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Trials in Freddie Gray case to resume in May

Trials in Freddie Gray case to resume in May; next up is Officer Edward Nero

The trials of the six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray are poised to resume in May, following the one-year anniversary of the 25-year-old's death from injuries sustained in police custody.

Officer Edward M. Nero, one of the officers involved in Gray's initial arrest, will be tried May 10, followed on June 6 by Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the van in which prosecutors say Gray suffered the injuries that proved fatal.

The cases have been on hold in recent months, after Officer William G. Porter's attorneys and prosecutors filed appeals to the higher courts challenging rulings by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams.

The Court of Appeals ruled on those challenges on March 8, siding with prosecutors and ordering that Porter must testify against his fellow officers if prosecutors call him as a witness. Prosecutors are granting Porter limited immunity for his testimony.

The new schedule calls for Lt. Brian W. Rice to be tried on July 5, Officer Garrett E. Miller on July 27, Porter to be retried on Sept. 6, and Sgt. Alicia White on Oct. 13.

A gag order on the cases remains in effect, and attorneys on both sides could not be reached or declined to comment.

With the new schedule, a year will pass since Gray's death without any verdicts in the case. Porter was tried first in December, but his case ended in a mistrial with jurors deadlocked on all four charges against him.

"This is normal, where you have a case with good lawyers on both sides and complex issues," said attorney William "Billy" Murphy Jr., who represents the Gray family. "The family is not disappointed at all — we discussed the fact that these delays might take place, and they are conditioned to expect delay."

Williams scheduled the new trial dates in a closed-door scheduling conference with attorneys in his chambers. They will be formalized at a hearing Wednesday morning in front of an administrative judge.

The schedule appeared to be a compromise — Nero's case remains next, as it was before the state's appeal, followed by Goodson, whose case was on deck before Porter's appeal.

Police chased Gray through the Gilmor Homes housing project on April 12, 2015, and he was loaded into a transport van shackled but unrestrained by a seat belt. He suffered a catastrophic injury to his spine and died a week later.

His death came amid heightened attention to the deaths of unarmed black men in police custody across the country, and generated widespread protests. Looting and rioting broke out on April 27, the day of Gray's funeral, with the National Guard summoned and a weeklong curfew imposed.

State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby moved swiftly to charge the officers, announcing charges on the steps of the city's War Memorial Building on May 1.

Gray’s family, before filing a lawsuit, settled with the city for $6.4 million. The City Council has yet to approve that payment due to an unrelated dispute with the Rawlings-Blake administration. Administration officials say two of three installment payments have been made to the family nonetheless.

Porter went on trial in December on charges of manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. Prosecutors alleged that Porter failed to take action that could have saved Gray's life. Porter took the stand and said he didn't realize the extent of Gray's injuries but had alerted others that he required hospital attention.

A mistrial was declared after jurors deadlocked on all four counts. The Sun has reported that jurors were one vote away from acquittal on the manslaughter charge, the most serious, but were close to conviction on two lesser counts.

Next up was Goodson. Prosecutors won approval from Williams to call Porter as a witness at that trial, as well as the trial of White. But the proceedings were halted in January when Porter appealed to the Court of Special Appeals on the grounds that his rights as a defendant were being violated, saying it was unprecedented in Maryland for a defendant to be forced to testify against co-defendants with charges still hanging over his head.

The court then moved on to the trials of Nero, Miller, and Rice. When Williams denied prosecutors' request to call Porter as a witness in those cases as well — a move they had not previously signaled — they appealed the case to the Court of Appeals.

Williams said prosecutors appeared to be trying to stall the cases, and defense attorneys charged that the prosecutors did not want to try Nero, Miller and Rice first because they were weaker cases.

Prosecutors, however, said Williams wrongly overruled their authority to decide whether Porter was a necessary witness, and said his rights were not being violated because he was protected by immunity.

The state's highest court ended up taking up all five cases on an expedited track, and in a brief order earlier this month ruled in favor of the prosecution and sent the cases back to the trial courts.

A full written opinion from the appellate court is pending, and could be handed down in the next few weeks.

It is possible that Porter could appeal the Court of Appeals' decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Porter may be called to testify at four trials before his own re-trial, under the new schedule. Porter has been ordered to testify if prosecutors choose to call him, and he could face jail for contempt if he refuses to cooperate.

New trial dates

•Officer Edward M. Nero: May 10

•Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr.: June 6

•Lt. Brian W. Rice: July 5

•Officer Garrett E. Miller: July 27

•Officer William G. Porter: Sept. 6

•Sgt. Alicia White: Oct. 13

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