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Maryland's Highest Court Delays Trials In Freddie Gray Case

This photo from the Baltimore Police Department shows the six police officers charged with felonies ranging from assault to murder in the death of Freddie Gray. Top row from left: Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Garrett E. Miller and Edward M. Nero. Bottom row from left: William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice and Alicia D. White.
This photo from the Baltimore Police Department shows the six police officers charged with felonies ranging from assault to murder in the death of Freddie Gray. Top row from left: Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Garrett E. Miller and Edward M. Nero. Bottom row from left: William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice and Alicia D. White.

The trials for the Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, one of which was scheduled to begin Monday, have been postponed.

The delay comes while the highest court in Maryland decides whether one of the six accused officers can be forced to testify against the others. The Court of Appeals agreed to bypass the lower-level appeals process in order to expedite a ruling on whether Officer William Porter can be compelled to testify against the other five officers while still facing his own charges.

NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports:

"Prosecutors say they need Officer William Porter as a key witness, because he was present for almost the entire time Gray was transported in a police van. But after the jury in Porter's trial last December deadlocked, his attorneys said he should not have to take the stand against his fellow officers."

Jennifer says the appeals court will hear arguments from each side next month.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the issue facing the court is Porter's right to a fair trial:

"In the cases against Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. and Sgt. Alicia White, where Porter has been compelled to testify, the question is whether the state's immunity statute can protect Porter's right against self-incrimination by denying prosecutors the right to use anything he says on the stand against him at his own retrial, which is scheduled in June."

In the cases of the other three police officers — Edward Nero, Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice — prosecutors are seeking to overturn a lower court's ruling that Porter is not a crucial witness and therefore cannot be compelled to testify, the newspaper says.

Until the state's high court resolves these questions, all of the lower-court proceedings are on hold, including the case scheduled to begin next week.

Edward Nero was to face trial Monday on charges of second-degree assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment, Jennifer reports, saying: "Prosecutors say he chased down and arrested Freddie Gray, and placed him into a police van with no seat belt."

Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died last April after being seriously injured while in police custody, sparking days of protests and riots across Baltimore.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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