The defense in the “Freddie Gray” trial of Officer Edward Nero rested today, the trial’s fifth day. Closing arguments are anticipated tomorrow, and trial Judge Barry Williams has announced that he expects to return a verdict on Monday, May 23.

There hasn’t been much substantive reporting on the defense’s case the last two days, and of course there aren’t cameras in Maryland courtrooms, but the following is based on live-“tweeting” of the trial by the Baltimore Sun.

Trial Day #4

The defense primarily brought as witnesses police officers who either were somehow involved or a witness to Gray’s arrest and transport, who trained Officer Nero, or who otherwise are experts on police procedure.

Sergeant Robert Himes was involved in Nero’s training. He testified that he, a 16 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, has never seat belted a prisoner into a van.

Officer Aaron Jackson responded to the scene of Freddie’s arrest for purposes of crowd control. She testified that she saw the van shaking when Freddie was the only suspect in the van. Jackson also testified that he himself had never been trained on who was responsible for seat belting a suspect into a police van, and that she did not recall the recently adopted seatbelt policy being read at roll call on April 12. Officer Jackson also testified that she had never seat belted a prisoner into a van.

Sergeant Warren Stevens testified that he had worked with Nero, and that officers are trained that they can lawfully stop and detain someone who is suspected of committing a crime.

Sergeant Charles Sullivan, who as Nero’s field training officer, testified that Nero was not trained on transporting prisoners. He also testified that a form indicating that Nero had been so trained had merely been checked off by that training officer to “move [Nero] through the training.”

Former Assistant State’s Attorney and a current Assistant Attorney General Michelle Martin also testified. Martin has trained both prosecutors and police on the 4th Amendment (seizure law) and Terry stops. The purpose of the defense here seems to have been for Martin to discuss the governing law. The prosecution objected. Trial Judge Williams told the defense he will manage they law and they should restrict themselves to presenting facts. Martin did testify that someone fleeing unprovoked from officers is a factor that can constitute reasonable suspicion and justify a Terry stop.

Trial Day #5

This day opened with the prosecution agreeing to stipulate that the area in which Gray was arrested is, in fact, a high-crime area. The high-crime nature of the area is a key factor in establishing reasonable suspicion based on Gray’s flight from police.

Had the prosecution not agreed to this stipulation, the defense was prepared to call as witnesses numerous staff from State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office to testify as to email communications from her office asking for an increased police presence in the neighborhood.

The first witness of the day was Officer Zach Novak. Novak was on the scene for Gray’s arrest, and has previously been immunized by state prosecutors. He discussed what he observed that day and his training on Terry stops.

Next called was Captain Justin Reynolds, the former director of training for the Baltimore Police Department. He had also testified at the earlier “Freddie Gray” trial of Officer William Porter; that trial ended in a hung jury.

Reynolds testified that Nero’s conduct was reasonable in both instances in which he engaged with Freddie Gray. With regards to the new seatbelt guideline, Reynolds testified that officers on the scene always have discretion—indeed, one of the guidelines itself affirms that officers possess this discretion.

Reynolds also testified that it’s impossible to seat belt someone using a 2-part seatbelt, as were installed in the police van, without making oneself vulnerable to assault.

Nero was offered an opportunity to testify, and declined.

With that, the defense rested.

The defense also made a motion to dismiss the indictment, on the interesting grounds that the prosecution delayed the “Freddie Gray” trials for months in their successful efforts to be able to compel the testimony of Officer William Porter. Their failure to then actually call Porter to testify, the defense argued, indicates that this action was in bad faith. Judge Williams denied the motion.

And that was that. Tomorrow will be closing statements for the prosecution and defense, Friday will be a day off, and Judge Williams stated he plans to return a verdict on Monday.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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