Defense Rests Case at Trial for Baltimore Officer Charged in Freddie Gray Case

The defense rested its case Friday in the manslaughter trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in the April custody death of Freddie Gray.

Defense attorneys called 12 witnesses over three days, including the defendant, 26-year-old William Porter.

Gray's neck was broken April 12 while he was handcuffed and shackled in the back of a police transport van, which made six stops during a 45-minute ride that covered just a handful of city blocks. He died while in police custody.

Porter testified Friday that he spoke to Gray, 25, at two of the van stops. Porter said Gray indicated at the fourth stop he needed medical care. Porter said he didn't see any injuries but told the driver and a supervisor that Gray wanted to go to the hospital.

Instead, Gray was taken to a police station, arriving with a broken neck.

Prosecutors said Porter was negligent for failing to call a medic and failing to buckle Gray in the van.

But Baltimore police Capt. Justin Reynolds testified the driver of the van, Caesar Goodson, was primarily responsible for the passenger's safety, and Porter was called as backup. Reynolds also testified Porter was reasonable for not fastening the seat belt, saying, "If a prisoner is going to be violent or put you in danger, you can use common sense."

"The jury could conclude that in Freddie Gray's condition at that time, he did not pose a serious risk or danger to Officer Porter," University of Maryland School of Law Professor Doug Colbert said.

As for failing to call a medic for Freddie Gray, Porter "went beyond what many officers would have done" by informing the van driver and Porter's superior, Sgt. Alicia White, Reynolds testified.

Porter is charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment stemming from Gray's death on April 19, a week after he was injured in the transport wagon.

Prosecutors said Porter was criminally negligent for ignoring departmental policy requiring officers to seat belt prisoners and for failing to call a medic immediately after Gray indicated he needed aid.

Gray was a 25-year-old black man arrested after he ran from police in his neighborhood. His death set off protests and rioting in the city, and became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Porter, who is also black, is the first of six officers charged to face trial.

Friends testified Porter had a reputation for honesty and truthfulness. Porter's mother testified her son gets along well with community and is a peacemaker.

The jury was sent home for the day. The trial will resume Monday.

Prosecution and defense lawyers argued about how the judge should instruct the jury next week. Defense attorneys don't want jurors to be told they can convict Porter for things he didn't do -- such as failing to seat belt the prisoner or failing to call an ambulance. Prosecutors want jurors instructed they need only reach a consensus on either omission to reach a unanimous verdict on the charges.

The Baltimore Police Department canceled leave for officers next week as a precaution as the jury deliberates its verdict. Officers will work 12-hour shifts. Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a statement "the community has an expectation for us to be prepared for a variety of scenarios."

Legal analyst Warren Brown predicted the prosecution's case may be in trouble.

"They got to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and I think that the quantity and quality of the presentation by the defense equaled or surpassed the state's efforts to prove their case," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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