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Officer Miller withdraws motion to block knife from trial in Freddie Gray case

Officer Miller withdraws motion to block knife from trial in Freddie Gray case
Baltimore Police Officer Garrett Miller arrives for a pre-trial hearing in the Freddie Gray case last October. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore Police Officer Garrett Miller, who faces criminal charges in the arrest of Freddie Gray, has withdrawn a request to block from his trial any discussion about the knife he allegedly found clipped to Gray's pants.

Attorneys for Miller have long contended that the knife is spring-assisted and illegal under city code, and formed the basis for Gray's arrest. They have also criticized State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby for suggesting the knife was legal during her initial announcement of the charges against Miller and five other Baltimore officers involved in the case.

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Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury in the back of a police transport van in April 2015 and died a week later. His death was followed by widespread protests, and his funeral was following by rioting, looting and arson. Mosby charged the officers in May 2015, claiming the knife was legal under Maryland law and that Miller and the other officers lacked both reasonable suspicion to stop Gray and probable cause to arrest him.

On Feb. 12, Miller filed a motion requesting "the preclusion of any and all reference to or argument regarding the legality of the knife recovered from Mr. Gray in the course of his detention or arrest."

Miller's attorneys had argued that the legality of the knife was irrelevant, saying Miller reasonably believed the knife was illegal — a belief later supported by a court commissioner. Attorneys for Officer Edward Nero, who assisted Miller during Gray's arrest, made similar arguments in their own motion.

Nero's motion was granted, and during his trial last month, the knife never came into evidence.

Prosecutors reluctantly agreed that the initial stop was justified, but argued that it transformed into an unjustified arrest prior to the officers having established probable cause — which is to say, before the knife was found.

Nero was acquitted by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams. In his decision, Williams noted Miller testified that he alone had arrested Gray — essentially finding that Nero had only played a secondary role.

Williams' ruling further removed the relevance of the knife in Nero's case, but raised questions about the timing of its recovery and what the implications could be for Miller's trial.

Miller's attorneys clearly took note.

"Based on the evidence and arguments presented" in Nero's trial, they wrote in their new motion, "counsel seeks to introduce evidence regarding both the recovery and legality of the weapon seized from Mr. Gray."

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