Issues To Be Decided Before Nero Trial Starts Monday (Maybe) | WYPR

Issues To Be Decided Before Nero Trial Starts Monday (Maybe)

Feb 19, 2016
Originally published on February 18, 2016 11:30 am

Prosecutors in the upcoming trial of police Officer Edward Nero are trying to keep the jury from hearing certain evidence.

Nero is one of six officers charged in the death last April of Freddie Gray.

The prosecutors have asked Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams to keep information about Gray’s criminal record, past hospitalizations, prior civil claims and lead paint exposure as a child from coming out at the trial.

Williams is to hear arguments on those and a flurry of other motions Friday. The trial is scheduled to start Monday, though that could be delayed by other court action.

Nero has been charged with second degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment for his alleged role in Gray’s death last year from a broken neck suffered in the back of a police van while being transported to the Western District police station.

Prosecutors also are seeking to keep defense lawyers from calling them as witnesses and to allow expert testimony to prove that Nero’s conduct created “a substantial risk of death or serious injury to [Gray].”

Meanwhile, the defense is seeking to keep out any discussion of whether or not Gray’s arrest was legal, injuries suffered by Gray and the legality of the knife officers found on Gray. Police said they arrested Gray because the knife was illegal.

University of Maryland Law School Professor Doug Colbert said both prosecutors and defense have been “very active” with motions.

“Frankly, it took me quite a few hours to read and to decipher what was being argued in the last couple of weeks,” he said.

Colbert said the defense would like to call expert witnesses “to tell the judge how the judge should rule on these arguments.”

“That would be usurping the judge and in some instances the role of the jury to make certain factual determinations,” he added.

According to a state motion, defense lawyers disclosed to prosecutors they intend to call several expert witnesses, including detectives who investigated Gray’s death.

Prosecutors argued, Colbert said, that most of the experts would be testifying to something they have no authority on.

Whether the trial proceeds, however, remains up in the air. Lawyers from both sides have asked Maryland’s appellate courts to review Williams’ rulings forcing Officer William Porter to testify in the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson and Sgt. Alicia White, but not in the trials of Nero, Officer Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice. 

Porter’s trial on charges from the case ended in a hung jury in December. His lawyers have argued to the Court of Special Appeals, the state’s second highest court that forcing him to testify at Goodson’s trial could violate his right against self-incrimination.

Prosecutors have asked the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, to look at all those rulings.