BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Defense lawyers on Wednesday will begin presenting their case for a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of a black man that triggered protests and rioting in April.
Prosecutors in the trial of Officer William Porter rested on Tuesday after five days of testimony aimed at showing his role in the April death of Freddie Gray. Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams denied a defense motion to dismiss the case.
Porter, 26, faces charges of manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct. He is the first of six officers, three of them black, to face trial in Gray's death from a spinal injury suffered in the back of a police van.
The death of the 25-year-old man triggered protests, rioting and arson in the largely black city. It also intensified a U.S. debate on the use of excessive force by police against minorities.
Gray was arrested after fleeing an officer and for possessing a knife. He was placed shackled and handcuffed in the van without being secured by a seat belt.
Porter was present at five of the six stops the van made before the end of the ride at a police station. Gray then was found unconscious and not breathing.
The defense has said Porter did not believe Gray, who had feigned illness when previously arrested, was seriously injured until the final stop. His lawyers have suggested that responsibility for seeking medical aid lay with the van's driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, and Sergeant Alicia White.
Prosecutors contend that Porter ignored Gray's pleas for medical aid and his failure to secure him with a seat belt violated department protocol.
Porter's lawyers have said he will take the stand in his defense. Charges against the other five officers range from misconduct to second-degree murder.
The outcome of the trials could influence U.S. prosecutors in bringing similar charges in cases of alleged police brutality, according to legal experts.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Donna Owens; Editing by Sandra Maler and Dan Grebler)