Defense argues Porter's past knowledge of Freddie Gray must be admissible at trial

Defense argues Porter's past knowledge of Freddie Gray must be admissible at trial
Baltimore Police Officer William Porter, one of six officers charged in Freddie Gray's arrrest and death. (Baltimore Police Department)

Arresting Freddie Gray "was always a big scene," according to Officer William G. Porter — and defense attorneys intend to make jurors in Porter's trial aware of that sentiment.

Defense attorneys said the information is relevant because it will help to explain Porter's actions on April 12, when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore.


Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal injury while being transported in a police van that day. His death a week later sparked protests against police brutality, and rioting, looting and arson broke out the day of his funeral. On May 1, Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced charges in Gray's arrest and death against six Baltimore police officers.

Porter, set to be the first to go to trial on Nov. 30, faces charges of manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. He has pleaded not guilty, as have the five other officers.

In pretrial motions, prosecutors have asked the court to block Porter's attorneys from raising certain issues, such as Gray's prior convictions, his lead paint exposure as a child and the $6.4 million civil settlement awarded to his family by the city after his death.

In the new filing, Porter's attorneys argue that they don't intend to raise any of the above matters. But Porter's past knowledge of Gray — even if it speaks to Gray's previous convictions — is "highly relevant," the filing states.

The state must show that Porter acted differently than any other "reasonable officer" would have on the scene for a jury to convict him, and those past experiences would have an impact on the reasonableness of his actions, defense attorneys argued.

The Baltimore Sun has previously reported that, in a statement to police about Gray being injured in custody, Porter mentioned not being sure whether Gray was faking his injury while in the van.

The new filing outlines more of Porter's statement, in which he acknowledges having recognized Gray "from the neighborhood" and indicates that he knew of a previous incident in which Gray had allegedly fought after being arrested.

"I recall that an incident with Freddie Gray before ... [w]here another unit tried to arrest him and he had done the same thing. He had tried to kick out the windows in the ... truck. You know, so he was always, always, like, banging around. It was always a big scene whenever you attempted to arrest Freddie Gray."

That information is relevant, Porter's attorneys argue, because "the extent to which Officer Porter knew of the potential seriousness of the situation [on April 12] ... must be informed by his prior dealings with Mr. Gray," the filing said.

The filing was among several entered in recent days by defense attorneys and prosecutors, who are all barred from discussing the case publicly.

At a hearing scheduled in Baltimore on Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams will consider pretrial motions in the Porter case.