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Senate president questions decision to keep Porter trial in Baltimore

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller graduated from UM in 1964 and received his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1967. He has represented the 27th District since 1975.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller graduated from UM in 1964 and received his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1967. He has represented the 27th District since 1975. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller is second-guessing a judge's decision to keep the trial of a Baltimore officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

Miller told WBAL-AM that he believes the the trial of Officer William Porter, which ended in a mistrial last week, never should have been held in the city.

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The Senate president, a longtime trial lawyer and Calvert County Democrat, said the mistrial shows a Baltimore jury would be unlikely to reach a fair verdict in such a case. Six officers are charges with various offenses that the prosecution contends led to the death of the 25-year-old Gray in police custody.

"To have a mistrial and have people picket a mistrial, just shows that it is very difficult to have a very fair trial in an emotionally charged area," Miller told WBAL. "You need finality in these cases."

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Lawyers for the officers sought to move their trial out of Baltimore, but Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams denied their motion for a change of venue. Williams has scheduled a new trial for Porter June 13. Another officer charged in the case, van driver Caesar Goodson, is expected to go on trial Jan. 6 for second-degree murder and other charges.

While Miller is one of the most powerful officials in Maryland, his opinion matters little in judicial affairs. Through his career, however, he has seldom been shy about expressing contrary opinions about judges' decisions.

Miller could potentially play a pivotal role in the General Assembly's response to the Gray case, which helped spark rioting in Baltimore earlier this year. The legislature is expected to take up proposed changes to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights that would make it easier to discipline police for violations of citizens' rights.

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