Next Freddie Gray Trial Off to a Stumbling Start

     BALTIMORE (CN) — A Maryland judge slammed prosecutors on Tuesday for their latest violation of discovery rules in the case against the highest-ranking officer charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray.
     Because prosecutors failed to turn 4,000 pages of documents related to the field training of Lt. Brian Rice, Judge Barry Williams ruled the material inadmissible this morning at a hearing for the 46-year-old officer this morning in circuit court.
     As with the two previous officers to go on trial in the case, both whom Judge Williams acquitted, Rice has waived his right to a jury. His bench trial is set to begin Thursday.
     Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow tried to explain the discovery lapse in court this morning by saying his office had received the documents from police only last Tuesday.
     Williams admonished the prosecutor for not following the appropriate channels when police did not respond to requests for the documents. Among possible course of action, the state could have moved up the chain of command by contacting supervisors or filing for subpoenas, Williams said.
     The discovery violations are symptomatic of the struggles plaguing the Gray prosecution.
     State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has come under fire by many for continuing to press forward with the charges against the remaining officers despite a critical ruling from Williams in the last trial.
     Caesar Goodson drove the police van in which Gray sustained his fatal spinal-cord injury, and Baltimore police faced general orders to secure prisoners in transport vehicles with seatbelts.
     Williams found that the officers’ failure to follow the order did not rise to the level of criminality.
     Prosecutors racked up discovery violations in Goodson’s case as well — one of which opened the door for hearsay evidence regarding statements supposedly made by the medical examiner prior to the release of Gray’s autopsy.
     Detective Dawnyell Taylor testified that Dr. Carol Allen had called Gray’s death a “freakish accident” prior to releasing her official autopsy, which ruled Gray’s death a homicide.
     The failure for police to respond to the state’s request for the documents also highlights the gap between the State’s Attorney’s Office and police.
     Taylor’s time on the stand brought to light the animosity that was created when the six officers connected to the case were charged by Mosby.
     While on the stand Taylor accused Assistant State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe of failing to use documents Taylor had created during the investigation. Schatzow responded by attempting to have Taylor removed from the investigation.
     Law professor Douglas Colbert said the discovery violations are among the many deficiencies in the legal system that have be brought to light through the heightened scrutiny of the Gray cases.
     Rice, the highest-ranking official to be tried in connection to Gray’s arrest and death, stands accused of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
     He is currently free on $350,000 bail.
     Rice was on bike patrol at the Gilmor Homes complex when Gray fled police, and called out for other officers to pursue the 25-year-old suspect.
     Williams denied several pretrial motions of the defense to dismiss the charges Tuesday.

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