Should officer be forced to testify in Freddie Gray cases? Court of Appeals to decide | WYPR

Should officer be forced to testify in Freddie Gray cases? Court of Appeals to decide

Mar 3, 2016
Originally published on March 2, 2016 4:57 pm

The Freddie Gray case lands in the Court of Appeals Thursday as prosecutors and defense lawyers argue whether Officer William Porter should, or should not, be forced to testify against his five co-defendants during their trials.

The six officers are accused in Freddie Gray’s death in police custody last year. Porter’s trial on charges ranging from manslaughter to reckless endangerment ended in a hung jury in December.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams ordered Porter to testify under a grant of immunity against Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver, and Sgt. Alicia White in January. But he denied prosecutors’ request for a similar order for the trials of Lt. Brian Rice and Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller.

Williams ruled that Porter’s testimony could not be held against him at his re-trial, scheduled for June. But his lawyers appealed, arguing it could violate his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Attorney Gary Proctor said prosecutors would be supporting perjury if they force Porter to testify because they called him a liar repeatedly during his trial.

Prosecutors are arguing that Williams’ decision not to force Porter to testify against Rice, Nero and Miller. Assistant Attorney General Carrie Williams said in filings with the Court of Appeals that Williams’ decision undermined the state’s ability to prosecute one of the most high-profile criminal cases in state history.

Gray died of a broken neck suffered while being transported to Western District police station.  His death prompted several days of protests that culminated in a riot that took place after his funeral.

The trials have been in a holding pattern since the Court of Special Appeals put a halt to the Goodson trial in January.  The Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, stepped in after prosecutors asked the judges to review Williams’ orders.