Prosecutors seek to compel William Porter to testify in all officers' trials

Prosecutors in Freddie Gray case ask court to compel Porter to testify in all fellow officers' trials.

Prosecutors want to call Officer William G. Porter to testify against all five of his fellow officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, and are asking the court to force him to take the stand.

They had previously filed motions, which were granted, asking the court to compel Porter to testify in the trials of two of the officers, Caesar R. Goodson Jr. and Sgt. Alicia D. White.

But in motions filed Thursday, they are asking the court to compel Porter also to take the stand in the trials of Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller and Lt. Brian W. Rice.

A joint hearing in the cases of Nero, Miller, Rice and White has been scheduled for Wednesday afternoon to discuss those motions and another by White seeking to challenge the existing order compelling Porter's testimony in her trial.

The motions, if granted, could prevent any of the officers' trials from occurring before March because of Porter's appeal before Maryland's second-highest court, asking that it block the lower court's order forcing him to testify.

The state's desire to have Porter testify in the Goodson and White trials helped drive the separation of the cases and shaped the initial court schedule in which the six trials were to occur between December and March, with Porter's followed by Goodson's and White's.

However, after Porter's trial last month ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the four charges, including involuntary manslaughter, he objected to taking the stand in the Goodson case, saying that any order compelling him to do so would violate his constitutional right against self-incrimination in his retrial and in any subsequent federal prosecution. The FBI is also investigating Gray's death.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams ordered Porter to take the stand, saying the state's offer of limited immunity — blocking what he says on the stand from being used against him in his retrial — would sufficiently protect his rights.

Goodson's trial was supposed to have started this week. But after Porter filed his appeal, the Court of Special Appeals issued a stay pending its decision. It scheduled arguments on the matter March 4, the earliest it could issue a ruling.

Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury in police custody in April. His death sparked protests against police brutality, and his funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby filed charges against the six officers May 1.

Williams' order compelling Porter to testify in Goodson's trial was unprecedented in Maryland, and some experts predicted that it would have a domino effect, spurring such requests across the state in cases with co-defendants.

Goodson's defense attorneys argued in a recent motion that compelling Porter to testify against Goodson — who faces the most serious charge of second-degree depraved-heart murder in the case and is the only one of the six officers who did not give a statement to police investigators — could lead to scenarios that "completely eviscerate the purpose of their constitutional protections."

"In fact, every single defendant involved in the April 12, 2015, arrest and transport of Mr. Gray could be compelled to testify in the case of Officer Porter (or any other defendant) under the state's theory," they argued.

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