Appeals Court to Hear Arguments in Freddie Gray Case in March

A Maryland appeals court will hear arguments in March on whether a Baltimore Police officer can be compelled to testify in the trial of a police van driver charged with second-degree murder in the death of Freddie Gray.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams ruled last week that William Porter, whose manslaughter trial ended with a hung jury in December, must testify against Caesar Goodson despite Porter's claim that he has a right not to incriminate himself. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals last week temporarily blocked the ruling while its judges consider whether to uphold that decision. Porter is scheduled to be retried in June. 

Jury selection was delayed Monday. Williams said prosecutors asked for a delay in the trial and Goodson's lawyers objected. However, he said that request was moot because the appeals court — the second-highest in the state — had already ordered a delay.

The stay by the Court of Special Appeals could delay all six police trials.

Court was in session less than a minute Monday morning, as Williams announced Goodson's trial would be postponed indefinitely, pending further proceedings before the state's Court of Special Appeals. Those proceedings are expected to include more written filings from both sides, followed by oral arguments scheduled for March 4.

Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died April 19, a week after he broke his neck in police custody. His death exposed the deep divide between the public and the police in Baltimore, and became a national symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Goodson was with Gray for every second of his 45-minute trip from the site of his arrest to the Western District police station, where Gray arrived critically injured and unresponsive. But Goodson's account of what happened on that day remains a mystery: He is the only one of six officers charged in Gray's death not to speak to investigators.

His trial will offer the public its first chance to hear Goodson's side of the story.

Goodson was behind the wheel of the van that carried Gray to six different locations while he was handcuffed and shackled but unrestrained in the rear. He faces the most serious charge of all —second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

For Goodson to be convicted, prosecutors must prove that he was so callous in his disregard for Gray's life that he deliberately allowed him to die.

Whether Goodson takes the stand could depend on if Porter is called as a witness, and is compelled to testify.

During his own trial Porter told jurors that it was Goodson's responsibility to buckle Gray into a safety belt and that Gray was unrestrained throughout the entire wagon ride.

Porter also said he told Goodson that Gray wanted to go to a hospital, but Goodson ignored his suggestion.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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