Prosecution rests in Porter trial; judge denies motion to dismiss charges

Prosecution rests in Porter trial; judge denies motion to dismiss charges
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday morning the prosecution rested its case against Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore Police officers on trial in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.

After dismissing the jury for the day, Judge Barry Williams heard arguments from defense lawyers who asked him to dismiss the charges against Porter on the grounds that testimony for the prosecution did not make a sufficient case. Williams ruled against the motion, saying that the jury would decide Porter's fate on charges of manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office.


Before resting, prosecutors called a series of witnesses who testified regarding forensic evidence gathered from the van in which Gray was fatally injured on April 12.

Baltimore Police forensics experts testified that spots of Gray's blood were found on the walls and seat of the narrow compartment in the van's rear, in which Gray was cuffed and shackled.

Michael Lyman, a criminal justice instructor at Columbia College in Missouri, was called by prosecutors to testify on whether Porter followed the policies and procedures for transportation of arrestees as outlined in the department's general orders.

Lyman told the court that responsibility for Gray's safety was the responsibility of all officers present when he was arrested, as well as at points along the van's subsequent route when officers interacted with him.

Gray should have been belted in when he was placed in the van, Lyman said. When Gray showed signs of distress and asked for medical help, officers should have immediately taken him to an emergency room or called for an ambulance, said Lyman.

At the latest, Lyman testified, Gray should have been given medical care when the van stopped at Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street, at which point Gray asked for help, saying he couldn't breathe, according to statements from Porter.

"He needs to go to the hospital, it's as simple as that," Lyman told the court.

After a break in the proceedings, the prosecution rested its case, at which point the defense entered its motion to have Porter acquitted by the judge.

Among various arguments concerning a lack of evidence to support the state's case, defense lawyers argued that Porter could not have known that Gray was in fact injured, and not merely trying to avoid jail.

They also argued that none of Porter's actions amounted to a "gross deviation" from what another reasonable officer in his situation would have done. They claimed that, as a matter of practice, none of Baltimore's police regularly use the seat belts provided in transport vans to secure prisoners.

Prosecutors rejected this argument, saying that "what everyone does" is not the standard by which Porter must be judged. Responding to the assertion that Porter could not know whether or not Gray was in fact injured, prosecutors said it was enough that Gray had asked for help. At that point, they said, "a reasonable police officer would do something."

Ultimately Judge Williams decided that the evidence was sufficient to warrant a full hearing of the case by the jury.