After months of focus on all 6 officers, focus has narrowed since separation of trials. Officer William G. Porter's trial began with opening statements Wednesday morning after a 12-person jury was seated.
The jury: A panel of five black women, three black men, three white women and one white male was chosen after two days of questioning of 150 potential jurors. Additionally, three white men and one black man were chosen as alternates.
What happened today: A jury was selected, opening statements by prosecution and defense, and one witness was called to the stand
Prosecution's opening statements
- Prosecutors told jurors at the opening for the first trial in the death of Freddie Gray that Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter "criminally neglected his duty" to help Gray by failing to seatbelt him or call for help when it was clear Gray was seriously hurt.
- Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow said Porter had been trained to seatbelt arrestees inside of the back of police transport vans, but loaded Gray inside without using any of five available seat belts.
- Prosecutors detailed the route of the van to support their opening statements, as well as Freddie Gray's injuries.
- Schatzow told the jurors that Porter ignored several chances to help Gray, being involved at five of six stops the transport van made on its way to Central Booking.
- Schatzow emphasized that Gray was not seriously injured at that time, saying video shows him lifting his head as he is on the ground handcuffed, and bearing weight as he climbed into the van
Defense opening statements
- Defense attorney Gary Proctor said his client was suspicious of Gray showing "jailitis," or feigning injury to avoid going to jail. Porter saw no obvious reasons to request a medic for Gray, Proctor said. Porter checked on Freddie Gray because he was concerned but saw no outward signs of injury that would have required calling a medic.
- Porter knew Gray from previous interactions, including an incident a few weeks before Gray's arrest in which he had been taken into custody and attempted to kick the windows out of a squad car.
- Proctor painted the Baltimore Police Department as a poorly trained, supervised and staffed agency where rules were advisory but routinely not followed.
- Proctor said Porter was a good cop with no record of misconduct, who was born and raised in West Baltimore, wanted to help his community and showed discretion on the streets.
The first witness in the trial of William G. Porter, the first of six Baltimore police officers to be tried in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, was also a city cop – called by the state to testify about the medical training that Porter received while in the department’s academy.
Officer Alice Carson Johnson told the court that she trained Porter at the academy in 2013 on protocols for officers responding to medical situations as part of the state-approved Law Enforcement Emergency Medical Care Course curriculum.
The reason for putting Carson Johnson on the stand seemed to be for the state to establish that Porter had received specific training on responding to medical situations. The defense’s response, through cross-examination, focused on officers using their discretion to assess the medical needs of a person.
Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe asked Carson Johnson to outline the training Porter received for responding to medical situations, such as when a person says, “I can’t breathe,” or when a person specifically requests a medic. In both situations, Carson Johnson said she teaches that officers should call for a medic.
The prosecution has alleged Gray told Porter that he couldn’t breathe, and that he asked for a medic.
On cross examination, defense attorney Joseph Murtha stressed parts of the training that tell officers to use their discretion to assess a situation. He asked Carson Johnson whether circumstances surrounding a person’s request for assistance – such as the person running for an extended period of time before saying they were having trouble breathing – should be considered. She said such circumstances can be part of an officer’s assessment of an individual’s needs.
The defense has said Gray never told Porter he couldn’t breathe. The police department has previously said that Gray asked for an inhaler shortly after his initial arrest, after running from police officers.
Murtha asked Carson Johnson, an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore force who used to work patrol in the Southeastern District, if anyone had ever “misrepresented the facts and lied to you” about a medical emergency. “Many a times,” she said.