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Two portraits of Lt. Rice emerge on second day of trial in Freddie Gray case

The second day of the trial for Lt. Brian Rice included testimony from the police detective who took Rice's initial statement to police. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun video)

The last time Brandon Ross saw Freddie Gray conscious, Gray was in shackles and being moved head first onto the floor of a police transport van by several officers. Ross was screaming in anger from the curb.

"I was upset — upset how they was treating my friend," Ross said Friday in a downtown Baltimore courtroom.

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His testimony during the second day of the trial of police Lt. Brian Rice drew into focus the two competing portraits of Rice that prosecutors and defense attorneys have tried to paint.

As Ross walked through the events of that April morning last year — establishing Rice's involvement in Gray's arrest, as well as his own actions at the scene — Rice alternately came off as a "jerk," as Ross described him, and as the top-ranking officer forced to make a quick decision in a volatile situation, as his defense has suggested.

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Deputy State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe drew out Ross' criticisms of Rice, asking him about Rice's "tone of voice" during Gray's arrest. Ross said it was "loud, aggressive, threatening."

On cross-examination, Chaz Ball, one of Rice's attorneys, pushed Ross in another direction, getting him to admit that it had sounded like Gray was kicking inside the van, that Gray had been angry and upset, and that his demands to see a supervisor had drawn Rice's attention.

While Ross insisted he and others on the scene were not "hindering [Rice] from doing his job," his cellphone video from the incident, played in full, showed him and others screaming at officers.

Rice, 42, faces involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct charges in Gray's arrest and death. He pleaded not guilty to all of them. He has placed his legal fate in the hands of Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams rather than a 12-member jury of city residents.

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Rice is the highest-ranking of six city police officers charged in Gray's arrest and death, and the fourth to go to trial. One had a mistrial, and two were acquitted. All six pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury in the back of the transport van in which Rice and one of the acquitted officers — Edward Nero — placed him. Gray's death a week later sparked widespread protests against police brutality.

Through Friday afternoon, prosecutors had called eight witnesses. Five of them came Friday; all had previously testified in the other officers' trials.

Among them was Detective Michael Boyd, a member of the Baltimore Police Department's Force Investigation Team at the time of Gray's arrest and the detective who took Rice's statement to police — Rice's only comments about the incident to date. While Boyd testified to a range of evidence, including city surveillance footage and police radio recordings, prosecutors did not ask him about his interview of Rice.

In fact, when Ball tried to bring up that interview when cross-examining Boyd, Bledsoe objected and Williams sustained the objection.

The exchange raised the question of whether Rice's statement will be entered into evidence during his trial.

At Nero's trial in May, the prosecution relied on Boyd, who also took Nero's statement, to enter Nero's statement into evidence. Nero's statement became a key piece of evidence in the case. Officer William Porter's statement also was key evidence at his trial in December, which ended in a hung jury and mistrial.

Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver who faced the most serious charges, never provided a statement to police and was acquitted of all charges last month.

Also on Friday, the prosecution called a neurosurgery and spinal injury expert, Dr. Morris Marc Soriano, to testify about Gray's injuries. Soriano said Gray's spinal cord was not completely severed, and he therefore would have retained some function of his extremities — and been able to breathe and talk — for a period of time after sustaining his injury.

On cross examination, Rice's attorney Michael Belsky questioned how Soriano had reached that conclusion, asking him whether he had relied on a belief that Gray had been "hungry for air" at one of the later stops of the van.

The question was in reference to a statement that Porter allegedly made to Detective Syreeta Teel, also of the department's FIT team, that Gray had said he couldn't breathe.

The statement was allegedly made in an unrecorded conversation between Porter and Teel, and Williams ruled it was inadmissible hearsay — barring it from being introduced at Rice's trial. He also ordered it redacted from the medical examiner's autopsy of Gray, one of the documents Soriano reviewed in reaching his conclusion.

As Belsky pushed Soriano to explain the basis of his conclusion, Soriano sighed and told Williams it was his understanding that he was "not allowed to talk about" the statement.

Williams looked exasperated.

"Luckily, there's not 12 people over there," he said, gesturing to the empty jury box before telling Soriano that indeed he was not allowed to talk about it.

The prosecution also called Officer Lloyd Sobboh, a police recruit who participated in a demonstration for police investigators of how mobile he could be in the back of a police van while handcuffed and shackled, and Jamel Baker, a Gilmor Homes resident who watched Gray get placed in the van from his apartment window as Ross yelled at Porter.

Porter and Nero were in the courthouse Friday, though neither was called to testify. Both could take the stand on Monday, when the trial is set to resume at 9:30 a.m.

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