Baltimore police officer appeals order to testify in Freddie Gray case

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 07, 2016 12:57 PM

By Donna Owens

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - A Baltimore police officer charged with manslaughter in the death of black detainee Freddie Gray on Thursday appealed a judge's order that he testify against two fellow officers also facing charges in the April incident.

Lawyers for the officer, William Porter, asked the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to overrule a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge's order on Wednesday that he testify in the murder trial of Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. The trial is set to begin on Monday.

Goodson was the driver of the police van in which Gray, 25, sustained the broken neck that killed him after his arrest. He has been charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, the most serious of the criminal charges filed against the six officers involved in Gray's arrest.

Gray's death was one of a series of high-profile police killings of black men that stoked a U.S. debate about race and criminal justice. It set off a day of rioting and arson in the city of 620,000 people.

Porter was the first of the six officers to be tried for his role in Gray's death. The proceeding ended last month in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Prosecutors have said they intend to retry Porter and want him to testify against Goodson and Sergeant Alicia White. The three officers are black.

"There is not a single reported case of one codefendant being compelled to testify against the other in the way the circuit court envisages happening here," Porter's lawyers wrote in their appeal. "There is a reason for that: It effectively renders the Fifth Amendment all but meaningless."

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects against self-incrimination. Prosecutors had offered Porter immunity for his testimony, but defense lawyers noted that prosecutors had accused him of lying on the witness stand at his trial and could be laying the groundwork for a perjury charge.

Prosecutors contended Porter lied about Gray's condition when he saw him in the back of the police van. Porter is scheduled to be retried in June.

The state courts office said White's Jan. 25 trial date had been rescheduled to Feb. 8. The trial of Officer Garrett Miller, which had been set for Feb. 9, was moved back to March 7, the office said in a statement.

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)