- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Four Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray are awaiting new trial dates now that Maryland’s highest court has determined that one of their colleagues can be forced to testify against them.

The Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Officer William Porter can be compelled to testify against five fellow officers before his own retrial in Gray’s death.

The trial of Lt. Brian Rice, which had been set to begin Wednesday, will start on April 13, and will be presided by Baltimore Circuit Judge Charles Peters.

Trial dates for Sgt. Alicia White and Officers Caesar Woodson, Edward Nero and Garrett Miller have yet to be set by Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams.

Officer Porter’s retrial on manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct-in-office charges had been set for some time in June, but it could be rescheduled in the wake of Tuesday’s high court ruling. His first trial ended with a hung jury in December.

The police officers’ criminal trials had been postponed until the high court ruling.

In a hearing last week, the Court of Appeals heard arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys on the issue of Officer Porter’s compelled testimony.

Earlier, Judge Williams had granted prosecutors’ request to force Officer Porter to testify against Sgt. White and Officer Woodson, but he rejected their motion for the officer’s compelled testimony against Lt. Rice and Officers Nero and Miller.

Prosecutors had offered Officer Porter immunity for his testimony against his colleagues, meaning they could not use that testimony in his retrial. They also argued that his testimony was vital in their cases against the other officers.

Officer Porter’s attorney, Gary Proctor, opposed the immunity offer, citing his client’s Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Mr. Proctor also expressed concern that his client’s compelled testimony would likely be heard by potential jurors for his retrial. In addition, the attorney noted that prosecutors had accused Officer Porter of lying in his first trial, saying the potential for perjury charges was high.

But prosecutors said they would not consider perjury charges regarding his first trial, only if Officer Porter’s compelled testimony differs from that in his retrial.

Gray, 25, died last April one week after sustaining a broken neck during a ride in the back of a police van. He was handcuffed and shackled but was not placed in a seat belt, a violation of police procedures.

His death prompted days of protests in Baltimore, and his funeral sparked days of rioting and looting — as well as fueling the national Black Lives Matter movement over the deaths of young black men in confrontations with police.

The six Baltimore police officers face a range of charges, including assault and false imprisonment. Officer Woodson, the driver of the police van, faces the most serious charge — second-degree “depraved heart” murder, meaning that he is accused of having a reckless disregard for Gray’s life. He could be sentenced to 30 years in prison if convicted.

⦁ Andrea Noble contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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