The entire city of Baltimore is still healing from the riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray last year. Now, these wounds will be reopened as the officers allegedly responsible for the young man’s death begin testifying in court.
According to the Democrat and Chronicle, a new development in the case is causing friction between local prosecutors and defense attorneys. Maryland’s highest court has ruled that one of the involved officers, William Porter, must testify against all other officers facing charges in the case.
Five other Baltimore policemen are awaiting trial in the case, which sparked the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent protests in 2015. Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., who drove the van that was transporting Gray on that fateful day, is facing the most serious charge: second-degree depraved-heart murder.
Prosecutors are seeking Porter’s testimony because they believe it may be crucial to securing a conviction against Goodson. Porter previously testified that he was in the van with Goodson while Gray was being taken to the police station, adding that Goodson refused to take Gray to the hospital when the injured man requested medical assistance.
Jason Ott, a Baltimore defense lawyer, is appalled by the court’s decision. He claims that the ruling encroaches upon Porter’s Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination by forcing him to testify while his own charges are still pending.
“Everyone is in big trouble now,” Ott said. “Goodson is the case I would be most concerned about if I was involved in these cases.”
Porter is being charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and assault for his role in the death of Freddie Gray. Prosecutors maintain that Porter was responsible for failing to properly secure Gray in the van with a seatbelt, which exacerbated the injuries Gray incurred during the arrest.
While these criminal charges are still being sorted out, Gray’s family did receive a settlement from the city of Baltimore last year. The average amount awarded in a punitive damage lawsuit is $50,000, but due to the unique nature of this case, the Grays’ civil suit was much more substantial.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake personally awarded Gray’s family a $6.4 million civil settlement on behalf of the city in September 2015. While many applauded the decision, others were steadfast in their belief that justice for Gray would not be secured until the involved officers were convicted on criminal charges.
It is not immediately clear whether Porter’s attorneys would appeal the forced testimony to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the ruling is not challenged, Porter’s testimony against his cohorts will begin on April 13 with the trial of Lt. Brian W. Rice.