Jury Selection Begins for First Officer Tried in Freddie Gray's Death

Seventy-five potential jurors were questioned by a judge in Baltimore Circuit Court Monday as the first trial in the death of Freddie Gray got underway.

Jury selection for Officer William Porter's trial began Monday. When asked by Judge Barry Williams, every juror called said they knew about the Freddie Gray case, were aware of the curfew imposed following the protests and knew about the $6.4 million settlement between the city and Gray's family. 

Gray, 25, suffered a mysterious injury in the back of a police transport van and died April 19, inspiring thousands to take to the streets to protest what they believed was the mistreatment by police of another young black man. On Monday, a handful of protesters gathered outside the courthouse and chanted, "All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray." 

In the weeks following the unrest, six police officers were indicted in Gray's death. Porter is being tried first in part because prosecutors want to use him as a witness in the trials of several other officers.

The group of potential jurors was asked a number of questions to gauge their ability to be impartial. 

A dozen potential jurors said they or their family members or significant others were employed by a law enforcement agency, while 26 said they had "strong feelings" about manslaughter or other misconduct by police. Almost 40 potential jurors said they or a family member had been either a victim of a crime or been investigated, arrested, charged or convicted of a crime.

Two dozen potential jurors said they could not serve for reasons including a planned trip or or a medical condition preventing them from sitting for more than an hour. 


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Judge Williams also read aloud more than 200 names of possible witnesses, including more than 100 Baltimore police officers, lawyers and prosecutors.

The judge then began meeting privately with 66 members of the pool, which continued until he dismissed court about 5:45 p.m. He told the pool to plan to return Wednesday, but some will be notified before then that they do not need to return, court spokeswoman Terri Charles said.

A new jury panel will report to court Tuesday.

Protesters outside the courthouse marched to Inner Harbor, the World Trade Center, the Baltimore Aquarium and City Hall before wrapping up Monday evening, promising they weren't done, the Baltimore Sun's Colin Campbell tweeted.

A verdict will likely set the tone for the city: If Porter is acquitted there could be protests and possibly more unrest. A conviction could send shockwaves through the city's troubled police department.

"Everything is at stake. The future of the city is at stake,'' Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said.

Porter faces charges of assault, manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He is accused of checking on Gray during several stops the van made during its 45-minute trip from the Gilmor Homes in Sandtown-Winchester, where Gray was arrested, to the Western District station house, where officers found Gray unresponsive and he was taken to a hospital. He died a week later.

Gray was initially handcuffed. Later during his van ride, his legs were shackled and he was placed back in the van without a seatbelt, a violation of department policy, prosecutors have said.

Porter told police investigators arresting Gray "was always a big scene," according to a pretrial filing by defense attorneys. Porter indicated he knew of a previous arrest in which Gray allegedly tried to kick out the windows of a police vehicle.

"You know, so he was always, always, like, banging around," Porter said in the statement excerpted in the filing. "It was always a big scene whenever you attempted to arrest Freddie Gray."

Defense attorneys say that helps explain Porter's actions during Gray's arrest.

Judge Williams said a jury will be seated in a day or two.

The trial is expected to be complete by Dec. 17.
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