Officer Edward M. Nero pre-trial motions recap

What happened today?

Legal proceedings related to the arrest and death of Freddie Gray kicked off again Tuesday with a pre-trial hearing in the criminal case against Officer Edward Nero, one of six Baltimore police officers charged in the case.

Nero’s trial resumes the proceedings against the six officers for the first time in months. 

What's Officer Nero's case about?

Nero’s trial on charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office — all related to his role in Gray’s initial detention and arrest is scheduled to begin Thursday.

Gray had run from the officers in what they have described as a high-crime area. Gray, 25, suffered severe spinal cord injuries while in the back of the van, prosecutors say, and died a week later.


What was decided today?

> Nero selected a bench trial. Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams will now be the sole decider of Nero's guilt or innocence.

> Williams ruled that Gray's fatal injuries suffered in police custody can be mentioned, denying a defense request to block that information.

But he also denied a request from prosecutors to call medical experts to go "step by step" through those injuries.


> Prosecutors cannot question whether the knife that was found clipped to Gray's pants pocket during his arrest was illegal.

> Citizen videos of the arrest will be allowed, but the audio will be muted.

> The state can mention "excessive force" by the officers, noting that he, as the sole decider of facts in the case, will be "mindful" of what is being argued by the prosecution and what is not.

> Certain information about Gray's past, including previous run-ins with law enforcement and his history of lead poisoning, will be excluded.

> All defense subpoenas issued to assistant state's attorneys will stand, but Williams will determine whether such witnesses can be called to the stand on a case by case basis.

> Nero's charges won't be dropped for the state having failed to articulate which actions of his constituted the crimes.

Williams said the prosecution's descriptions of the crimes committed justified a trial, though the facts surrounding those descriptions remain in dispute.

In several of his rulings, Williams left open the possibility that he could narrow or expand the scope of what is admissible in court as the trial proceeds.

> Williams also addressed a third-party motion filed by The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets, asking for broader transparency and increased access to documents and court proceedings in the officers' trials: He would provide for media representatives to be present during any viewings of evidence by juries, but he rejected the media coalition's request for increased access.

The defendant

Nero, a former New Jersey volunteer firefighter who joined the Baltimore Police Department in 2012, is one of three officers who were on bike patrol when they chased and arrested Gray. He is suspended with pay from the police force, per policy, because his charges are misdemeanors.
The prosecutors
Michael Schatzow, the second-highest ranking prosecutor in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, and Janice Bledsoe, who oversees police misconduct investigations, are leading Nero’s prosecution. Schatzow is a former federal prosecutor and longtime white collar lawyer, while Bledsoe is a former defense attorney who briefly led police misconduct investigations under former State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein.
The defense attorneys
Marc L. Zayon is a former Baltimore County State’s Attorney who has handled several high-profile cases as a defense attorney, including a city police officer accused of raping a woman at a police station whose charges were eventually dropped. Allison R. Levine, who works in Zayon’s practice, has worked on cases including medical malpractice and personal injury.
The judge
Williams has been a Circuit Court judge since 2005, following a career as an assistant city state’s attorney and a special litigation counsel with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, a role in which he traveled the country trying federal police misconduct cases.
The charges
Second-degree assault carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Reckless endangerment carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. Misconduct in office does not carry a set term limit.

What are the charges against the other police officers?

Officer Caesar R. Goodson, the driver of the van used to transport Gray, is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder, the most serious charge among the six officers. He also is charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of vehicular manslaughter, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
Lt. Brian W. Rice, and Sgt. Alicia D. White, face involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment charges. Rice also faces an additional count of misconduct in office.
Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller are charged with second-degree assault, and misconduct in office.
Porter remains charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office.

What's the deal with their trials?

Only one other officer, William Porter, has stood trial to date, in December. His trial included much testimony about Gray's injuries from a string of medical experts. The lack of such experts at Nero's trial will set it apart from Porter's trial.

A 12-member jury panel was unable to reach a consensus on any of the four charges against Porter, including involuntary manslaughter, and a mistrial was declared.

All of the trials were then delayed for months as the state's higher courts took up issues surrounding whether Porter could be forced to testify against his fellow officers under a limited form of immunity that would prevent anything he said on the stand from being used against him at his own retrial. The high court decided he could be forced to testify, and the lower court has since ruled that another officer – Officer Garrett Miller – also could be forced to the stand under similar conditions.

Both Porter and Miller are expected to testify at Nero's trial.

Goodson is due in court June 6, Rice is due in court July 5, Miller is due in court July 27, Porter is due back in court Sept. 6, and White is due in court Oct. 13.
How can I follow the proceedings?
The Sun is hosting a live blog with updates throughout the proceedings.