State seeks delay in 3 Freddie Gray trials, pending appeals
Officers Nero, Miller and Rice are charged with assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment
By David Dishneau
BALTIMORE — Baltimore prosecutors have asked a judge to delay the trials of three police officers charged in the Freddie Gray case until appellate courts decide if another officer awaiting retrial on related charges can be compelled to testify against them.
The motion, filed Friday and made public on a court website Monday, could postpone for several months the trials of Lt. Brian Rice and officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero in Baltimore Circuit Court, Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow acknowledged in the filing. Nero's trial is set to begin Feb. 22; Miller's on March 7; and Rice's on March 9.
Nero, Miller and Rice are charged with assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment. Rice is also charged with manslaughter.
A separate appeal has already postponed the trials of Officer Caeser Goodson and Sgt. Alicia White.
The motion is the latest development in the state's efforts to make Officer William Porter available to testify against all five fellow officers in trials stemming from the April arrest of Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died from a broken neck he suffered during a ride in the back of a police van. Nero, Miller and Rice, who initially arrested and detained Gray, are white; the other officers, including Porter, are black.
Porter is the only defendant who was present at Gray's arrest and at several stops the van made during its 45-minute trip. Prosecutors have said they need Porter's testimony against Goodson and White and may need him to testify against Nero, Miller and Rice.
Porter's manslaughter trial ended in a hung jury in December. His retrial is set for June 13. He's appealing a court order that would force him to testify under immunity against Goodson and White.
The shoe is on the other foot in the latest dispute. Prosecutors said last week they'll appeal Circuit Judge Barry Williams' Jan. 20 ruling that Porter cannot be compelled to testify against Rice, Miller and Nero. Williams said he wasn't convinced the state needs Porter's testimony. Instead, he agreed with defense lawyers that the state was maneuvering to delay those trials until after Porter's retrial.
The state's motion says Williams overstepped his authority by inquiring into the state's reasons for wanting to compel Porter's testimony. It says the law limits the court's role in such matters to verifying that prosecutors have complied with certain procedural requirements. The issue hasn't been tested in Maryland courts, but Schatzow cited several federal cases and a New Jersey state case supporting his position.
Defense attorneys have until Feb. 20 to respond. Lawyers for both sides are barred from discussing the case with reporters.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press