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The Freddie Gray cops out of uniform

They looked so ordinary, and smaller than expected, the cops charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. And the proceeding was ordinary and shorter than expected -- a judge setting dates for six trials, a series of consuming public events that could dominate Baltimore civic life into next baseball season.

The officer prosecutors want to put on trial first, William Porter, was not there. Judge Barry Williams set his trial date for after Thanksgiving.
Then Caesar Goodson Jr., the driver of the police van in which Gray allegedly sustained his injuries, walked to the trial table, a slender man in a dark, square windbreaker-style jacket, something you might see a security guard wear.
I didn’t expect to see Goodson or any of the officers in uniform, but seeing them in plainclothes -- civilian clothes -- made them real, made them human, more than mere mug shots.
Goodson wore eyeglasses to court; eyeglasses do not appear in the mug shot of Goodson that has been seen around the world. His trial date was set for Jan. 6. He signed a paper at the trial table and walked out of the courtroom as the clerk called the next case.
The only sergeant and woman among the Freddie Gray Six, Alicia White, wore what appeared in the dim courtroom to be a gray knit dress. Her date: Jan. 25. She signed the paper, and walked out of the room with her attorney.
Garrett Miller was next, and he seemed as husky as his mug shot suggested. He wore a gray suit that pinched at the shoulders. Miller won’t have to appear as a defendant until early February.
Edward Nero seemed even younger than his mug shot and, out of uniform, he looked like any millennial you might see at a bar in Federal Hill after a day at the office. Or maybe a slightly younger J.J. Hardy. Trim, in a dark suit, Nero signed the paper after Williams set his trial date: Feb. 22.

When the judge separated the Freddie Gray cases, his decision seemed legally sound, but also kind of mind-blowing. The prospect of six distinct trials related to the death of one man, with nearly back-to-back Gray testimony into next spring, guarantees a long, complex (and probably contradictory) narrative, and months of civic anxiety. But that’s the way the stars and the law have aligned, made clear by Williams’ setting of the calendar and the way the defendants stepped forward separately for the first time in public. They have distinct teams of attorneys. They are not charged with conspiracy. The big drama billed as the Freddie Gray Six has been broken into a series of one-act plays, a justice ring cycle, and a prolonged psychological challenge for all parties and the entire city.

The last defendant called was the lieutenant, Brian Rice, in a gray suit, and much shorter than his mug shot had suggested. He could have been any of a thousand businessmen you see on the streets of downtown Baltimore or Towson or Bel Air. The judge set his trial for March 9. Rice signed the paper.

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