The long awaited trial of one of the six Baltimore Police Officers charged with Freddy Gray’s death while in custody began this week and the evidence and testimony ranged from the emotional to the shocking in a trial that comes months after the city went into turmoil over the slaying.
Jury selection for the trial of Officer William Porter, who is charged with manslaughter, second degree assault, misconduct, and reckless endangerment was the first to stand trial began last Monday. It took two days to find a jury of eight African Americans and four whites after sifting through 150 potential jurors.
Judge Barry Williams, who is presiding over the trials moved quickly to get things underway with a self-imposed deadline of December 17.
From the beginning of testimony, there were dueling narratives on what happened on April 12 to Gray, who died a week later of a major spinal injury while in police custody. According to the Prosecution, Porter was present for five of the six stops of the police van in which Gray was fatally injured.
Prosecutors argued that Porter failed to seat belt Gray despite rules to do so while a suspect is being transported. Porter failed to do so, prosecutors said, contending that Porter "criminally neglected his duty."
Alternatively, the defense opened its case by saying “the facts are stubborn.” They paint a narrative of Officer Porter being from the same neighborhood. In explaining away why he didn’t follow procedure, his attorney Gary Proctor cited Porter’s two brief years as a Baltimore officer arguing, "you learn by doing…learn by trial and error."
In one of the more important turning points of the week, Thursday testimony from Brandon Ross, 31, riveted the courtroom. He was one of two civilians who used cellphones to capture Gray being put into the police van. He described the scene to jury, saying it was as if they had him “hog-tied.” It was too much for Freddie Gray’s mother, Gloria Darden, who was in the courtroom. She had to be taken out by relatives, which prompted the judge to call for a recess.
On Friday, the jury heard from a pair of witnesses. First, Det. Syreeta Teel interviewed Porter three days after the incident. Videotape of that interview was entered into evidence and shown to the jury. In the video he tells Detective Teel he didn’t provide assistance when asked by Gray, twice. He suggested that Gray was feigning injury. Porter did however move him from the floor to bench. During this process he asked, “Do you need a medic?” Gray told him that he did, but nothing was done. Goodson (who is also accused in Gray’s death) and Porter transported him to the district police station and upon opening the door Gray was unconscious. They immediately took him to University Maryland Medical System Hospital.
Under cross-examination, Teel testified that Porter told her another officer called an ambulance within 10 seconds of Porter realizing Gray was injured. When Porter's defense attorney asked, "As soon as Officer Porter became aware of medical distress a medic was called within ten seconds, is that correct?" Teel said yes.
The other major witness on Friday was medical examiner, Dr. Carol Allan. Testified while Gray's autopsy photos were shown. In one of the more gruesome exhibits, she showed jurors Gray’s spine separated from his body, split in half. Jury and the courtroom can see the trauma in the form of darks spots and discolored blood. She tells the jury Gray died from a neck injury, which caused his spine to collapse over a period of two hours. In her testimony, Dr. Allan called it a homicide.
Allan says the initial injury to Gray's spine would have been made worse by movement. She said, "Any kind of movement after the primary injury occurred was going to cause more injury."
Porter is expected to take the stand next week.