Verdict Watch – The Death of Freddie Gray – William Porter Trial
Twenty-five year old Freddie Gray was arrested April 12 after he ran from police in his West Baltimore neighborhood. His hands and feet were shackled. He was placed in the police van and not belted in. He suffered a spinal injury and died a week later. At Porter’s trial, medical experts for both sides said that Freddie’s injury was likened to one sustained when someone dives headfirst into a shallow pool of water.
The public has only heard bits and pieces of trial testimony because no cameras or electronic devices are allowed in the courtroom. Today, there is a bit more reported about the trial that we would have to have kept track to know. For example, there were 20 witnesses and about 100 pieces of evidence. The jury saw the van that Freddie died in.
William Porter is the first officer to stand trial. He has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
The jury of three black men, five black women, two white men and two white women now decide whether Porter is guilty or innocent. Judge Barry G. Williams told jurors they could stay as late as they would like each day to deliberate.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis canceled leave for officers through Friday. “The community has an expectation for us to be prepared for a variety of scenarios,” Davis said.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has urged residents to remain calm. “Whatever the verdict, we need everyone in our city to respect the judicial process,” Rawlings-Blake said. “We need everyone visiting our city to respect Baltimore.”
Our committed and precious Yahtzee took time to put the tweets of Kevin Rector in chronological order from today regarding closing arguments and jury instructions.
TWEETED REPORTS OF TODAY’S COURTROOM PROCEEDING
Judge Williams has begun giving instructions to jury. “You should not be swayed by sympathy, prejudice or public opinion,” he tells them.
He says they can change their opinion if convinced by fellow jurors in deliberations, but says “do not surrender your honest opinion.”
Williams reminds jurors burden of proof rests with state, and says, “You must apply the law as I describe it.”
Judge tells jury they have to consider whether Porter’s statements to police were voluntary; if not, they must “disregard” them.
For manslaughter, Porter must have acted in a “grossly negligent manner,” been aware of risk, departed from “reasonable officer” standard.
For 2nd degree assault, Porter must have willfully acted with gross negligence; doesn’t require that he actually touched Gray.
For misconduct in office Porter must have “corruptly failed” to do his duty as officer, but w evil motive, “not merely an error in judgment”
Bledsoe closing for prosecution. Argues legitimacy of Detective Teel’s notes from 1st phone convo w Porter.
You’ll recall Teel testified that Porter said Gray told him he couldn’t breathe at 4th stop. Porter at trial said Gray said that at 1st stop
“The only way Officer Porter shifts the blame to someone else is to say those words didn’t happen at Druid Hill,” Bledsoe says.
“Who had the motive to be deceitful? It’s not Detective Teel. It’s Officer Porter,” Bledsoe says.
Bledsoe also arguing Porter in statement described 5 times putting Gray on van bench “like an object.” Only at trial did he say Gray helped
Bledsoe grabs, talks quickly into her collar, mimicking officer making police radio call. “‘I need a medic.’ That’s all it would have taken”
Bledsoe: “This ‘jailitis’ is a bunch of crap.” Says Porter brought up medic 1st, so Gray’s “not the one who’s playing the jailitis card”
Bledsoe: Small % of detainees not accepted by Central Booking. By noting CB wouldn’t take Gray, Porter “knew the seriousness” of Gray’s inj
Bledsoe’s strategy is clearly to argue Porter has been lying in court about multiple aspects of Gray’s arrest to advantage himself.
“The only reasonable conclusion is that Officer Porter is not telling the truth,” Bledsoe said.
Of training and general orders, seat belting and calling medic, Bledsoe says Porter “knew what he was supposed to do.”
Really interesting bit of Bledsoe’s closing, re Porter’s shared responsibility with Off Goodson, the van driver.
Bledsoe says video of 1st two stops show other officers loading Gray in van, not Goodson. Obv not only driver had responsibility, she says
Then Bledsoe says Goodson 1st interacts w Gray at 3rd stop, when “something catastrophic” happens in van and pulls over at Mosher/Fremont
Prosecution’s experts only testified injury happened between 2nd & 4th stops. But Bledsoe implies in closing that it happened btw 2nd & 3rd
When Porter got in van to check on #FreddieGray at 4th stop, he took on additional responsibility for Gray’s well-being, Bledsoe said.
On failure to seat belt, Bledsoe says, “Every caretaker knows that it’s dangerous to travel in a vehicle without a seat belt on.”
And it would be especially clear there would be danger to not seat belt if person is handcuffed and shackled, can’t brace self, Bledsoe says.
On reasonable officer standard & defense arg no officers belt, Bledsoe says, “A behavior isn’t reasonable because everybody else does it.”
A standard that allows Porter not to belt just because *others* don’t belt is one that would just create *more risk* in system, Bledsoe says.
Prosecution using tape of Porter statement, witness videoes, but also tape of Porter from his testimony in this trial.
