charged with second-degree, depraved-heart murder.
     Sgt. Alicia White and Lt. Brian W. Rice are charged with manslaughter, and officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller face lesser charges, including second-degree assault.
     All six have been charged with misconduct in office and they are all free on bonds after pleading not guilty back in May.
     Prosecutors say Porter was present when Gray said he couldn’t breathe. The Baltimore Sun reports that documents confirm Porter told investigators he told the van’s driver that Gray was in medical distress, though also wondered if Gray was exaggerating.
     Forty of the 75 potential jurors who began an interview process with Judge Barry Williams on Monday are black. All the jurors said they knew about Gray’s death and about the $6.4 million financial settlement the city reached with Gray’s family in September. Judge Williams refused to move the officers’ trials out of the city around that time.
     Outside the courthouse Monday, protesters chanted, “All night, all day, we’re going to fight for Freddie Gray.”
     Gray’s name has become one of many rallying cries across the country, protesting police brutality, especially with regard to black suspects.
     Jury selection for Porter in Baltimore coincided with a bond hearing in Chicago for the police officer charged with murdering Laquan McDonald over a year ago.
     Meanwhile in Cleveland, a grand jury heard testimony from the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old by killed by police in November 2014 while playing with a toy gun.
     “Samaria Rice had the opportunity to ask the grand jury to consider whether it could possibly be ‘reasonable’ or ‘justifiable’ for officers to speed across the grass when driveways were nearby, rush up to Tamir, and shoot him immediately,” attorneys for the Rice family with the firm Emery Celli said in a statement Monday night. “She believes that the answer is plainly no, and hopes and prays that the grand jury agrees that there is probable cause to indict the officers and hold them accountable for her son’s death.”

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