Freddie Gray case: Judge grants motion to force second officer to testify in two upcoming trials

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams grants prosecutors' motion to compel Officer Miller to testify in trial

A Baltimore judge on Wednesday ordered Officer Garrett E. Miller to testify at the trials of two fellow police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.

In a brief hearing, Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams granted prosecutors' motion to compel Miller to testify at the trials of Officer Edward M. Nero, which is scheduled to begin May 10, and Lt. Brian W. Rice, scheduled for July 5. Miller's testimony can't be used against him in his own case.

Miller's defense attorneys asked in a written filing that Williams deny the motion, saying Miller maintains his right to remain silent and that it would be "inappropriate" to call him as a witness.

Both Miller and Nero were involved in Gray's initial arrest and have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct.

Miller and Nero were on bike patrol on April 12, 2015, in Gilmor Homes when they said Gray, 25, ran unprovoked. The officers chased and detained Gray, and arrested him after police said they found a switchblade knife clipped to his belt. An autopsy determined he later suffered fatal injuries while being transported to Central Booking.

All six officers charged in the case have pleaded not guilty.

The prosecutors' request to compel Miller followed months of legal wrangling over whether the officers charged in the case can be compelled to testify at ane another's trials. While such a situation hasn't played out in the history of Maryland's trial courts, prosecutors said the law clearly allows it.

Williams granted a motion to compel the testimony of Officer William G. Porter at two other trials, prompting his attorneys to file a challenge to a higher court. Williams denied prosecutors' request to call Porter at the three other cases.

The state's highest court ruled March 8 that Porter must testify, though it has yet to issue its full written opinion.

Brandon Mead, one of Miller's attorneys, told Williams that they were awaiting that decision to find out whether it also would cover Miller's situation or whether it would be narrowly tailored to the circumstances of Porter's case.

"We're somewhat flying blind here; we have no guidance from the Court of Appeals," Mead said.

Miller's attorneys said they would "reserve any further argument" against Miller's testifying until the full appellate court decision.

Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow argued before the appellate court that once prosecutors determined a witness should be compelled, a judge must sign the order, which defense attorneys argued would render the judge a mere rubber stamp.

In granting the state's motion to compel Miller to the stand, Williams cited the high court's ruling in the Porter case.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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