Bledsoe to jury: Easiest way to remember manslaughter is as combo of reckless endangerment, negligent assault and “disregard for human life”
“So let me tell you how Officer Porter disregards #FreddieGray’s life,” Bledsoe says, before going through actions van stop by van stop.
Bledsoe ended by focusing on Porter’s responsibilities (and power) as a police officer.
Bledsoe to jury: The state is asking you to hold Porter “responsible for the oath that he took, for his job, and for being a human being.”
BREAKING: Prosecution has ended its closing.
Murtha starts defense closing. Says state must prove not just factors of #FreddieGray‘s death, but that Porter was specifically responsible
Murtha says it is “sometimes hard to set aside our emotions,” but jury took an oath to do that.
Murtha stressing officer discretion, Porter’s assessment of Gray and his not thinking Gray was seriously injured.
Murtha said prosecutors want jury to believe rule for officers is “You say medic, I say when and where, and that’s just not how it works
Murtha says general orders are clear that they do not eliminate officer discretion.
Murtha going through all the little individual doubts the defense raised in the state’s case throughout the trial.
Murtha: Did Porter ever see the updated general order re seat belts? Why was there a delay from Gray’s injury to first inspection of van?
Murtha says prosecution “overlooked” things, because there is an”absence of evidence.” “The state is asking you to insert information.”
Murtha: “The state is attempting to attack the credibility of Officer Porter” but “external facts” show he’s telling the truth.
Murtha said prosecution “never had an ‘ah ha’ moment during cross examination” of Porter on stand because he explained all actions clearly.
“There’s no moment where Officer Porter says, ‘You got me,'” Murtha says. Porter has done nothing but make himself available.
Teel acknowledged making mistakes in notes on 1st phone call with Porter, Murtha says. Porter mentioned “can’t breathe” re 1st stop, not 4th.
Murtha: There is “literally no evidence” as to when in van Gray injured, but state just speculating and asking jury to “fill in the blanks.”
“It’s astonishing and it’s scary” Murtha says. “The state is asking you to make a judgment and decision based on speculation and conjecture”
Murtha going into extent of Gray’s injuries, says med examiner’s testimony was “speculative theorizing” as to when injury occurred.
Murtha describes intimacy of Porter & Gray in van, “inches away from one another;” says claim Gray said “I can’t breathe” is “distortion”
Murtha: Inches from Gray, Porter is “talking to him. He can tell that he’s breathing,” & there are no signs of serious medical distress.
Dr Carol Allan, the med examiner, offers belief injury happened before that stop, but isn’t specific because she has no proof, Murtha says
“Take your pick, as far as Dr Allan is concerned,” Murtha says. “Is it stop 2? Stop 3? Stop 4?”
Prosecution’s inability to show when Gray injured undermines attempt to show Porter’s actions actually caused death, Murtha says
Murtha going through testimony of witnesses 1 by 1. Brings up multiple other officers who testified or def Porter’s actions were reasonable.
Murtha says that’s important for legal def of crimes; says state “brings not 1 person” who testified to actions of avg reasonable officer.
“You’re making a legal decision,” Murtha tells jury. “Not a moral, not a philosophical decision.”
Defense brought bunch of Baltimore cops to testify to reasonableness of Porter’s actions, state brought 1 guy from Midwest, Murtha said.
Murtha: “They’re stretching, they’re reaching. They want you to be emotionally disturbed and upset” about Gray’s death but have no evidence.
In closing Murtha said whatever Schatzow adds on rebuttal “it doesn’t take away what is not present in their case. And that is the evidence”
Murtha has ended; brief recess before prosecution has one more chance to speak to jury on rebuttal.
Schatzow on rebuttal: Porter’s “callous indifference to human life” killed Gray, and now he’s lying about it.
Schatzow: Reasonable offc wouldve asked at 1st stop when Gray put on stomach in van “Why are we throwing him in there like a piece of meat?”
Schatzow on defense saying no “ah ha” moment from state cross examination of Porter: “This isn’t a movie. We aren’t on television!”
Schatzow says Porter has lied on stand. “Every time that he is stuck” contradicting statement “he now comes up with some new explanation.”
Schatzow is more or less using rebuttal to bring up all the defense arguments in the case and openly scoff at them. Also to ? Porter cred
Schatzow on defense argument that van driver had responsibility for Gray, not Porter: “It’s almost laughable.”
Schatzow on defense argument Porter scared Gray could grab gun: Fear prevented seat belting but not getting all the way into van to lift?
Schatzow suggests Porter not remembering if Rice officer at 1st stop, saying didn’t ask Goodson why needed to check Gray at 4th stop, lies
Schatzow concluded. Williams calls break for lunch until 2:15 p.m. This afternoon, he will put Porter’s fate in jury’s hands.
Jurors asked to start tomorrow at 8:30. Williams said that’s fine; as soon as all 12 are in, they can start.
Jury also asked if jury room locked overnight. Williams says yes but cleaning crew allowed in.