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Freddie Gray alleged back injury detailed in unsealed report

Attorneys for Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. have filed in court an internal police document in which officers wrote that Freddie Gray once complained of a back problem, as part of the defense's effort to gain access to Gray's medical records.

The document had been previously sealed, after Judge Barry Williams ruled that prosecutors failed to disclose it to defense attorneys for Officer William G. Porter until his trial was underway last month. Porter's case ended in a mistrial when jurors failed to reach a verdict.

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Goodson's attorneys had asked that their filing including the document be sealed, but Williams denied the request.

The medical examiner who performed Gray's autopsy after his death in police custody has testified that she found no evidence of a previous back or neck injury. The attorney for Gray's family also said Gray didn't have a previous injury and called the claim a red herring.

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In the document dated May 1, Western District Sgt. John Herzog said that Gray was in his office on March 31 and had "provided us with valuable intelligence regarding a robbery crew" operating in the area of North and Pennsylvania avenues.

Herzog said Gray was sitting awkwardly, and he asked him what was wrong. Herzog said he and another officer in the office, Sgt. Scott Mileto, recalled that Gray "stated something to the effect of 'I hurt my back' or 'I have a bad back.'"

Goodson's trial on charges that include second-degree murder begins Jan. 11, with pretrial motions to be heard Wednesday. His attorneys argue in court filings that they should be allowed to access any medical records for Gray that may exist at three area hospitals.

Before Porter's trial, Williams denied a similar request for medical records from his attorneys, allowing only records from Maryland Shock Trauma Center during Gray's treatment In April for what proved to be fatal injuries to be turned over.

William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr., the Gray family's attorney, said the back injury "doesn't explain or mitigate catastrophic injury at all, and it's rank hearsay."

"It's too bad Freddie's not here to challenge something like that, that's not true," Murphy said.

In another filing, Goodson's attorneys are seeking jail records related to Gray, citing an anonymous tip police investigators received that he had once tried to hurt himself at Central Booking. There is no indication of whether the tip was substantiated.

Prosecutors said in an unrelated filing that information about Gray's previous hospitalizations, among other things, are "not relevant to any legally consequential matter in this case."

"Allowing the defendant to offer information about any of these allegations would demonstrate no lesser probability that the defendant's actions risked or caused Mr. Gray's injury or death," prosecutors wrote.

How Gray was injured has been a central point in the case against the six officers charged in connection with his arrest and death. Video of his April 12 arrest near Gilmor Homes showed Gray wailing and dragging his legs, and many believe he was hurt during that initial encounter with police.

But prosecutors and medical examiner Dr. Carol Allan say he was hurt once placed inside the van without being seat-belted. Prosecutors allege that officers' failure to help him amounted to criminal negligence.

Allan determined that Gray suffered a compressed or pinched spine as a result of a "high-energy" injury akin to diving into a shallow pool, which she believed occurred inside the back of the police transport van. Gray died a week later.

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Goodson was driving the arrest van carrying Gray, and prosecutors say he checked on Gray but never seat-belted him. Goodson did not give a statement to investigators.

The existence of the Herzog document was disclosed by prosecutors Dec. 7, after Porter's trial was underway.

Herzog said he notified Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia Banks on May 1 — the day of the indictments against the six officers — after rumors of a back injury to Gray "jogged our memory."

Williams determined that prosecutors had committed a discovery violation, but he denied a defense request for a mistrial based on that violation.

Williams said he would allow Porter's defense attorneys to mention the information contained in Herzog's report, but he ordered the report sealed and it never was mentioned again at Porter's trial.

That document and a slew of other new court filings from Dec. 15 became publicly available Thursday. Goodson's defense team wanted each of their filings sealed, which Williams denied.

One of them cites an anonymous tip documented by homicide Detective Dawnyell Taylor, in which she said a female caller said Gray had previously attempted to injure himself and had been "restrained and disciplined" for his attempts to do so while at Central Booking.

Taylor wrote that she requested a subpoena to obtain administrative, medical and disciplinary records for Gray "for any period he may have been incarcerated."

Defense attorneys said they want any related files "because there is clear evidence that such records may exist, but have not been provided, and such records are relevant to Officer Goodson's case."

They say "any evidence of self-injurious behavior is closely connected to the issues in this case."

In another filing, the defense asks that prosecutors not be able to tell jurors about the Baltimore Police Department's rules on seat-belting detainees. They also renewed a motion to have the trial moved out of Baltimore and asked that jurors be sequestered.

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