Jury selection nearly complete in Baltimore's Freddie Gray killing trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2015 9:24 AM

By Ian Simpson

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - A jury could be chosen on Wednesday in the trial of the first of six police officers charged in a black man's death that triggered rioting and fueled a U.S. debate on police brutality.

A Baltimore City Circuit Court spokeswoman has said a pool of prospective jurors will appear in court for a final round of questioning before a panel is seated in the trial of Officer William Porter.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers will be allowed four peremptory dismissals before selecting a panel of 12 jurors and a number of alternates.

The jurors' identities will be shielded, and Judge Barry Williams has said the trial will run no later than Dec. 17. Opening statements could follow the selection of a jury.

The death in April of Freddie Gray, 25, followed police killings of black men in other cities, including New York and Ferguson, Missouri. The deaths gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, which has staged more than year of mostly peaceful protests across the United States.

Porter, 26, faces charges including manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office. Gray died from a spinal injury suffered in the back of a police van after he was taken into custody for fleeing an officer and possessing a knife.

Baltimore officials imposed a curfew, and National Guard troops were called in to quell rioting and arson that followed Gray's death. Porter's lawyers have unsuccessfully sought to have the trial moved from Baltimore, saying that intense publicity prevented impaneling an impartial jury.

The other five officers are charged with offenses ranging from second-degree murder to misconduct.

Under initial questioning, prospective jurors have all said they were aware of the Gray case and the unrest that followed. About half have been victims of crime or had run-ins with the law, and two have said they had known Gray.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)