No Jury in Next Trial on Freddie Gray’s Death

     BALTIMORE (CN) — The trial that kicks off Thursday for a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray will be heard by a judge, not a jury.
     Edward Nero is the second of six officers to go to trial on charges related to Gray’s death on April 19, 2015.
     Unlike the first officer, William Porter, who rolled the dice with a jury that wound up deadlocking, 30-year-old Nero is electing to face a bench trial.
     Porter, now awaiting retrial, faces a more serious charge of manslaughter. The top charge against Nero is assault.
     Gray’s death at age 25 came a week after sustaining a critical spinal cord injury while his arresting officers transported him to the police station. Riots and widespread protests broke out following Gray’s April 26 funeral.
     In a series of rulings Tuesday, Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams determined what evidence will be introduced at Nero’s trial.
     Williams decided that, although prosecutors will be allowed to mention the injuries Gray sustained, extensive professional medical testimony will not be permitted.
     Prosecutors will also not be able to mention the knife that led to Gray’s April 12 arrest. While police say Gray was carrying an illegal switchblade knife, prosecutors have said the knife was legal.
     Nero’s attorney Marc Zayon told the court he and his client had spoke extensively about the pros and cons of a bench trial over a trial by jury, but that Nero was deterred by the chances of a hung jury and the possibility of multiple trials.
     Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby first announced the charges against Nero and five other Baltimore police officers in May, two weeks after Gray’s death. All the officers have pleaded not guilty.
     Prosecutors say Nero and the other officers did not have probable cause to detain or Gray when he ran after making eye contact with one of the officers. In Porter’s trial, prosecutors also argued that the failure of Nero and the other officers to restrain Gray in a seat belt in the back of a police transport van constituted reckless endangerment.
     Attorneys for the six officers have argued their clients were justified and that legal precedent strongly supports police discretion to stop individuals like Gray in high-crime areas.
     At Nero’s trial, Williams is permitting introduction of videos, but no sound, taken during Gray’s arrest. The judge has also granted the state’s request to exclude information about Gray’s past, including previous arrests and a lead-paint civil lawsuit in which Gray was a plaintiff.
     Nero’s trial on misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office is expected to last five days.

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