The Latest: Officer says most prisoners not buckled in

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2015 5:30 PM

BALTIMORE (AP) — The latest on the trial of a Baltimore police officer who is charged with manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was injured in the back of a police transport van (all times local).

5:20 p.m.

A police officer who was involved in Freddie Gray's arrest and met the transport van carrying Gray at the Western District station house is testifying at a colleague's manslaughter trial.

Zachary Novak said Wednesday that he helped two other officers put Gray in the transport van after he was arrested outside the Gilmor Homes, and that Gray wasn't using his legs because "he didn't want to cooperate."

Novak's testimony came in the trial of Officer William Porter, one of six officers charged in Gray's death.

Novak also testified that he hadn't seen or heard the department's updated seat belt policy by the time Gray was arrested April 12. The policy, updated only days before, made it clear that prisoners had to be buckled in.

Novak said that of the arrests during his two-and-a-half-years as a Baltimore police officer, prisoners are seat belted only 10 percent of the time and typically when they're being transported in patrol cars, not vans.

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4:50 p.m.

A prosecutor is questioning Officer William Porter about apparent inconsistencies in his statements about the death of Freddie Gray.

Prosecutor Michael Schatzow pressed Porter on Wednesday about an apparent discrepancy between the officer's first interview with a police investigator and his later interview and testimony.

The investigator said earlier in Porter's manslaughter trial that the officer told her that Gray had said, "I can't breathe" during a ride in a transport van. But Porter said in a later interview that was recorded that he had overheard Gray make the comment about not being able to breathe during his arrest, before he was placed in the van.

Porter also staunchly denied that he had not protected Gray's life, saying "untrue" when Schatzow posed the question.

Asked why Porter didn't secure Gray with a seat belt after lifting the prisoner onto a bench inside the van, the officer said it was to prevent a prisoner from grabbing his gun.

Porter also said he was sorry Gray was dead.

"We weren't friends but I definitely had respect for Mr. Gray," he said.

Porter finished testifying Wednesday afternoon.

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4:20 p.m.

Testimony from Officer William Porter was briefly interrupted when a member of the public had to be removed from the trial for causing a disturbance.

The man was approached by security guards and they appeared to ask him to leave. When he refused, they carried him out, with two holding his arms and one holding his legs.

It was not immediately clear who the man was. The ruckus interrupted defense attorney Gary Proctor's questioning of Porter.

Porter is on trial facing manslaughter and other charges in the death of Freddie Gray. The death set off protests and a riot in the city and became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

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3:10 p.m.

Prosecutors are cross-examining the officer charged with manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray.

Officer William Porter was called to the stand Wednesday by his attorneys to testify in his own defense. His attorneys questioned him about why he didn't call for a medic and why he didn't buckle Gray in a seat belt in the back of a police van.

Porter said he never buckled prisoners in because the van was too small and Gray didn't appear injured during his ride in the van, so the officer didn't call for a medic.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Michael Schatzow asked Porter about a discrepancy between his testimony and that of an internal affairs investigator, and Porter said the investigator had misunderstood him.

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2:20 p.m.

No matter what jurors decide in the first trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, city leaders are calling for people to respect the judicial process.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at an event billed as a "unity" news conference Wednesday that people have the right to express their opinions. But after a meeting with city officials and community leaders, she says everyone agrees that unrest like that seen in the spring is unacceptable. The mayor noted that the city has boosted its preparedness for any disturbance.

Anti-violence advocate Carlmichael "Stokey" Cannady says he believes justice will prevail and members of the community there agreed that change is coming.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis stressed that his department is already making changes and reinvigorating its community engagement, "not waiting for the Department of Justice to tell us what to do."

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11:50 a.m.

A Baltimore police officer charged with manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray says the man showed no physical signs of injury and gave no reason to call for a medic during a van stop.

William Porter testified Wednesday in his own defense. He talked about the fourth stop of the police van carrying Gray. That's where prosecutors say Gray suffered the spinal injury that eventually killed him

Porter said that "after talking to Freddie Gray, he was unable to give me a reason for a medical emergency."

Porter was asked whether Gray said he couldn't breathe at the van stop. He testified, "absolutely not."

When asked why he didn't buckle Gray into a seat belt, Porter said the wagon is "pretty tight." He said he's been a part of about 200 arrests involving wagon transport and no prisoners were belted in.

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10:50 a.m.

A Baltimore police officer charged with manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray has taken the witness stand to begin testifying in his own defense.

Officer William Porter was the second witness called by the defense. Prosecutors say Porter failed to call for a medic after Gray said he needed one and the officer didn't buckle Gray into a seat belt when he was riding in the back of a police wagon.

Defense attorneys have tried to suggest that the van driver was responsible for Gray's safety. They have also said Porter acted the way any reasonable officer would have and suggested that the officer may have thought Gray was faking an injury to avoid going to jail.

Gray injured his spine in the back of the police wagon and died a week later.

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10:30 a.m.

A defense witness testifying in the trial of a police officer charged in Freddie's Gray death has been a witness in several other high-profile trials, including the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

Dr. Vincent DiMaio was the first witness called by the defense on Wednesday in the trial of Officer William Porter.

DiMaio testified on behalf of Zimmerman, Phil Spector and Drew Peterson.

In the Zimmerman case in Florida, DiMaio said Trayvon Martin's injuries suggested he was on top of and leaning over Zimmerman when Zimmerman fired his gun, killing the unarmed black teenager.

Peterson, a former police officer in Illinois, was convicted of killing his third wife, although DiMaio testified she died as a result of a fall in a bathtub, not an assault.

Music producer Spector was convicted of killing an actress despite DiMaio's testimony that she shot herself.

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10:15 a.m.

Defense attorneys have called a forensic pathologist as their first witness in the manslaughter trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

Dr. Vincent DiMaio took the stand Wednesday morning at the trial of Officer William Porter.

The pathologist says he disagrees with certain interpretations of the autopsy findings, including the timing of Gray's fatal injury.

Maryland Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Carol Allan testified for the state that Gray's neck was most likely broken between the second and fourth stops of a ride in a police van. Gray was handcuffed and shackled, and unrestrained by a seat belt while in the van.

The defense contends the van driver, not Porter, was responsible for ensuring Gray's safety.