By Donna Owens
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Defense attorneys and prosecutors clashed on Tuesday over statements by Baltimore police officers charged in the death of a black man who died from an injury in police custody, an incident that triggered protests and rioting.
Defense attorneys contended in the Baltimore City Circuit Court pretrial hearing that statements officers made to internal police department investigators probing the death of Freddie Gray are not admissible since they had not been advised of their rights.
Gray, 25, suffered a spinal cord injury after being arrested on April 12 and transported in a police van. His death a week later triggered rioting and looting in the largely black city and fueled a U.S. debate on police treatment of minorities.
Under questioning by Deputy State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe, Detective Michael Boyd said he had not informed Sergeant Alicia White, one of the six officers facing trial, of her rights before questioning her on April 12.
"Was she advised she was a suspect?" Bledsoe asked during the first day of the scheduled two-day hearing.
"No, ma'am, at that point she was a witness," Boyd said. The rights include the Miranda warning to remain silent and state law that mandates protections for officers during misconduct investigations.
Detective Syreeta Teal testified that White signed a form waiving the rights when she was questioned a few days later at police headquarters. She described the atmosphere of the session as "pretty calm and professional."
White and two other officers are charged with manslaughter, assault and misconduct. The van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, faces the most serious charge, of second-degree depraved-heart murder.
The officers are facing individual trials, with starting dates scheduled from Nov. 20 to March. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams is also expected to hear arguments about what information prosecutors will have to share with the defense.
White and two of the other officers are black, and the remaining three are white.
(Reporting by Donna Owens; Editing by Ian Simpson and Mohammad Zargham)