The trial of the Baltimore police officer who drove the van in which Freddie Gray was mortally wounded is set to begin Monday, but it’s unclear whether a fellow officer who is expected to serve as a key witness in the case can be called to testify.
A Maryland judge on Friday issued a temporary reprieve for Officer William Porter, ordering that he not be made to testify in the case of Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. until the Maryland Court of Special Appeals rules on the matter. But the order could derail the plans of prosecutors, who had expected to call Officer Porter to the stand to testify under a limited immunity that would prevent what he says in the trial from being used against him when he is retried. Officer Porter’s first trial on involuntary manslaughter charges ended in December with a hung jury.
Maryland Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Peter B. Krauser’s decision to temporarily block Officer Porter from being made to testify at the trial came a day after his attorneys filed an injunction seeking to prevent him from being called as a witness in the case. Officer Goodson, who faces the most serious charges of the six officers who were charged in connection with Gray’s death, is charged with second-degree depraved heart murder.
Judge Krauser wrote in his 2-page order that the state had not yet had a chance to respond to the motion and his order was pending a decision on the matter by the appeals court.
But Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh quickly filed a response Friday arguing that the court should deny the motion.
“The State has one opportunity to try Goodson. If the State is enjoined from calling Porter as a witness at the time of Goodson’s trial, there is no remedy,” Mr. Frosh wrote in the court filing. “If the court erred in admitting evidence that the State failed to prove came from an independent source, Porter will receive a new trial and that evidence will be excluded. Nothing irreparable will happen if Porter is required to comply with the lower court’s order.”
SEE ALSO: William Porter mistrial: Baltimore awaits next steps in Freddie Gray case
Prosecutors intend to retry Officer Porter following a December mistrial, and have scheduled the second trial for June. Officer Porter is expected to be called as a witness in the trials of some of his colleagues. However, in the absence of a conviction or acquittal in the case, Officer Porter’s attorneys have said that requiring him to testify would be a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights.
A total of six police officers were charged in connection with the death of Gray, who suffered a broken neck while handcuffed in the back of a police van in April and died a week later. Prosecutors said Officer Porter was partially to blame for Gray’s death because he failed to buckle Gray into a seat belt in the van or to call for an ambulance when Gray asked for a medic.
But Officer Porter testified during his trial that he told the driver of the van, Officer Goodson, to take Gray to the hospital.
Gray’s death prompted rioting in Baltimore, and police and lawmakers are urging calm but preparing for potential unrest as the police officers’ trials progress.
Trial dates for two other officers, Sgt. Alicia White and Officer Garrett Miller, have been pushed back.
Sgt. White’s trial was scheduled for Jan. 25 and has been rescheduled for Feb. 8. Officer Miller’s trial, scheduled for February, has been moved back to March 7.
SEE ALSO: Officer William Porter case: New trial date set for Baltimore officer charged in Freddie Gray death