Numerous pre-trial rulings were made today by Judge Barry Williams, the trial judge overseeing the “Freddie Gray” trials in Baltimore.

Most were unsurprising, but one in particular raised eyebrows: Judge Williams ordered that Officer William Porter, whose case just ended in a mistrial and who is scheduled to be retried in June, can be compelled to testify in the trials of the other five officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death.

In particular, Porter will be compelled to testify in the next scheduled “Freddie Gray” trial, that of Officer Caesar Goodson, the driver of the van in which Freddie Gray suffered his traumatic neck injury. Jury selection for the Goodson trial begins next Monday.

Judge Williams’ ruling came in the form of today’s denial of a motion by Porter’s defense counsel to quash a prosecution subpoena for Porter to testify at Goodson’s trial.

Porter took the stand prior to Williams’ ruling, but invoked his

    and indicated that if called to testify he would invoke his

5th Amendment right against self-incrimination rather than substantively testify.

Although news reports are unclear on the precise legal basis of the ruling, they suggest that the prosecution may have extended use immunity to Porter. This would mean that while they can compel him to testify they would be prohibited from using his own testimony against him at his subsequent trial.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Baltimore Judge Barry G. Williams ordered that Officer William Porter be compelled to testify at the upcoming trial of a fellow Baltimore Police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, a ruling Porter’s defense attorneys said they would immediately seek an injunction to block.

Williams said he found himself in “uncharted territory” as he granted Porter a type of immunity that allows his charges to stand but which precludes his testimony from being used against him. Attorneys and legal observers agreed that such a ruling against a co-defendant was a first in Maryland.

Porter’s defense attorney Gary Proctor had argued that forcing Porter to testify at the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson would violate his state and federal constitutional rights that protect defendants against self-incrimination, and that he could be subjected to perjury charges or become exposed in a federal investigation.

Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said Porter could not claim such protections once granted immunity.

Porter could, of course, nevertheless decline to testify, but in doing so he would be subjecting himself to contempt charges.

It is notable that Porter also faces prospective federal charges, and that an extension of use immunity by Maryland prosecutors would not necessarily be binding on federal prosecutors, leaving them free to use Porter’s state testimony against him in federal court.

Among additional rulings made by Judge Williams today:

  • Jurors will be kept anonymous, but not sequestered, during the Goodson trial.
  • A defense request, again, to have the case moved out of Baltimore City was denied.
  • The defense is to be permitted limited access to Gray’s medical and criminal records, although the admissibility of any particular issue would be decided on a case-by-case basis. Certainly the defense will wish to admit evidence that Gray complained of a back injury some months before the van drive in which he would suffer his neck trauma.
  • A defense request to ban the testimony of medical examiner Dr. Carol Allan was denied. The defense believes that Allan testified beyond her area of expertise in Porter’s mistrial, particularly when she claimed that a key contributor to Gray’s death was the failure to provide prompt medical care.
  • Prosecutors will be permitted to enter into evidence police policy and general orders regarding the use of seat belts in prisoner transport vehicles. I’m not sure why these were not in evidence in Porter’s trial. I suppose it’s possible they only just found them.

And that’s about it. We’ll continue to follow the Freddie Gray cases, and in particular the next trial on the schedule, that of van driver Officer Caesar Goodson.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


Attorney Andrew Branca and his firm Law of Self Defense have been providing internationally-recognized expertise in American self-defense law for almost 20 years in the form of blogging, books, live seminars & online training (both accredited for CLE), public speaking engagements, and individualized legal consultation.
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