Officer Wiliam Porter was called as a state witness on the third day of testimony during the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun video)
Baltimore police Officer William Porter testified Monday that he saw no indication that Freddie Gray required immediate medical attention while being transported in the back of an arrest van, but he acknowledged that officers could have safely secured the 25-year-old detainee with a seat belt.
Porter was called as a state witness on the third day of the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the driver of the van in which Gray suffered a fatal injury in April 2015. Goodson, 46, faces charges including second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Prosecutors have said Goodson callously disregarded Gray's well-being by failing to call a medic and failing to secure Gray with a seat belt — including at the van's fourth stop, where he, Porter and Gray were alone. They also allege Goodson gave Gray what's known as a "rough ride," or an intentionally turbulent transport.
Goodson is the only one of the six Baltimore officers charged in Gray's arrest and death who never provided police investigators with a statement, and he has the right not to testify at his trial. In compelling Porter to take the stand, prosecutors have sought to establish what he and Goodson discussed regarding Gray's condition and his request for a medic.
They succeeded in getting Porter to testify that Goodson, as the van driver, was primarily responsible for Gray, and that Gray was not combative — even docile — as he requested help during a later stop.
"Did you have the opportunity to seat-belt him?" Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow asked Porter.
The officer sighed and paused before responding: "I guess so."
Gray died of his injuries on April 19, 2015, a week after his arrest. His death touched off citywide protests against police brutality, and rioting, looting and arson broke out on the day of his funeral.
Goodson faces the most serious charges of the six officers in the case. All have pleaded not guilty.
Porter is the second officer charged in the case to be called to testify against a fellow officer with his own charges pending — a rare move allowed after a review by the state's highest court. Porter was tried first, in December, in a case that ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on any of the charges against him. Porter is scheduled to be retried this year.
Porter said on the stand Monday that he told Goodson that Gray should be taken to a hospital. But he also said he never observed any serious injury to Gray. After the van's fourth stop — a timewhen the medical examiner has determined Gray was already seriously injured — Porter said, Gray used his legs to support his weight as Porter helped him up.
Prosecutors have previously accused Porter of lying, and on Monday played clips of Porter's original statement to investigators to show that his account has changed. Porter said he had merely clarified his original comments and that there was no fundamental change in his account.
The prosecution's timeline alleges that Gray was hurt between the second and fourth stops the van made, and Schatzow said in opening statements that Goodson gave Gray a "rough ride," a term for driving the van in a way that tosses the detainee around in the back.
Before the fourth stop, Goodson made an unexplained stop and looked into the back of the van at Gray. Then he radioed for backup, prompting Porter to visit the scene.
Porter testified at his own trial that Goodson gave no explanation for why he summoned help, which Schatzow said strained credibility. Porter reiterated Monday that the two officers had no discussion before opening the van doors to look in on Gray.
"What, if anything, did you ask him about why he had sought assistance?" Schatzow asked.
"I didn't ask him," Porter said.
Porter testified that Gray was face down on the van floor, and Porter asked him, "What's up?" Gray responded, "Help," and asked to be helped up to the bench inside the van. Porter said he climbed in and helped Gray onto a bench.
Schatzow had Porter read portions of a transcript of his interview with investigators last year, in which he did not say that Gray was able to get up with Porter's assistance.
Porter testified Monday there was "no possible way I could lift a 150-pound man in that tiny compartment" alone, and said he hadn't been more specific in his initial interview because he wasn't asked.
One of Goodson's attorneys, Matthew Fraling, asked Porter why he didn't call for a medic for Gray.
"I didn't see any immediate medical distress from Mr. Gray," Porter said.
But Porter's testimony that Gray was docile and cooperative and could have been safely secured with a seat belt was a blow to the defense, who in opening statements described Gray's earlier interaction with police as making it too risky for officers to get close enough to him to fasten a seat belt. However, defense attorney Andrew Jay Graham also said the use of seat belts in transport vans was generally rare.
Prosecutors on Monday also called a neurosurgeon, Dr. Morris Marc Soriano, who said that Gray's injuries between the second and fourth stop, while catastrophic, could have allowed him to continue communicating with police officers at the later stops. At Porter's trial, Soriano said accessory muscles would allow Gray to keep breathing despite his rapidly deteriorating physical condition.
Prosecutors also called Detective Michael Boyd, a member of the Baltimore Police Department's Force Investigation Team that investigated Gray's death. They had Boyd walk through a series of city surveillance videos from the day of Gray's arrest, identifying individuals and the path of the van as it traveled through the city. At one point, prosecutors played a video of Goodson stopping the van and walking to the rear before getting back in and driving off — a stop that lasted seconds.
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Boyd was still on the stand when Judge Barry G. Williams excused him, to resume his testimony at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Boyd is the state's 14th witness since the trial's start last week.
Before concluding the proceedings, Williams noted that prosecutors submitted evidence Monday that they had not previously shared with the defense. The move followed a motion filed by the defense last week calling for dismissal of the case after learning prosecutors had never turned over evidence about a meetingthey had last year with a key witness in the case, Donta Allen. Allen was the arrestee placed in the back of the van with Gray during the final leg of Gray's transport.
Williams had excoriated prosecutors, saying the evidence was clearly exculpatory, or favorable to Goodson, and therefore should have been turned over to the defense. He stopped short of sanctioning them but gave them until Monday to deliver any additional evidence.
Defense lawyers are now reviewing the latest information to see whether they need to file any additional motions, Williams said. He did not set a time frame for that decision.