The six police officers that were charged with the death of Freddie Gray, who had suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody, are to be tried in Baltimore. Judge Barry G. Williams of the Baltimore City Circuit Court, in making his decision, said that the police officers defense lawyers had not met their constitutional burden for moving the trials out of the city.
A judge had made his ruling despite the arguments by the defense attorneys that they would not get a fair trial in the city. Judge Barry G. Williams said, “The citizens of Baltimore are not monolithic. They think for themselves.”
Protesters that were outside the courthouse cheered in hearing the decision. “The trial stays here,” they shouted continually. Williams also said that the city’s $6.4 million settlement with Gray’s family will not affect any criminal proceedings.
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Ivan Bates, the lawyer arguing on behalf of all six officers said to Williams: “We cannot have a single juror who’s not a taxpayer — every single juror will be paying that settlement, what that settlement says is, these officers are guilty.”
Gray, who was 25, had died in April which sparked a week of protests over alleged police brutality. Rioting, looting and arson followed Gray’s funeral prompting Gov. Larry Hogan to use the National Guard. There was a week-long nightly curfew imposed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
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According to The Baltimore Sun: “Bates argued for the defense that city residents had been under siege during the April unrest and were confined to their homes by the curfew, and that any potential jurors would feel pressure to convict the officers to prevent any more disturbances.”
Bates said that,
“They will know they must find our client guilty so they can go home to their community.”
The chief deputy of the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, Michael Schatzow, had countered the argument and said that the court should first try to find an impartial panel.
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Schatzow said during the jury selection: “Nobody knows what the sentiment of the jurors are until you ask them questions about it,” he also said, to say that you could not find an unbiased panel out of nearly 300,000 potential jurors was “insulting to the citizenry of Baltimore.”
According to the New York Times: “The six officers face varying charges. Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the van, is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder — in essence, murder with willful disregard for human life. Sgt. Alicia D. White, Lt. Brian Rice and Officer William G. Porter are charged with manslaughter. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett Miller face lesser charges, including second-degree assault. The six officers have all pleaded not guilty.”