After months of questions, the Maryland Court of Appeals has unanimously ruled that Baltimore Police Officer William Porter must testify against his fellow officers charged with Freddie Gray’s death. Gray died from spinal injuries sustained back of a police van in while custody last April. The decision essentially means that Porter has lost the ability to shelter himself from giving testimony against those cops through the courts.
In the Tuesday ruling, the court upheld Judge Barry Williams earlier order that Porter may testify in the cases of Officers Caesar Goodson, Jr. and Sgt. Alicia White. But justices also overruled Judge Williams order that Porter did not have to testify in the final three cases of Officers Edward M. Nero, Garrett E. Miller and Brian W. Rice.
The Appeals Court did not weigh in on whether state immunity will be granted in a potential federal case.
Last week, seven judges listened to an appeal of Judge Williams ruling that Officer William Porter be compelled to testify against the other five, but the most recent ruling strikes a serious blow to Porter’s defense. The initial case against Porter ended in a hung jury.
The clearance of testimony by Officer Porter sets up a continuing challenge in scheduling of the other cases. Including the retrial of Porter whose case is set to begin in June. Sgt. Alicia White case is scheduled to begin on April 13. That date and others could change, according to a court spokesperson. What is still unclear is whether or not Porter’s testimony will come back to haunt him in his retrial.
Assessing the outcome, attorney William “Billy” Murphy Jr., who represents the Gray family — and is also a former state judge — assessed the outcome. “Does the state have the right to confer immunity on a person to compel his testimony? The court answered emphatically, yes!
“Can the court go behind the state’s desire to grant immunity for any reason? The answer to that is emphatically, No.”
Murphy saw Judge Williams second guessing of the prosecution’s desire to grant immunity as a problem. He believes it wasn’t the judge’s place and that is why it was overturned.
But the question remains on whether or not the defense has exhausted the appeals process? The next step would be to go to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court in Richmond, Va. But according to Murphy, “there is no path to appeal to the Fourth Circuit,” which hears cases before going to the Supreme Court.”
“Wow,” “I think that you need the testimony (of Officer Porter) to bring clarity to what everyone’s action was,” said Baltimore NAACP President Tesa Hill-Alston. “This case is going to go down in history.”
Hill-Alston has been meeting with police on new procedures “to prevent these things from happening again.”
She gave praise to Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “For this process to work this way, she did the right thing…I’m glad things will be moving forward and Porter will have to testify.”