The Court of Special Appeals – Maryland’s second highest court – halted Monday morning the trial of police Officer Caesar Goodson; the second of six officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray. Circuit Judge Barry Williams announced the order in court before jury selection was to begin in Goodson’s trial.
The order, signed by Chief Judge Peter Krauser, said the Goodson trial “is stayed pending a resolution” of an appeal from attorneys for the prosecution’s material witness, Officer William Porter. The lawyers asked the appellate court to overturn an order compelling Porter to testify at Goodson’s trial.
Legal observers said the controversy before the appellate court has never occurred in Maryland; a material witness, who is also a co-defendant, facing a new trial, being forced to testify.
Porter’s first trial on charges that included involuntary manslaughter ended in a hung jury last month. His re-trial is scheduled for June.
Goodson drove the van that transported Gray to several stops in West Baltimore when Gray’s injury occurred last April. Prosecutors said Porter who responded to a call for a “prisoner check” from Goodson; in addition to being at the majority of the other van stops.
Gray died a week later from a broken neck suffered while in the back of the van. Goodson’s charges include second degree depraved heart murder.
Former City Prosecutor Warren Alperstein said the appellate court’s eventual ruling “could have far reaching effects in so many other cases where you have the government trying to compel a state’s witness to testify.”
Alperstein said a decision would affect not only Goodson’s trial but also the trial of Sgt. Alicia White, scheduled for Feb. 8. Prosecutors said they would call Porter in White’s trial.
There is no word on when the Court of Special Appeals would make a decision.