Secret Supper is June 17th. Get your tickets before they sell out!

Fresh evidence in Freddie Gray case could delay officers' trials

New evidence could force the postponement of the Freddie Gray trials

The trials of six officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray could be postponed after prosecutors turned over more evidence and defense attorneys requested additional materials.

The first trial had been tentatively scheduled to begin next month.

Attorneys for all six officers, who are to be tried separately, said in a filing late last week that their clients wanted to attend a scheduling conference Thursday with Judge Barry Williams in order to "place on the record several significant discovery issues which affect the respective Defendants in different ways and may require certain Defendants to seek postponements."

Williams denied that request Tuesday, saying Thursday's conference was scheduled "solely for the purpose of calendar review" and that "no legal issues will be discussed or resolved" during the conference.

But, Williams wrote, the defendants "will be afforded an opportunity at a later time and date to place their concerns upon the record" and to argue for postponements.

The order and timing of the officers' trials could have a major impact on the cases.

Officer William G. Porter is tentatively set to be tried first, on Oct. 13. Prosecutors have said he is a "necessary and material witness" in their cases against Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. and Sgt. Alicia D. White, and therefore must be tried before them.

The defense motions did not specify which officers' trials might need to be postponed, but prosecutors in recent days have filed new evidence or notices of additional witnesses in each of the cases. Attorneys for each officer also have requested additional evidence.

Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury in the back of a police transport van in April and died a week later. His death sparked protests throughout the city, and his funeral was followed by an outbreak of rioting, looting and arson that forced the governor to call in the National Guard and the mayor to institute a curfew to restore order.

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby subsequently charged the six officers involved in Gray's arrest with a range of crimes. Goodson, the van driver, is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder. White, Lt. Brian W. Rice and Porter are charged with manslaughter. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller face lesser charges, including second-degree assault. All six have been charged with misconduct in office. All have pleaded not guilty.

At an earlier hearing, prosecutors and defense attorneys said they expected that additional evidence would be submitted, including police training procedures and Gray's records from the city's Central Booking facility.

While Williams denied several defense motions calling on the state to produce evidence, he suggested that he would consider granting similar motions in the future if the defense tailored them more narrowly — which the defense has since done.

For example, attorneys for Porter filed a motion Sept. 16 asking for Mosby's office to produce evidence from its own investigation into Gray's death. The motion, per Williams' instructions, took a more narrow approach than a previous request for information from Mosby's office. On the same day, the state provided notice that it intended to introduce DNA evidence in the case.

Porter's attorneys then filed a motion on Sept. 18 requesting more information about the DNA evidence the state intends to use.

The state has raised the issue of DNA evidence in the five other officers' cases as well. State law says notice of DNA evidence being admitted into a case should be provided to opposing parties 45 days before any criminal proceedings. If it is not provided at least 30 days before those proceedings, according to the law, "the court may grant a continuance to permit such timely disclosures."

Rochelle Ritchie, a spokeswoman for Mosby, said she could not comment on the scheduling conference or any of the new filings in the case.

"Prosecutorial ethics prevent us from discussing our trial strategy," Ritchie said.

The defense attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have said in previous court proceedings that the order in which the officers are tried will be important, in part because of statements the officers made to police investigators after Gray's arrest.

If officers who made incriminating statements about their peers are not tried before them, they could refuse to take the stand in those trials to avoid self-incrimination in their own pending trials.

In a letter to Williams, prosecutors wrote that because of those concerns, they want to try Porter first, followed by Goodson, White, Miller, Nero and Rice. If Porter's case must be postponed, they wrote, they could try Miller first, followed by Porter and the rest of the officers in the same order.

The admissibility of the officers' statements in the trials of their peers has been at issue in the case, and played into Williams' decision that the officers would be tried separately.

Postponements in the cases also could affect city preparations. Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has said he would like as much notice as possible as to when the trials will be held, so that his department can prepare. Two hearings in the case this month drew a few dozen protesters, and the Police Department canceled officer leave to have as many resources on hand as possible. The city spent $450,000 on police coverage for the two days of hearings.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
75°